Consumer Guide: Hiring a Contractor

Consumer Guide

Before you Hire

Don’t Rush

  • Choosing a contractor is an important decision that should not be made lightly.
  • The Rhode Island Contractors’ Registration Board suggests getting at least three bids before making your selection.
  • The lowest bid is not necessarily the best choice.
  • Be wary of “special deals”

Check Registration

Get Proof

  • In the event something goes wrong on the job, you’ll want to make sure your contractor has insurance.
  • Ask the contractor for a copy of his or her certificate of insurance.
  • Ask to be the certificate holder.

Get References

  • Ask the contractor for references.
  • Ask previous customers if they were satisfied with the work and how the contractor responded to questions and/or complaints.
  • Give special consideration to contractors who are members of a professional builders’ association.


The Contract

Get it in Writing

  • Avoid oral contracts.
  • Contracts over $1,000 must be in writing.
  • Make sure the contractor’s registration number is at the top of the contract.
  • The contractor must also provide you with notice of possible mechanic’s lien (contractors’, subcontractors and material suppliers)

Terms of Cancellation

  • According to the RI Contractors’ Registration Board, if signed outside of the place of business, the contract must have a 3 day cancellation clause.

Determine the Time Frame

  • Ask the contractor to provide a start date and a finish date.
  • Have it clear in your contract what the repercussions will be if the dates are not met.

Know the Payment Terms

  • Never pay cash.
  • Never put too much money up front.
  • Never pay the balance until the job has been completed, pursuant to the terms of the contract.


  • Make sure you have a clear understanding that money allocated for the project is sufficient and it is inclusive of labor cost.

Before Work Begins

Get on the Same Page

  • Think your project through from start to finish.
  • Insist that you approve the completed plans before work begins.
  • When you see the plans, study them carefully to make sure they illustrate your project accurately.


  • Homeowners have a right to ask for a list of who is working on their property.
  • Anyone working on your property must either be a registered contractor or an employee of the company you hired so they are covered by workers compensation.

Pull Proper Permits

  • The homeowner is responsible to make sure the contractor pulls the proper permits for the job.
  • If this will be the contractor’s responsibility, it should be stated clearly in your contract.

During the Job

Change Orders

  • If changes from original plans occur during construction, put them in writing as amendments to the contract, including any changes in cost.
  • These changes are called “change orders” and should be signed by both you and contractor, and should be clearly understood.


  • Make sure any “extras” that are added after the contract has been signed are in writing and clearly defined in the contract.

After the Job

It’s Not Over Until You Say So

  • Before accepting the job as complete, walk through it with contractor, listing any defects needing correction.
  • Never sign for completion until all work called for in the contract has been properly completed; also ask if all or any required inspections have been done by the building official’s department.

Dispute Resolution

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