Vol. 6, No. 2
Tips on hiring a home improvement
Sharon C. Laux, PhD
Housing & Environmental Design
Spring is the
time of year when homeowners are making decisions about a new roof or driveway
or maybe remodeling. Hiring a contractor is a critical step in a successful home
Complaints about home improvement
contractors are consistently one of the leading categories of
complaints to the Missouri Attorney
Generalís Office. Although some
complaints are about fraud, most contractors are honest and well intentioned.
Here are some suggestions to help avoid misunderstandings.
Avoid door-to-door scams.
- Be cautious with contractors who ring your
doorbell. They may say they are already in the neighborhood so they can give
you a special price. Donít be pressured into making a quick decision.
- Donít accept an offer on the spot. Ask the
person to leave materials with contact information.
Gather and check references.
- Ask friends and colleagues for names of
contractors they have used and liked.
- Ask the contractor for names of previous
customers, then contact them and ask if they would hire the contractor
- Ask the contractor where he/she typically buys
materials. Call the supplier to see if the contractor pays bills promptly.
- In selecting contractors to call, even if
found in the Yellow Pages, look for memberships in professional
Know your rights to cancel.
- Missouri law provides that you have the right
to cancel any credit (not cash) contract within three business
days (excluding Saturdays, Sundays and legal holidays) if the seller
personally solicited and presented the contract in your home. Acknowledgment
of the cancellation period must be part of the contract.
- If you
cancel, the notice must be in writing; no special format is required. Any
notice sent by mail becomes effective when the letter, properly addressed
and postage paid, reaches a mailbox.
Get at least three written bids.
- Be sure you give each contractor the same
information so you can compare bids for the same work.
- Know as much as possible about what you want
done so you can understand the options contractors may offer. Use pictures
of what you like from brochures or magazines to help contractors better
understand what you want.
Obtain lien waivers.
- A lien waiver is a receipt that states workers
and suppliers will not ask you for money you already have paid the
- Donít settle for a contractorís promise he
will pay everybody. If you canít get the lien waivers, select another
contractor, or ask your present contractor to choose subcontractors from
whom lien waivers can be obtained.
Use building permits.
- Donít agree to obtain building permits for
the contractor. If you do, then you are liable for the quality of the
- Building permits with the associated
inspections provide you with an assurance that the work is being completed
according to local building codes.
Be sure the contract is complete.
- Contracts should specify all major materials
and steps in the project. If certain things in the project are important to
you, such as a particular type of door or brand of roofing, be sure they are
stated in the contract.
- For additions or remodeling jobs, insist on
scale drawings. These steps are important ways to avoid unwelcome
surprises and disagreements later on.
- Don't sign a contract with any blank spaces,
and do not agree to pay in advance.