How To Choose a Contractor

by Matt Solis


The custom lighting in this remodeled bathroom was installed by Roberts Electric Company. Photo: Roberts Electric Company, 2018

Today we’re republishing one of our most popular (and useful) posts from Joy Lanzaro, Director of Mediation & Compliance.

Here are eight steps you can take to hire a reputable remodeling contractor:

  1.  Obtain multiple bids (if possible). Getting multiple bids is a great way to ensure you’re making an informed choice. If you sign a contract, you have exactly three days to rescind in writing. Upon rescission, the contractor must return your deposit. If your area has been declared a disaster area, the three-day Right of Rescission extends to seven days.
  2. Check license information. By law, anyone who undertakes to improve your home or property must have a contractor’s license if the cost from start to completion will exceed $500. You can check contractors’ licenses at When you do a search by license number, you’ll be taken to the contractor’s license page. Once there, you should:
    1. Check to see if the license is active and valid.
    2. Be sure that the contractor is licensed in the appropriate license classification.
    3. Make sure the name of the license matches the name of the contractor or contracting firm using that license. It’s illegal to contract for home improvement using someone else’s license.
    4. Before allowing employees to work on your property, check to see if the contractor carries workers’ compensation insurance.
  3. Look at the contract. The State of California requires all home improvement contracts to contain certain information that communicates the rights and obligations of both sides of the transaction. If your contract is for more than $750, it should be several pages long in order to accommodate all of the required language.
  4.  Go over work details. Your contract should provide sufficient details to leave no doubt as to what materials will be installed. For example, in roof and siding work, an accurate estimate of dry rot is rarely possible on the site walk. Be sure to get the cost per lineal foot to repair any dry rot in writing, up front. Moreover, typically, the warranty on labor is one year. The manufacturer’s warranty can be longer depending on the product. Roofing shingles can sometimes carry a lifetime warranty. Either way, be sure to have the respective warranties in writing.
  5. Get a start and end date. Having a start and end date is a nice thing to have on a contract. It may not be volunteered, but you can ask for it to be added.
  6. Know your rights when it comes to deposits and payments. The deposit on any home improvement project should never exceed 10 percent of the contract price or $1,000, whichever is less. Payment should never be in advance of actual work performed. If the job has been completed and there are a few things you’d like corrected, write up a “punch list” and, if necessary, withhold 10 percent of the final payment until the list is complete.
  7. Check workers’ comp. All roofers in California are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance, even if they don’t have any employees. Siding, fence and all other contractors are required to carry it if they have employees. Workers’ compensation protects you in the event that a worker is injured on your property while on the job.
  8. Be patient.  If you can wait for a quality contractor, it’s likely to be worth it.