Tips for Choosing a Contractor


·         Ask for a copy of the contractor’s current insurance certificates.


·         Check the contractor’s Virginia contractor’s license and disciplinary actions with the Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation


·         Check the contractor’s license with the Fairfax County Division of Public Works and Environmental Services.


·         Consider joining Angies List, a contractor referral service that rates local contractors based upon customer experience.  There is a fee to join, but it might be a worthwhile investment.  Visit and choose Washington DC.  Other sources of customer feedback are , , and


·         Check the contractor’s complaint record with the Fairfax County Department of Cable Communications and Consumer Protection.


·         Contact the local Better Business Bureau.  The BBB tracks many businesses, not just BBB members.  Not being a member is not necessarily bad, but being a BBB member is better because the business has promised to abide by the BBB Code of Ethics and resolve disputes using BBB sanctioned arbitration procedures.


·         See if the Washington Consumers Checkbook magazine has an article about the project you are planning.  This quarterly magazine is a DC version of Consumer Reports Magazine.  It rates local businesses in a variety of areas, including quality of service and price.  Highly recommended!  If you can't subscribe (but please do, as it supports a great organization), you can read it at the local library.


·         Ask for customer references, particularly from those who have had projects similar to yours, and are neighbors.  If possible, inspect the work performed by the contractor.  Ask the reference if they are a friend of or affiliated with the contractor in any way.  Ask the reference if they remember the names of the employees who worked on their home; if they were satisfied, ask the contractor that that those individuals be specified in your contact.


·         Get written estimates from several contractors.  Be sure to specify the work you want done and the materials to be used so that the estimates are comparable.


·         Insist on a written contract, as required by the Fairfax County Home Improvement Code and Virginia state regulations, and make sure that it includes all agreements regarding the work to be done and materials to be used.


·         Be sure the contract specifies that you will be furnished with a signed mechanic’s lien waiver or release from suppliers of materials or subcontractors.  In the event that a contractor does not pay a subcontractor or supplier, state law provides that those working on the improvement project may obtain a lien against the property.  Without a lien waiver, if your contractor fails to pay a subcontractor or supplier, you could be liable for the debt.


(Kirk Randall Revised 2/9/09)


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