Desert Contractors' Association


Looking to Hire a Contractor?
Here are some tips you may wish to consider when selecting a contractor.
Be sure to ask the following questions and verify the information:

  • What is their Contractors License Number? Ask to see their pocket CSLB License, and another form of Identification. Make sure the contractor is licensed and carries a performance bond. Licensing info is available from the Contractor's State License Board by calling at 800-321-2752 or on their website at In California, any job that costs $500.00 or more for material and labor must be performed by a contractor who holds a current license in the specialty for which he or she is working.

  • Is the Contractor Insured? Make sure that the contractor carries Liability Insurance sufficient to cover expenses that may arise as a result of their work. If the contractor has employees, verify they carry Workers Compensation Insurance (this is very important to you as a homeowner). Ask to see a copy of the certificate of insurance, or ask for the insurance carrier and agency to verify that the contractor has the insurance. Verify that the contractor is insured against claims covering Workers Compensation, property damage, and personal liability in case of accidents.

  • Get References! Get at least three bids and check the bidders' backgrounds and references. Make sure their references are viable. If possible, visit some of their projects and talk to the occupants. Skilled contractors will be proud to take credit for their work.

  • Get Contact Info! Ask the contractor for the address of his or her business location and business telephone number, and verify them. A contractor who operates a business out of the back of a pick up truck with a cell phone may be difficult to find to complete a job or fix something that has gone wrong after the last bill is paid.

  • Sign the Contract! Be sure the financial terms of the contract are clear. The contract should include the total price, when payments will be made and whether there is a cancellation penalty. On any home improvement job, you should expect to make a down payment.

  • What Amount of a Down Payment? California law requires that the amount of the down payment for any home improvement contract (except for swimming pools) may not exceed $1,000.00 or 10 percent of the contract price (excluding finance charges), whichever is less. The down payment for a swimming pool shall not exceed $200.00 or two percent of the contract price (excluding finance charges), whichever is less.

  • Materials? Ask the contractor to submit a list of materials and equipment for your project identifying, for example, the number of wall anchors, tons of steel frame, cubic yards of concrete, the number of different types of bolts and other unit items. Alternatively, you could ask the contractor to assign a dollar value for each aspect of the work, for example, replacing the roof, installing frames and foundations, etc. This may assist you in limiting the cost of change orders and, when certain aspects of the job are not performed, may enable you to take credits against cost increases.

  • Change Orders? Have all changes to the approved design completed before the start of construction. Changes during construction are far more costly and, in addition, may result in delays and loss of use. Also, you are in a better position to negotiate a fair change order before construction on your building has started.
This is a general guideline to highlight only a few of the important items to be considered in selecting a contractor. For a more comprehensive look at how to hire a contract, ask to see the booklet distributed by the State of California Department of Consumer Affairs, "WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW BEFORE YOU HIRE A CONTRACTOR".

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