News – Nailing it Down
July 18, 2005
By Lore Croghan
Once you've found worthy prospective contractors,
use this tip sheet to keep from getting ripped
off - or going crazy - when you're renovating:
Get estimates from at least three contractors
before you pick one.
When you check references, ask if you can visit
their homes and see the work the contractor has
done, said Vince Wiscovitch of Manhattan-based
Before you hire, ask the contractor for proof
that he has workers' compensation, disability
and liability insurance. Otherwise, if anyone
gets hurt during your renovation project, you're
Choose a contractor who's done lots of renovations
in the type of building you live in, said Colleen
Barry-Sleicher of Manhattan Home Improvement Referral,
a search service that matches consumers with residential
contractors. The work that needs to be done in
renovating apartments built before World War II
is different from that in more modern flats.
Once you pick your contractor, get a clearly written
contract that itemizes all the work to be done,
and the cost of materials and labor, said Beatrice
Ortega, president of Dot Construction of N.Y.,
located in Morris Park in the Bronx.
Be sure the contract includes a "lien waiver"
- it allows you to not make your final payment
to the contractor until he has paid subcontractors
and vendors. This will cut down on the chances
of them putting liens on your home because your
contractor hasn't paid them.
Also be sure the contract specifies that the contractor
will buy the construction supplies and accept
delivery of them - or else these will become your
Ask the contractor to guarantee the price of the
job, Wiscovitch said. The guarantee can say that
the price will be X unless specific problems occur,
in which case it will be higher. A smart contractor
can figure out what problems would be likely to
occur - and what a job will really cost if they
Contractors who won't give a guarantee may be
offering low-ball bids to get your business -
and planning to jack up the price later, he said.
Demand a written warranty of at least a year's
duration for the work that's to be done, Wiscovitch
Have the contractor write up a work schedule.
Don't pay more than the cost of materials as your
deposit, Ortega said. Most of the bill should
be paid only after the work is done, and you've
If you live in a co-op, make sure your contractor
meets with the board before construction starts.
He needs to know what hours he is allowed to work
in your building, what elevators he can use and
where to store construction materials - and to
obey these house rules, said James Ortega of Dot
Whether you live in a co-op or condo, see that
your contractor cleans up areas where workers
track dirt or make any other kind of mess.