Tips for choosing a home contractor

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 25, 2005

With the recent hurricanes, there are increasing scams associated with unscrupulous contractors.

It is time for the buyer to be aware and check into contractors who are not established in the community.

People of all ages spend billions of dollars each year on home improvements. While some people enjoy doing the work themselves, others prefer to hire someone to do the work. If you’re the type to hire someone, picking the right contractor is a key decision.

It might seem convenient simply to hire the person who shows up at your front door saying, &uot;I was just in the neighborhood and noticed your roof needs some repairs.&uot;

What a mistake that can be. This is rarely the right choice. Beware of anyone who comes to your door uninvited, offering to inspect your chimney, test your water or check your trees or driveway free of charge.

Or anyone who wants to sell you a security system &uot;because of burglaries in your area.&uot;

Or anyone who shows up just before heating season starts and wants to inspect your plumbing or furnace.

These kinds of sales approaches are standard practice for scam artists, who prey particularly on older people, and, especially, on women who live alone.

Don’t let them in your house and don’t do any business with them. The home improvement salesperson who has &uot;just enough shingles&uot; left over to do your roof from another job in the neighborhood will most likely take your money and disappear or do such a sloppy job you will wish he or she had never appeared.

Define the Job

Before selecting anyone to do work in your home, carefully evaluate what you want done. List exactly what you want a contractor to do.

Taking your time at the start of a project increases the odds that you will be satisfied with the contractor’s work.

Perhaps you decide to redecorate a faded living room. You’ll want the contractor to remove the old wallpaper and dispose of it, prepare the walls for painting and order your new wallpaper before actually hanging the wallpaper.

You also will want to find out as much as you can about differences in the types, qualities of the materials you want used.

You can do this by visiting wallpaper and paint stores. The more you know in advance about the materials involved in your project and their prices, the better prepared you are to choose a contractor.

Dr. Marvin Copes serves as a volunteer for AARP. He can be reached at