It never fails: as soon as homeowners mention they are pursuing the idea of home renovation, they are bombarded with suggestions for home improvement contractors and renovation companies. Well-meaning friends and family “know a guy” or “have a buddy” they believe would be perfect for the job. One neighbor swears by one remodeling contractor while another had a horrible experience. Sometimes there’s even a knock on the door with some charlatan offering a “today only” rate on home remodeling service, seemingly too good to pass up. It’s enough to make anyone’s head spin. How then, do shrewd homeowners begin to wade through the volume of renovation companies to find a trustworthy home remodeling service that fits their needs? Renovate Columbus has some suggestions.
In his article, “Top 8 Pro Tips on How to Hire a Contractor”, nationally recognized This Old House general contractor Tom Silva offers procedures for selecting qualified home contractors. These steps include: getting recommendations, doing phone interviews, meeting face-to-face, investigating the facts, making plans and getting bids, setting a payment schedule, avoiding being guided solely by price, and putting it in writing. By taking the time to follow this advice, savvy homeowners can avoid costly mistakes and scams. Columbus Dispatch reporter Jim Weiker further expands on Silva’s tips with his article “Guide to Life: Hiring the best contractor,” making them relevant for Columbus homeowners.
When it comes to seeking advice, friends and family are of course a natural choice for many but the research should never stop there. Silva recommends consulting local lumberyards and building inspectors to find out who buys quality materials, pays their bills on time, and adheres to current building codes. Additionally, Weiker suggests local homeowners investigate home improvement contractors with the Better Business Bureau, the Ohio attorney general, the Franklin County clerk, and consumer review websites such as Angie’s List.
This initial probing stage into any home remodeling service is crucial and can prevent dire consequences. Weiker’s article highlights one homeowner in East Side who put down a 22 percent deposit for a job with a home contractor who never showed up to do the work. She and her husband spent over a year and $4,000 in legal fees trying to recoup the down payment. The lesson she told Weiker she took away from the experience? “I definitely would have done my research,” she said. While many believe they would be too smart to fall prey to such obvious fraud, local news reports suggest otherwise. WBNS, WTTE, WCNH, and WSYX continually cover stories of crooked contractors and dubious renovation companies operating throughout Columbus.
According to Weiker, residential general contractors in Ohio aren’t required to be licensed by the state, but some municipalities, including Columbus, require a license. However, Ohio government officials are considering a bill that will regulate home contractors and home remodeling companies throughout the state. Earlier this year, the Commerce and Labor Committee held a hearing on H.B. 77. WSYX ABC 6 Investigator Tom Sussi and other supporters were invited to testify on its behalf. “Under the bill,” reports ABC 6 news anchor Yolanda Harris, “all home improvement contractors must register with the state on a yearly basis, provide the state with a permanent business address, be bonded and insured, and carry a copy of their registration with them to show consumers.” Further, unlicensed home improvement contractors could face civil fines and penalties.
Various local professionals were also interviewed for Weiker’s article. Their recommendations are invaluable for those seeking potential home improvement contractors in the area. Joan Coughlin, spokeswoman for the Better Business Bureau of Central Ohio, advises homeowners to read the details of each estimate to make sure they are “comparing apples to apples.” Bill Maibach, current president of the central Ohio chapter of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, encourages questioning high bids if otherwise the potential home contractor seems a good fit. As far as payments are concerned, Weiker notes that “Ohio law limits down payments to 10 percent of the project cost in addition to the cost of materials that must be purchased in advance and can’t be returned.” With the right guidance and knowledge like this, homeowners have the capability of making prudent and informed choices when selecting the best qualified home contractor for their needs.