After making the decision about what it is you want to change within your home, one of the most critical parts of any home improvement project is the screening you’ll need to conduct before hiring your Pro. Some of the biggest problems in any home improvement project often stem from issues with the person you’ve hired to do the job – and many of those same problems can be avoided by a thorough vetting before you hire.

The Vetting Process

It’s recommended that homeowners try to vet their Pros on up to 10 separate criteria levels. Doing so can give you a thorough understanding of who this person is, what their skills and areas of expertise are, and whether you would trust them with your most important asset – your home.

Too often, however, most homeowners forget or overlook this step in the home improvement process. Nearly everyone knows to get at least three bids or estimates for the work, but this can often lead to homeowners choosing the cheapest person for the job – not necessarily the most qualified.

By taking the time to vet your Pro before you sign anything, you can help avoid problems like:

  • Unlicensed workers opening you up to litigation
  • Out of state “storm chasers” who may move on from your job before it’s finished to start a new one
  • Vision conflicts where the Pro you hire has a different idea in mind for your home than you do
  • Personality clashes where you and your Pro are frequently at odds with one another over even the most minor details
  • Hiring a Pro who has no experience with the material you’ve selected for your home, meaning that your house is now the site of “on the job training.”

These problems are just the tip of the iceberg for some homeowners as well, and all of them could be avoided by taking just a few extra steps before you begin.

Getting Background Information

The vetting process of getting to know and qualify your Pro should start the minute he steps through your front door. The first thing you should do after greeting him is to ask for his driver’s license and his workman’s license. This lets you know that your Pro is local and not likely to leave you high and dry and that she’s taken the time to get licensed in the state in her area of expertise. It doesn’t guarantee that this is the most qualified person, but it does mean that you can hold them accountable for the work they’re doing.

Don’t forget to ask for his address and phone number and to double check his license plate as well so you can confirm that he’s local. Don’t be afraid to ask the following questions if you have any doubts:

  • How long have you been in business at this address?
  • How long at any previous address?How long have you had this phone number?
  • If you have a crew, on average, how long have they worked for you?
  • Do you run background checks on the people you hire?
  • Do you subcontract out the work?

Many of these points are verifiable by checking with the state, your Town Hall, or the Better Business Bureau. So take the time to check up on these and the status of her license.

Ask for References

You should get at least three recent, local references that are similar to the job you are having done. Be sure to call them and find out the following:

  • Did the Pro clean up after the job was done?
  • Were there any problems on the job?
  • If so, how were they handled?How satisfied is the person with the job?
  • Would they hire this Pro again

Included in these references, you should also ask for – and receive – references from either of the following:

  • Suppliers - so you can ensure there are no liens against the Pro for unpaid supplies
  • Manufacturers – particularly if the Pro recommends or sells a product – ask the manufacturer if the Pro has completed additional training with them, and if they are qualified to extend a manufacturer’s warranty on the product they are installing – this is particularly crucial on siding, windows, doors, and roofs

Ask for Their Portfolio

After references, ask to see examples of previous work that is similar to what you want to be done. This gives you a chance to see if their style matches yours and if their experience is indeed in the area you need it to be in.

Be sure to specifically mention any specialty product or material you want to be installed, such as paper-faced mosaics or ungauged slate that require specialized knowledge to install properly. If they can’t describe the installation process to you in detail, move on.

Check Them Out at the BBB

Look up your Pro on the Better Business Bureau to find out things like how long they’ve been in business, and if there are any complaints against them. A complaint by itself is not necessarily a red flag – what you want to see is how they handled the complaint. Mistakes happen, and problems arise; how did your Pro rise to the occasion and fix this for the homeowner. If there are a lot of unresolved complaints, this can be considered a problem.

Trust Your Gut

Pay close attention to the details…  

  • Did the Pros suggest to meet at the project location instead of their office?
  • Did they spend most of the time listening to you about your project?
  • Did they seem genuine, and care about your project?
  • Were they willing to collaborate and contribute by building on top of your ideas?
  • Did they follow up with things that they said they would?
  • Did you just hit it off immediately?
  • Or did you really like and trust this person?

You should be able to answer these questions after your initial meeting. If your answers to these questions are YES, and that your gut is telling you that everything checks out and you feel good about the relationship, you have found the right matching Pro to collaborate with you on your project.  Remember that some home improvement projects can take months to complete, like many good relationships you need to feel comfortable and eager to work together.

Do the Legwork…To Find Your Match

When you matched with compatible Pros, you will be saving money, time, and emotional stress in the long run. Screening your Pro is time-consuming and sometimes awkward, but it’s your best defense against numerous issues caused by hiring the wrong person for the job. This process can take up valuable time that you’d rather spend on getting straight down to business. You'll be glad to make this initial investment.