Rich Ligotino

Rich Ligotino

Founder at ToolBelt USA
I have been in the home-improvement industry since 2003. I don't always have the answers, but I will get them for you!
Rich Ligotino


With so many con­trac­tors out there, how do you choose the right one for your project ? Where do you start ? What infor­ma­tion do you look for ? What ques­tions do you ask ? Here is a sim­ple but effec­tive guide­line that will help you make an intel­li­gent and edu­cat­ed deci­sion. Con­trac­tor


Stay Local.  It is always best to find a con­trac­tor with­in a rea­son­able dis­tance of where you live.  My gen­er­al rule of thumb is about a twen­ty mile radius, but the clos­er the bet­ter.  You may need the con­trac­tor to come back to you down the road for a ser­vice call or a war­ran­ty issue.  If your con­trac­tor is locat­ed fifty miles away he will be very reluc­tant to make the trip for a minor repair. The con­trac­tor will tell you that they will send some­one over the next time they have some­one in the area. You may end up wait­ing weeks for some­one to come. Remem­ber, con­trac­tors are in busi­ness to make mon­ey. Con­trac­tor.


Stay Very Local.  One of the eas­i­est ways to find a good local con­trac­tor is sim­ply by dri­ving around your neigh­bor­hood.  Chances are that you will see job signs on people’s lawns.  If you see a contractor’s sign on sev­er­al lawns this is a good indi­ca­tor.


Ask Ques­tions.  This is where you need to be very smart.  Don’t be afraid to ask ques­tions, don’t be intim­i­dat­ed.  Remem­ber, this is no dif­fer­ent than a job inter­view.  The obvi­ous ques­tion… Is your com­pa­ny licensed and ful­ly insured ?  How long has your com­pa­ny been in busi­ness ?  How many remod­el­ing projects has your com­pa­ny done in our neigh­bor­hood ?  How long will we have to wait if ever we need ser­vice in the future ?  Here’s a good one… Why should we choose your com­pa­ny instead of your com­pe­ti­tion ?  

If these ques­tions are answered with any hes­i­ta­tion and doubt, then it’s prob­a­bly time to move on to the next guy !


Research the Prod­uct.  I always tell my cus­tomers to look for the best avail­able prod­ucts for the best val­ue.  Do not over­pay or under­pay for any­thing !  The old adage, “buy cheap buy twice” tends to rear its ugly head quite often.  And nobody likes to over­pay for any­thing. Do your own research.  There are many resources out there to com­pare prod­ucts.  Look for rep­utable, unbi­ased sources though.  If you know just as much about the prod­uct than your con­trac­tor does, you will keep him hon­est !


Longevi­ty & Expe­ri­ence.  The home improve­ment indus­try is known to have a very low suc­cess rate.  In fact, 90% of con­trac­tors will fail with­in their first five (5) years in busi­ness ! I am a firm believ­er that we all need to start some­where, and that every­one deserves a chance.  How­ev­er, you are always tak­ing a big risk when you choose a novice con­trac­tor.  

Would you buy a vaca­tion pack­age to Hawaii for $100 bucks ?  (I know I would!).  Now what if you were told that your air­plane had a 90% chance of crash­ing,  would you still buy the pack­age ? (I know I wouldn’t!).  My gen­er­al rule of thumb, look for a min­i­mum of five (5) years in busi­ness, ten (10) years or more is even bet­ter.  You will pay a lit­tle more for an expe­ri­enced con­trac­tor, but it’s well worth it !


Cer­tifi­cate of Insur­ance.  Do not under­es­ti­mate the impor­tance of prop­er insur­ance cov­er­age.  Ask for a Cer­tifi­cate of Insur­ance nam­ing your­self as the “Cer­tifi­cate Hold­er”. Make sure the con­trac­tor car­ries Gen­er­al Lia­bil­i­ty Cov­er­age, and in some cas­es, Worker’s Com­pen­sa­tion Cov­er­age, espe­cial­ly if the project involves some degree of per­il (such as roof­ing or sid­ing).  Call the insur­ance car­ri­er or bro­ker (list­ed on the cer­tifi­cate) to ver­i­fy cov­er­age.


