Your home’s heating system is vital to your family’s comfort and welfare. When hiring a heating contractor, don’t take chances with an unqualified or unknown company. Be a smart consumer. Do your homework. Ask the right questions.
To Find a Contractor
Consider referrals first. The best place to look for a reputable contractor is family and friends. Have they had similar work done? Who did they use? Were they satisfied? Would they recommend the contractor? Also, check the websites of contracting professional associations. They often have a “contractor finder” you can search for a qualified pro in your area.
- Use your own eyes and ears. Look carefully at the contractor and listen carefully to what he says. Contractors who do quality work and provide reliable service look the part. So take a good look at the contractor. Is his truck clean and orderly? Does it have the company name on the side? Is the contractor prompt and polite? Is he dressed neatly? Does he answer your questions directly?
- By the same token, be clear in your own questions, requests, etc. Clear, two-way communication is an essential ingredient in a successful job and your satisfaction. Misunderstandings and miscommunication are far and away the number one reason consumers are dissatisfied with a contractor’s services.
- Ask for the contractor’s license or registration, if your state requires this. Not all states do.
- Ask how long he has been in business?
- Ask for references, at least three, from others who have had similar work done. You want recent references and some older ones, too. Your contractor may be prepared with a list of dozens of names or more, any of whom you can call.
- Ask for a banking or financial reference too, to help determine the stability of the company.
- Ask if he belongs to any professional or trade organizations.
- Check all references. Ask referrals to describe what was done, if the job was finished on time and on budget, how were disagreements or misunderstandings resolved with the contractor? Ask, would the homeowner use him again?
- Ask about additional classes and ongoing training from professional organizations and manufacturers (such as Taco Factory Training for FloPro hydronics professionals.
- Ask what insurance coverage he has? At minimum he should have workman’s compensation, general liability and auto insurance. If he’s not covered and there is an accident or injury on the job, you, the homeowner, may be liable for damages.
- Be suspicious of a company willing to give you a quote over the phone without having seen the job you need done.
- Get bids or proposals from several contractors.
- Read the estimates carefully to make sure you’re comparing apples to apples.
- Don’t price shop. Knowledge, skill experience and a good reputation are far more important than price. A quality job, whether a repair, upgrade, replacement or new installation, takes time and skill.
Contractors to Avoid
Avoid contractors who:
- Appear ready to do the job at an unusually low price.
- Only provide a post office box as their business address.
- Expect full or substantial payment before beginning the work.
- Do not provide you with a written estimate or contract.
- Ask you to sign an “estimate” or “authorization: before you decide to hire them.
Before Signing a Contract
Before signing a contract, make sure it includes:
- A detailed description of the work to be done.
- A description and list of materials. Again, make sure all estimates are based on the same quality of materials.
- A specific schedule for doing the work.
- The total price or the specific way the final cost will be calculated.