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Don’t Let One Disaster Lead to Another: Tips on Selecting a Building Repair Contractor

Working Tool

Selecting the Contractor

1. Use your resources.

2. Investigate each contractor’s license, claims, and work history.

    • When was the work performed?
    • Was the contractor timely?
    • Was there a signed contract?
    • Did the contractor provide any guaranties or warranties?
    • Did the homeowner experience any surprises such as increased costs, defective work, or improper materials?
    • How did the contractor handle surprises?
    • How accessible was the contractor during the project?
    • What was the homeowner’s overall opinion of the contractor’s quality of work?
    • Did the contractor need to come back to make repairs?
    • Would the homeowner hire the contractor again?
  • Visit the current jobsites of the contractor to see how the contractor maintains the jobsite, and how the contractor protects the homeowner’s property.
  • Get bid proposals in writing from at least three contractors.  Ask questions regarding large discrepancies between the bid proposals.  Refrain from automatically choosing the lowest bid price.
  • Ask for the contractor’s availability.  If the disaster was widespread, many contractors may be booked for months.  If a contractor is available immediately, this may be a sign that the contractor is not desirable.
  • If the contractor advertises it is affiliated with trade organizations, confirm the membership.

Hiring the Contractor 

1. Put the agreement in writing

  • Make sure you and the contractor agree on the following terms:
    • Permitting
    • Scope of Work
    • Materials
    • Payment Schedule
    • Fixed Price or Time and Materials Pricing
    • Change Orders
    • Start and Completion Dates
    • Confirm that the contractor carries workers’ compensation, property damage, and personal liability insurance.
    • Confirm that the contractor will only hire licensed and insured subcontractors

2. Payments 

  • Pay with traceable means such as credit card or check.
  • Do not pay more than thirty percent up front.
  • Always use joint checks when possible, to avoid liens being filed by the contractor’s subcontractors or material suppliers.

During Construction

1. Document the repairs. 

  • Take photographs before, during, and after repairs.
  • Keep a file of all receipts, invoices, and permits.

About The Author


Katie J. Comstock


Katie's Status

Katie was recently appointed as a Trustee on the King County Bar Association Young Lawyer Division Board of Trustees. Katie also recently negotiated two very favorable settlements on behalf of her supplier clients in their respective public work collection lawsuits.

Areas of Expertise

Construction Defects, Property Insurance Claims, Boundary Disputes, Collections, Liens and Foreclosure, and General Litigation.

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