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Ask the Inspector

Contractors: Good or Bad?

I'm often asked: How do I know if I'm choosing a good contractor?

As the saying goes, there's no such thing as a free lunch. Contractors cost money. Regardless of who you go to, you're going to have to pay for labor and materials. So be sure to hire a licensed contractor and not a handyman who promises to save you money. Because more often than not, the cheapest contractor may turn out to be the most costly in the end.

A better guide than price is reputation. Take the time to check references and see some of their work. And don't be afraid to ask questions.

The State of California Contractors State License Board offers a free book called How to Hire a Contractor. Contact the Board at (619) 455-0237 for a copy.

Once you've decided on a contractor, it's a good idea to arrange your payments only after they've completed and passed code inspection for that section of the job. Remember, however, the inspector is checking for conformance to the minimum code and safety standards required. You should also be checking for conformance to the quality, design and specifications required by your contracted drawings for the job.

And, before signing a contract, be sure that you're satisfied with the plans. Are the outlets where you need them? Is the heating/cooling going to be efficient? Remember, you have to live with the results.

Don't be afraid to ask the inspector if there are any code related questions you have either. That's what we're here for.

Once the work is under way, you shouldn't plan on the estimated completion time always being accurate. You've heard Murphy's Law: "If something can go wrong it will.

Well, Buxbaum's Law says Murphy was an optimist. So don't let the little things get you down. If the job isn't being done on time, but the work is being done right, it may be worth the delay. Enjoy your dream house!