Hiring A Contractor? Read This.

Have you ever been put into that awkward situation where your clients have hired someone who is an expert in their field, and the information they are providing is just plain wrong?  I was recently showing property to some buyers who brought their contractor along to look at the kitchen.  We were looking at the stove, and the contractor made some comments regarding the self-drafting feature and lack of hood.  This contractor was completely wrong about the down-draft element, it wasn’t a down draft, but a vent for the oven.  Now, I am no stove expert.  I am not a ventilation expert.  But I have seen enough homes and been through enough inspections that I have a general wealth of knowledge about said subject.  Do I say something?  Can I ask a question about this without saying he is wrong?  How do I keep my clients trust when this was someone that they trusted?

Picking a contractor you trust is not an easy task.  As a daughter of a contractor, I also know the flip side…how hard they work, how competitive things can be.  The Contractors State License Board provides this 10-point checklist for hiring a contractor.

  • Hire only state-licensed contractors.
  • Ask to see a copy of the contractor’s license and insurance and check that the contractor’s license is in good standing at
  • Get at least three bids.
  • Get references from each bidder and take the time to check out their work.
  • Make sure the details of the project and the payment terms are in writing.
  • Confirm the contractor’s liability and workers’ compensation policies are active and the coverage amounts are adequate by calling the insurance companies.
  • Don’t pay more than 10 percent of the contract price or $1,000; whichever is less, as a down payment.
  • Progress payments should not get ahead of the work.
  • Keep a job file containing all relevant paperwork, including the contract and record of payments.
  • Do not make the final payment until you’re satisfied with the job, including cleanup.

Last February the CSLB conducted a sting in the Berkeley Hills.  The CSLB had received various bids for painting, landscaping, and flooring projects.  I don’t remember how many unlicensed contractors were sited, but a bulk of them did not have workman’s comp insurance.

According to the CSLB if someone is doing a job for less than $500 in labor and materials they are not required to be licensed. A solo licensed contractor doing his own work without any employees is not required to carry a workers’ compensation policy.

So if you’re hiring a contractor for a job costing more than $500 or he has employees, make sure he has the proper license and adequate insurance or realize you may be in trouble.  And make sure you check their references.  Turns out my clients contractor specialized in structural work, not kitchens.