Tips and best practices for hiring a contractor

  1. Seek multiple bids — We recommend that you obtain at least three bids from different contractors. Use CSE's bid comparison form to help you compare contractor proposals.

  2. Hire only a licensed contractor — Check the California State Contractors License Board to ensure that your contractor is licensed and in good standing.

  3. Hire insured contractors — Always insist on receiving a certificate of insurance for general liability. Otherwise, uninsured workers injured on the job may file damage claims against you as the property owner.

  4. Verify workers' compensation insurance — California requires workers' compensation insurance for employers. If your contractor is exempt from the requirement, it means any workers on the job must belong to another subcontractor who is insured.

  5. Get references — It's a good idea to obtain references from the contractor's previous customers. You also may want to consult third-party review resources such as the Better Business Bureau or Yelp before making a final selection.

  6. Financing — Ask your contractor about available financing options. You also can visit CSE’s Clean Energy Financing page to learn more.

  7. Never sign a contract under pressure — Insist on at least 48 hours to study any contract.

  8. Get a thorough written contract before any work begins — Any work valued over $500 requires a contract. In the contract, be sure the start and completion dates of the job are specified and insist on a progressive payment schedule stipulating exact costs. For your protection, you may want to invest a few hundred dollars to have an attorney review your contract. Be sure to require that all change orders must be in writing.

  9. Never pay cash — Pay by check or credit card so that you have a record of payments in case issues arise.

  10. Pay as you go — When starting a job, never pay more than 10% down or $1,000 — whichever is less. Hold back 10% on the final payment until after the entire job is complete and the proper authority inspects the system. Never pay for work before it is done.

  11. Keep a job file — Put receipts, permits, plans, photos and anything else pertaining to your job in the file.