Hiring a Qualified Contractor

The State of Virginia allows homeowners to perform their own construction work without hiring a licensed contractor.

However, many homeowners choose to hire a contractor to do all or part of the work.

The steps below may alleviate some anxiety when selecting a contractor.

  1. Make sure the contractor is licensed.
    • Ask the contractor for a copy of his business license and the state’s contractor’s license, which are required by each city and county in order to do business in Virginia.
    • If you are unsure of the validity of the license, you can verify it through the Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation (DPOR) at (804) 367-8500 or http://www.dpor.virginia.gov/
  2. Make sure the contractor is insured. Ask the contractor for a copy of his certificate of insurance.
  3. Check with the local Better Business Bureau and Home Builder’s Association of the New River Valley to see if there have been any complaints filed against the contractor.
  4. Check to see if the contractor has a reputable business establishment. Confirm the physical address and local phone number of his office.
  5. Inquire about employees and sub-contractors who will be working on your project and ask for a list of names.
  6. Ask for references. Contact referrals whose projects are similar to yours. Ask specific questions regarding timeliness, response to concerns and requests, cleanup, and overall job quality. Ask the referral if you can visit the completed job, as your idea of a great job and someone else’s idea may be different.
  7. Have the contractor provide a contract. READ THE FINE PRINT and do not assume anything. The contract should include a set of plans, which will help identify the details of your project.

The contract should also spell out:

  • The name and address of the contractor,
  • The contractor’s license number, expiration date, license class and any specialty license information,
  • A detailed scope of work,
  • The price of the job, (preferably broken out into specific tasks or subcomponents of the project (including taxes, and contractor fees), and then tallied into a total price),
  • The time frame in which the project will be completed: start date, any milestones which might be important, and completion date,
  • Payment schedule, (example: 10% down- due within 7 days after signing contract, 40% to be paid within a week after passing the rough framing inspection, the 50% to be paid before the certificate of occupancy is issued),
  • Who will obtain the permit,
  • Cancellation rights of both parties,
  • Penalties for non-performance (if any),
  • The warranty, etc.
  • Any special materials or finishes.

If the contractor or sub-contractor will not provide you with this information, be very leery.