Whether you rent or own your home, it is inevitable that something will need to be repaired or “fixed”. If you are a tenant, your landlord or property management company should be contacted first. If you are a homeowner, you will most likely be adding it onto an ongoing list that is tacked to your refrigerator! At any rate, there are some considerations when approaching a repair. If you have assessed the issue or damage, you then have to decide whether it is and easy DIY repair or it is beyond your scope or time. Find out if you need a licensed contractor to perform the repair. It varies from state to state. In our state, the SC Contractor’s Licensing Board, http://www.llr.state.sc.us,  will give you this information. Typically, HVAC, plumbing, electrical and construction require a contractor to have a license. If you have a painting project, siding, insulation, roofing, flooring, drywall, masonry, carpentry and wallpaper do not require a contractor to hold a license for these. Finding a contractor is the next step. Do you happen to have or know of a reputable and reliable contractor? If not, ask around. Your neighbors, co-workers, or anyone that may have just hired the services of a contractor. Home Depot and other similar stores may have an independent contractor list. Compile a list of several contractors and contact all of them. Ask questions. What is their experience with projects like yours? Can they provide references? Do they physically come to your home to give a free estimate of services? How long will the project take and how many projects do they have going on? The answers provided from them will give you an idea of their availability, reliability, how much attention they’ll be able to give your project and how smoothly the work will go. To compare bids, ask everyone to break down the cost of materials, labor, profit margins and other expenses. Generally materials account for 40 percent of the total cost; the rest covers overhead and the typical profit margin, which is 15 to 20 percent. Ask what their payment requirements are. If they ask for 50% up front, this may indicate financial problems or they may be worried that you will not pay the balance after you have seen the work done. Typically, 10% upfront is the norm for large projects. Then it can be another 3 payments of 25% over the course of the project with the last 15% balance paid at the end of the project.

A good rule of thumb is to throw the lowest bid aside. Reason being, the contractor is probably cutting corners or, worse, desperate for work. You should be comfortable with your contractor and paying a bit more may add to your comfort.  Make sure you draw up a contract that details every step of the project: payment schedule; proof of liability insurance and worker’s compensation payments; a start date and projected completion date; specific materials and products to be used; and a requirement that the contractor obtain lien releases (which protect you if he doesn’t pay his bills) from all subcontractors and suppliers. Insisting on a clear contract isn’t about mistrust, it’s about insuring a successful renovation or repair project.