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(Help! Please check out our simple survey at the bottom of this column!)

Usually, when we say we’re getting a little work done, we’re referring to botox or a nip and a tuck. Not something we want to blab to the world, definitely. But, if you’re hiring a contractor to get a little work done around your home, you definitely do want to blab to the world. And you want the world to blab back. In fact, communication is at the heart of the Top Twelve Ways to avoid being abused by your contractor.

1. Ask Friends for Recommendations

Ask friends, family, co-workers or acquaintances for recommendations. Who did they work with and would they use them again? Keep talking!

2. Check for Accreditation

Look for accreditation from the Better Business Bureau or the local Chamber of Commerce. Ask other architects, contractors or builders you trust to refer you to someone.

3. Look for Jobs Similar to Yours

If you need your fence repaired and a neighbor recently had a nice one installed, ask them who they used. And again, talk, chat, ask for their evaluation of the contractor’s professionalism and skill.

4. Good Office Operations are Important

Can you get someone on the phone or does it always go to a machine? Do they return phone calls? Professionalism counts. You don’t want to go with a contractor who “forgot” to get worker’s comp insurance or “spaced” on getting a license. If you can, run a credit check on the business.

5. Never Choose a Contractor Based on Price

Remember the old saying, “You get what you pay for?” Well, why do you think it’s stuck around so long? Money matters, don’t get me wrong. But it may cost less in the long run to use a contractor who charges more but is honest and knowledgeable.

6. Make Sure the Contractor’s Busy

Do they have steady and repeat business? Will they put you in touch with some of their previous customers? If they’re reluctant to give you living, breathing references, the red flag should go up.

7. Meet the Craftsman

Get to know the actual carpenter, plumber or electrician who’s going to be working on your home. You may like and trust the boss you originally speak with, but when they send an inexperienced teenager to rewire your house, you may not end up with a good result.

8. Find a Specialist

You wouldn’t get your nose done by a podiatrist, would you? Make sure your contractor has plenty of experience in the type of work you need done. Not every carpenter can hang a door straight or lay a level floor. Speak to clients who’ve had the same kind of work done. Not to get annoying, but keep on checking.

9. Test the Contractor with a Minor Job

Ask the plumber to change a fixture and see how he does before you get him to install a new bathroom. Just to be on the safe side, you know?

10. Don’t be in a hurry!

We know you’re in a hurry because Uncle Harry and Aunt Marsha are coming to visit for the first time in years, and you want your house to look great. But think. If the AC is broken, the guest room toilet isn’t working, or the roof is leaking, what kind of impression will you really make? Check those references before committing.

11. Get It in Writing! Get it in Writing! Get it Signed!

In our experience, the workman most likely to cheat you is the one who seems the most trustworthy. So take it from us, get a contract in writing. Make sure it specifies exactly what the job is, the start and completion date, and the exact price. Make sure there is a warranty, guaranteeing satisfaction or your money back. Also, be sure the contact is written on letterhead with a verifiable address, so if you have to sue the $*%*^%&* the sherriff will be able to serve him with a warrant. If your potential workman refuses to do this, DO NOT hire him.

12. Check the Contractor Out with a Service

We here at Dish are thinking of developing a service would allow YOU to evaluate your contractor or look someone up and see how they’ve been evaluated by other Dish readers like you. That way, we can all share our experiences and benefit from a larger pool of references and referrals. Talk about blabbing to the world! Please take our survey and let us know if this is something that interests you.

Each of these tips is a great way to avoid being ripped off and abused by a contractor, but the most important thing to remember is not to be shy. Tell the world you’re getting a little work done. It worked for Joan Rivers. Okay, bad example.

STOP GETTING RIPPED OFF! Help Us To Help You & Ourselves By Taking Our Brief Survey! And THANK YOU in advance!


If you have any home repair questions for Sarit, please e-mail them to To find out more about the wonderful Sarit Catz, visit her website at / Issue 77 - September 7874
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