Can you spot a shady contractor?

If you’re a homeowner, you’re probably always thinking about the long list of home improvement projects you could be working on and what tasks might require the use of a professional contractor. Working with professionals can produce great results, but homeowners should also beware of home improvement scams.

Following are some warning signs that a contractor may be out to rip you off:

No references

A contractor that doesn’t offer references or won’t provide you with the names of any happy clients should never be hired. When you get a list of references, you can check with previous clients to ask about what kind of work that contractor has done in the past. Be sure you ask the previous clients if they would hire the contractor again. You also need to make sure these are legitimate past clients rather than the contractor’s friends.

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Shows up unsolicited

Contractors looking for a quick, easy buck may walk up to your door, tell you they have left over material from a project and that they noticed a problem with your home that they could fix. This is a common approach with unscrupulous contractors.

The contractor who shows up on your doorstep is trying to catch you off-guard; often, these contractors will pressure homeowners into hiring them, explaining that they’re offering their services only at that time. Many of these scamming contractors simply want to make some fast cash and get out of there. They are only interested in doing a little amount of work, and they don’t care if the work lasts or if the work actually looks good. They simply want your money.

Don’t allow these drive-by contractors to work on your home. In the worst-case scenario, this contractor may take your money and never finish the job.

Uses leftover material

There’s a difference between repurposing old materials in environmentally friendly construction products and using old materials that are substandard. Before you hire a contractor, make sure he or she will be using new materials. If the contractor offers to use old or leftover materials, he is trying to save himself money, not you. There is still a good chance that the contractor will charge for the materials. You also never know where these leftover materials came from. To help avoid these situations, insist that your contractor purchase new materials that are sure to last longer than any materials that have been leftover from some unknown project.

Doesn’t offer a contract

In some states, contractors are required by law to provide a written contract before starting a project of any size. Even if your state doesn’t have this law, you should still insist on a signed contract that lists contractor contact information, a timeline for the project, total cost and a payment schedule. Having a contract will give you options to take the contractor to court, should he fail to complete the work or perform a shoddy job.

When considering a home improvement project, do some research. Get a rough estimate of how much material costs and how long the project should take. Doing this will help you find a contractor who isn’t just concerned with making money, but actually wants to provide you with a quality service.