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How to Vet a Contractor

So you need to hire a contractor - but you have heard the horror stories and don’t want to be part of that narrative.  Where do you begin? 

“To Vet” (verb) means “to make a careful and critical examination of (something)” and when you are working with one of your most important assets (your home) you want to make sure to do your due diligence.  Here are some helpful tips.

Before you hire a contractor make sure to: 

  • Confirm they have the appropriate license and are bonded and insured.  The WA State Department of Labor & Industries has a handy tool which allows you to verify a contractor, tradesperson or business.  

Labor & Industries Website Link:

Helpful PDF link:

Video Link:

  • Ask for references from previous clients.  Make sure to come up with a list of helpful questions and contact more than just one reference.  Here are some suggested initial questions:
    • How was your overall experience with this contractor?
    • Was your project completed on time and on budget?
    • Was the job site organized and kept tidy?
    • What was a challenge or problem that occurred and how was it resolved?
    • Would you hire this contractor again and recommend them to a friend?  
  • Interview your contractor - If they are the right fit for you they will take the time to answer questions such as: 
    • Describe some challenges they have faced in previous jobs - how did they overcome these issues? How did they approach the problem?
    • Who will be on the job? Who will be the crew or technicians at your residence? 
    • Do they use "in house labor" or do they subcontract all the work? What are the qualifications of their subcontractor network?
    • How busy are they? Qualified and reputable contractors are in high demand and will have several projects in their queue.  If you are interviewing a contractor and their schedule is wide open this should be a red flag.  
  • Be wary of review sites - While they can be helpful there is potential that reviews are overstated and some good reviews can even be a result of solicitation or fake information.  Use your judgment and don’t blindly trust only review sites.

Properly vetting a contractor takes time and effort but the process is often very eye opening and allows you to be an informed, and most importantly satisfied, consumer. 

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