Choosing the right home improvement contractor can be nerve-wracking, especially when the issue is urgent—such as broken plumbing, HVAC failure, or raindrops falling on your head indoors. Whether you get personal recommendations or search online, you’ll want to narrow the contractor list down to two or three whose qualifications set them above the others.
The “right contractor” assesses the problem correctly, recommends the best solution at a fair price (remember: good work isn’t cheap, and cheap work usually isn’t good), performs the work properly, and is accountable if something goes wrong. Here’s a checklist of essentials to look for before you begin making estimate appointments, starting with some legal items.
In Maryland, home improvement contractors are required to hold a valid Maryland Home Improvement Commission (MHIC) license, even if the contractor is already licensed by another state or doesn’t have an actual office in Maryland. (Source, FAQ # 14)
Applicants must pass a licensing exam and comply with a range of requirements. The company’s sales force must also have valid MHIC salesperson’s licenses.
You can usually find the license number on the company’s website, ads and online marketing presence, business cards, and company trucks. Visit the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing & Regulation (DLLR) Home Improvement Public Query page to see the status of the license or to search for a contractor’s license.
How does state licensing help you, the consumer? We’re glad you asked! MHIC licensing protects consumers by requiring contractors to comply with regulations, such as the percentage of cost that can be collected for deposit and the time frame for cancelling a contract. Maryland DLLR covers this in detail on its For Consumers page. If you’re short on reading time, you can find the most important info on the Don’t Be an Unlicensed Contractor’s Next Victim page.
General Liability Insurance Certificate and Worker’s Compensation Insurance
From the consumer perspective, General Liability Insurance covers damage a contractor accidentally causes to your property. The minimum amount of insurance required in Maryland is $50,000. Worker’s Compensation insurance covers the contractor’s employees when injured on the job. Proof of both insurances is required by MHIC for licensing. Look for content related to insurance in the company’s branding.
Better Business Bureau (BBB) Accreditation and Rating
BBB membership and accreditation show that a company is serious about integrity, ethical business practices, and customer service. Ratings are earned (A+ is great!) based on parameters set by BBB. You can also find reviews, the contractor’s response to reviews, and complaint resolutions. Look for the BBB seal on the contractor’s online marketing materials, and/or search the BBB website for qualified contractors.
We saved online reviews for last on purpose, because they’ve shifted somewhat from helping consumers learn from each other to helping companies get found online. Thoughtful reviews go beyond “great company, good job, would hire again.” Look for positive comments that speak to your own concerns, such as showing up on time for appointments and work days, maintaining good communication and follow-through, cleaning up the job site, and behaving professionally in all interactions.
Ready, set, hire?
After deciding which contractors to invite into your home for the assessment and estimate process, you may want to develop a list of questions and concerns about the project and the company’s references. Along with cost and time frame, the answers will help you calmly make that final, nerve-wracking hiring decision.
About this blog series
Quality roofing products and workmanship will enhance your home’s comfort, appearance, and value. The TSW Roofing Solutions team wants you to understand more than the components of your roof system, because we know that informed homeowners make smart choices about contractors and materials. Remember~~We’re here to solve your roofing problems.
You can reach TSW Roofing Solutions at 410-979-7876.