This is important to protect you in the event of a worker injury on your property. Many people do not realize that a homeowner may be held personally liable for the cost of an injured worker’s rehabilitation if an uninsured or underinsured worker is hurt on their property. These costs can be ruinous. This is question #1 for good reason. Ask to see a copy of the front page of their liability policy. $1 million is the minimum acceptable. Go online to WorkSafeBC and follow the prompts to create a clearance letter. This letter will tell you if the company is in good standing with WorkSafeBC (a legal requirement).
The Better Business Bureau offers consumers a great deal of protection if you deal with an accredited business. The BBB will intercede on your behalf to pressure accredited businesses to resolve customer issues. The BBB has no leverage with non-accredited companies and is limited to pointing out that they have unresolved complaints. This does not affect their ratings since they are not rated to begin with and are certainly not accountable to the BBB. Additionally, look to see if a company belongs to a number of professional associations as that may indicate their level of interest in maintaining professional standards.
Check with the BBB to see if what they tell you is true. Next to #1 this is the most frequent misrepresentation in the home improvement industry. A long track record of paying suppliers, paying taxes, and not being sued by customers or former employees does indicate that the company will probably be still available to deal with possible warranty situations. This is not the same as how long the person you are speaking to has been in the trade.
Their having references, and your looking to see how far back the dates on the references go while you are reading them could tell you if #3 is true. Also, can you look at their work if you choose to?
An estimate should leave no grey areas and should be done on a proper form. These are two more signs that the company is serious about being and staying in business. (A cigarette package is not a proper form.)
Home improvements are not a daily purchase: far from it. You can’t be expected to know what a professional knows about their trade. However, you should do enough research or ask enough questions to get a sense of what separates excellent work from substandard work. If someone tries to gloss over your concerns, you may want to ask yourself why they can’t or won’t explain what they are doing. If you call later with a warranty issue, is that how they will treat you?
If this is just a sideline for them, you may want to reconsider using them. Exterior building products are important components of your house and must function correctly to protect your very large investment in your home. Someone who is learning on the job may not be your best long term choice.
This last question is really the bottom line. You will be giving this company your money in hopes that they will repay your trust by doing a great job of your home improvements. This means showing up on time, respecting your home as if it were theirs, treating you, your family and your neighbors with consideration, and coming back if required to correct any deficiencies. This is about the company, not the individual, for the simple reason that people change jobs. Your warranty will be from the company not the individual (who may be working elsewhere should you call in the future).
You may notice that we haven’t explored warranties. Yes, you should have a warranty that is in keeping with the industry standard, but remember, a warranty is only as good as the company that offers it.
The home renovation and construction industry consistently generates a huge number of consumer complaints to the BBB each year. Most of these issues can be avoided by doing a little research in advance of making a commitment to the people who you select to work on your home. Asking these questions will help you avoid many common mistakes in hiring home improvement companies and help you to avoid expensive problems.