Robert Lamoureux | How to hire a quality contractor 

Robert Lamoureux
Robert Lamoureux

Question: My name is Lucielle B. and I need your help. I am on a very tight retirement budget and cannot afford to hire someone who may take advantage of me. What can I do to protect my money when hiring a contractor, so I know they are good people who will do sound work to my home at a fair price? I am recently widowed and was never part of the hiring process when my husband was alive, he did it all.  

We always had good luck with him doing this, so he obviously knew what to look for. I never asked and now I’m kicking myself, because I need a good contractor for some minor leaking I’ve discovered. Where do I turn and who can I trust? 

— Lucielle B. 

Answer: Lucielle, my condolences to you. Great question. The best vetting is through recommendations from people you trust. First, ask around to see if anyone you know has someone they’ve used and trust, who is licensed and insured. I say, “licensed and insured,” because I firmly believe that this is the primary line of defense and the best chance at getting someone of quality.  

As you acquire contractor name and information, check on the California State License Board website to confirm that their license is current and active. Once you pull up their information, it will show this and any complaints that may have been brought against them.  

Additionally, ask the contractor to have their insurance carrier send to you their COI (certificate of insurance). The contractor may not send you a copy themselves — this should come directly from the carrier, so you can ensure that the certificate is legitimate. It is something that needs to be done, as there are many less-than-stellar contractors out there. Confirm all is well, then inquire with them for a bid on the work needed.  

Do this with at least three contractors and compare their bids. Be sure that they are detailing the work that will be done, the price and any permits will be needed for the job. 

You are likely going to need water testing first, if the leak has not yet been determined. This is generally a flat-rate portion of the work, then once the source is found they will offer a bid for the repair work. 

Never pay the invoice in full until the work is completed and the work is tested and sound. You’ll likely need to pay a deposit of at least 30%, and perhaps progress payments depending on the size of the job. 

Always be sure that the work done at that time is sound before paying. Once the job is complete, because this is a leak situation, make sure that your contractor performs a water test to prove that their work is water-tight. Not until this is proven to you would I pay a final invoice. The contractor should leave the site clean and complete, as dictated in their proposal, before any final invoice is paid.  

These are the highlights of hiring someone. Each job is individual and if you need further questions answered along the way, don’t hesitate to reach out for help, I’m happy to offer some guidance. Good luck. 

Robert Lamoureux has more than 40 years of experience as a general contractor, with separate licenses in electrical and plumbing contracting. He owns IMS Construction Inc. in Valencia. His opinions are his own, not necessarily those of The Signal. Opinions expressed in this column are not meant to replace the recommendations of a qualified contractor after that contractor has made a thorough visual inspection. Email questions to Robert at [email protected].       

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