Picking  the right contractor can be a daunting task. Whether it is a simple repair or a major renovation, who you choose can have a large impact on you and your home. A happy neighbor can boast about their new kitchen for weeks or months on end, where as a bad roofing contractor could spoil a family’s summer. Here are some things some contractors don’t want you to know.

How to find the right contractor

Should I give a deposit?

NO, NO, NO! You should never give a deposit to a contractor for residential work. It is very important you understand why. The right contractor that is in good standing with his suppliers typically has 30 days from the time he receives his, or your, goods to pay for them. I don’t get half of my paycheck on Monday, do you? In fact when I get my paycheck this Friday it is for last week. I bet the same goes for you and everybody else. So if he operates like he should and performs to your satisfaction he should be able to easily install most products for you and receive payment in time to pay his workers and pay for the materials before the invoices are due.

For those larger projects like additions and some kitchens it is common and acceptable to set up certain goals that once they are achieved by the contractor he will receive a percentage for a certain amount towards the total. Never release more than 75% of the total amount due until after the job is 100% finished to your satisfaction.

Licensing & Insurance

We assume contractors have a valid license. Ask to see a copy of both the license and insurance. I suggest calling the insurance company to make sure the insurance has not lapsed. Over 20% of contractors get the policy to show a form that they have it for the year then let it lapse a couple months into the year. Check the contractor’s license classifications as well. Every contractor is licensed to perform certain work. A significant number of contractors are doing work outside of their allowed scope. Find out if they are the right contractor.

Who is doing the work?

The best way to know if the salesperson is really telling you the truth about how good their installers are is to ask 1 simple question. “Which installer will be doing this work and tell me a little bit about them personally?” If you don’t get a quick and clear response you know you are wasting your time talking to this person. I know all my installers by name, their spouses name, their kid’s names, and more. My top installer has been with me for 12 years.


Know your labor warranty! Most manufacturers are good at what they make. Make sure the manufacturer has been in business for 10 years or longer and they are most likely safe. If they don’t make a good product they would have not survived this last recession. I cannot stress enough how important the labor warranty is.

In the state of Virginia contractors are only required to give a 1 year labor warranty. And if they did not tell you differently that is what you got. That means after 1 year if anything goes wrong and it is the fault of the installer there is no warranty. You have to pay someone to come out and fix it. I see this problem in the roofing and siding industry all the time. 99.99% of all roofing and siding problems are because of the installer. I have only seen 1 manufacturer defect in my 15 years in the industry. That means all those roof leaks are because of the installer and not the product. Almost all those wonderful “lifetime transferable warranties” are from the manufacturers. And be very careful of the wording. The labor is only covered if it is a manufacturer defect. So if you’re not careful you will be doing this project again. I have replaced many 30 year roofs when they are only 15 years old.

When in doubt throw it out!

I learned this from a chef in high school working at a restaurant. You should follow this for salespeople and contractors too. If you are not sure about the purchase, than now is not the time to buy. My wife has taught me countless times that her gut instinct is almost always right. When she has a doubt, I listen to it.