Ref­er­ences & Port­fo­lio Pics.  You would be doing your­self a huge dis­ser­vice if you do not ask for a few ref­er­ences.  Let­ters are nice, but phone num­bers are even bet­ter.  Talk­ing to a pre­vi­ous cus­tomer about their expe­ri­ence with your poten­tial con­trac­tor can ease your fears.


Ask the con­trac­tor to show you some port­fo­lio pics.  These days, most rep­utable con­trac­tors car­ry iPads or oth­er tablet devices with port­fo­lio pics.  Most even have web­sites that dis­play their project pho­tos.  Anoth­er old adage… “a pic­ture is worth a thou­sand words”.


BBB & Social Media.  One thing I learned as a con­trac­tor myself… when peo­ple are unhap­py because they feel that they have been screwed, peo­ple talk !  The Bet­ter Busi­ness Bureau (BBB) gets inun­dat­ed each day with hun­dreds of com­plaints, many of them from con­trac­tors !  Check your local BBB web­site ( to see if your poten­tial con­trac­tor has any unre­solved com­plaints against them.  Make sure they have a BBB rat­ing of no less than “A”.  “A+” is the best pos­si­ble rat­ing.


Social Media has become a pow­er­ful tool.  Sites like Angie’s List, Yelp, and Yahoo ! Local List­ings are there to serve as forums for con­sumers to write reviews and rate com­pa­nies. Please be very care­ful though, one or two bad reviews should not dis­cour­age you, if there are most­ly good reviews.


High Pres­sure, No Thanks !  If your poten­tial con­trac­tor sends a high-pres­sure sales­per­son to your home, hang in there, stay strong, and don’t suc­cumb to the pres­sure ! The sales­per­son may force you to make a deci­sion on the spot, oth­er­wise you will lose out on a “spe­cial deal that ends today”.  A good deal today should be a good deal tomor­row. So don’t cave in to these unscrupu­lous tac­tics.


Get a Writ­ten Esti­mate !  This is a big one !  If a con­trac­tor writes a fig­ure on the back of a busi­ness card, thank him/her for their time, show them the door, and tear up the card !  Call some­one else !  A seri­ous com­pa­ny will give you a detailed esti­mate out­lin­ing every­thing that you will be get­ting leav­ing behind no ambi­gu­i­ty or vague­ness.  Every­thing that is includ­ed, and any­thing that is not. Peri­od.


Three Esti­mates.  There is no need to get more than three (3) esti­mates. Get­ting more than three bid is not only unnec­es­sary, but it’s also time-con­sum­ing and could cause lots of con­fu­sion. Keep in mind, going with the low­est bid may not be your best choice. Con­sid­er all the oth­er fac­tors dis­cussed above, and choose the con­trac­tor that you feel most com­fort­able with.  Remem­ber, rates can always be nego­ti­at­ed with the con­trac­tor.  This puts you more in con­trol of stay­ing with­in your bud­get.


Financ­ing.  Many rep­utable mid-size con­trac­tors offer financ­ing through third-par­ty banks. This may be a good option for you if you want to ease your finan­cial bur­den and spread out the pay­ments over time.  There are even options that includ­ed 0% financ­ing for a cer­tain peri­od of time.  This will free up your cash and make your project more afford­able.


So do your research, be patient and seek the right infor­ma­tion.  The out­come of your due dili­gence could make the dif­fer­ence in choos­ing the right con­trac­tor for your next project.



There are cer­tain remod­el­ing projects thar are just too big and com­plex for you to han­dle on your own. Your project may require some man­pow­er, spe­cial equip­ment and a cer­tain skill set.  You bet­ter leave this one to the pros !


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