1. Ask Around: Check with your friends and family to see if they’ve had similar work done and if they were happy with the contractor who performed the work. If they were, that’s a good place to start. Even if they were dissatisfied, at least you’ll know whom to steer clear of.
2. Phone Ahead: Call potential contractors to find the cream of the crop. See how they answer the phone. Do they have a full-time office staff that will be there when you need support? Do they answer your call live instead of a machine? Are they friendly and helpful? Remember, when you need support you will need to be able to reach someone by phone.
3. Determine Qualifications: Find out how long they’ve been in business, plus how many associates they employ and if they subcontract their work out. Ask what type of work they specialize in, such as replacement or new construction. Describe what you’re trying to accomplish, and ask how many similar projects they completed in the past 12-months. It’s also crucial to ask about their service department, to ensure you will receive adequate support after the initial job is completed.
4. Regulatory Compliance: Get copies of their trade license and insurance certificate for your records. Make sure they are going to pull all the necessary town permits and run away if they tell you that you don’t need them. Legitimate contractors comply with the rules and codes of their trade.
5. Contact References: Ask for at least 10 references, not just a couple. You want names, phone numbers, emails, towns, and the scope of work performed for each. The best contractors are proud of the work they do and will make it easy for you to communicate with their previous clients. Checking references is the most important step you can take to ensure you don’t get ripped off.
6. Document Everything: A professional contractor will provide you everything in writing, including a detailed proposal describing all work to be performed, payment terms, and especially all your warranties. Don’t take anything for granted or leave it up to chance. Good paperwork upfront ensures you and your contractor are on the same page so expectations are met each step along the way.
7. Value Over Price: Upgrading your heating or cooling is a big investment, one you make maybe only every 15-years or so. It’s crucial to get it right the 1st time because you’re going to live with it for the next 15-years. The right contractor might cost a little more upfront, but you’ll enjoy the added value and comfort for years to come, ultimately making the best contractor the lowest real investment in the long run.