Finding a contractor to remodel your home can be an arduous process. But contractors can make your renovation a dream or a nightmare, so it’s an important step. Make your life a little easier by knowing the 9 signs of a bad contractor.

1. Super low price

Some things come cheap for a reason and cutting corners isn’t the best strategy when remodeling. The cost difference might be reflected in quality of work, timeline, or materials.

And while we’re talking money, make sure the contractor accepts checks or cards (versus cash only) so there’s a record of payments.

2. Pressure

If the sale they’re offering is “one day only,” take your business elsewhere. You should get a minimum of 3 bids before selecting a contractor. Legitimate businesses understand the importance of researching contractors to find the best mutual fit.

3. Solicitation

Anyone ringing your doorbell, talking fast, and offering “leftover materials” from a nearby job is probably too good to be true (excluding the Girl Scouts and their deliciously evil baked goods). Move your search along.

4. Requesting payment up front

Paying 100 percent beforehand is a bad idea. It diminishes your leverage to manage issues if they arise. The Better Business Bureau recommends following “the rule of thirds”: paying one-third before work begins, one-third when you’re halfway there (oooh living on a prayer!), and one-third after the work’s complete.

5. Lacking credentials

Even if you’re not a police officer, it’s time to ask for license and registration. All legitimate contractors will have a current license and up-to-date certifications. Their insurance should include workers’ compensation, adequate liability, and even property damage protection.

Just in case, homeowners insurance will help you recover from accidents and property damage.

6. No references

Hiring a new contractor to give them a jump start on their business might feel good. But that “commendable” gesture won’t matter when the crew’s showing up late or leaving a mess behind.

Even if a new business doesn’t have customer testimonials, it’s crucial to dig into their work history. Call their previous employers to verify their skill set, professionalism, and character. Anyone with zero references can take a hike. (And an experienced professional contractor should have several glowing references.)

7. No written contract or itemized bid

Regardless of whether or not your state requires a contract, the potential contractor should be willing to provide one. This document outlines expected timeline, construction materials, budgets, and other expectations. It also typically includes an itemized list to keep track of costs for specific materials so you know how much should be taken off the bill if you decide to forgo anything.

The contract protects homeowners and the contracted business, so having one is a win-win. Any contractor wanting to bypass a hard-copy should be bypassed.

8. Negative talk about other companies

Frankly, this just isn’t professional, no matter the industry. Think about why they’re spending time talking about the negative aspects of competitors when they should be talking about the positive aspects of their business. What are they hiding?

9. General jerkiness

If the contractor’s throwing you any ’tude — unclear details, rushed answers, irritated tone — don’t dismiss your instinct. You should feel comfortable letting this company into your home. If something’s not right, keep looking.

Homeowners 101


about Meghan

During her time as an editor for the Esurance creative team, Meghan “layed the smackdown” on style and grammar rules. Hailing from Chicagoland, she’s written about everything from industrial welding to dog fashion. She spends her weekends attending live comedy shows (likely laughing so hard she cries) and reveling in the art of well-mixed cocktails.