Landmark Owner Resources

Tips on Hiring a Historic Preservation Contractor

Not all contractors understand old buildings. It is important to select a contractor who has training and experience to do the job correctly, to save the expense of having to correct poor work or resolve misunderstandings later. In some cases, the damage done by inexperienced contractors to historic materials is beyond repair and permanently compromises both the aesthetics and soundness of your building.  Be an educated consumer so you can evaluate what a contractor is telling you.

Steps for finding a qualified contractor:

1.     Know your project.

  • Think holistically about your building. For example, it’s pointless to repair a spalling brick wall without addressing the underlying cause.
  • Research the history of your building, looking for the permit history, original plans, and old photographs that will help you understand changes that may have taken place over time.
  • Decide what you want. Determine your budget and make a list of work items you’d like addressed. This will help contractors focus their bids and make it easier for you to compare and evaluate them later.
  • Check web sources of information on historic building components.

2.     Find qualified contractors.

  • Check on license status at the WV Department of Labor website (?).
  • Look for any license enforcement actions taken.
  • Check online reviews. Keep in mind that these reviews may help you ascertain a contractor’s customer service, but most reviewers aren’t evaluating from a preservation perspective.

3.     Call prospective contractors. Ask:

  • Is the contractor bonded and insured?
  • Has the contractor done similar work on buildings of the same age?
  • Do you have references?

4.     Call three contractors.

Always meet with the representative in person. You will get a better sense of their ability and interest in your job. If you’ve done your homework, you will be familiar with the preservation-friendly ways to accomplish the job and whether the contractor understands how to do the work correctly.

Ask:

  • Are you familiar with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation?
  • Who will be performing the work and what is their training and experience?
  • Some companies use sub-contractors, it’s important to be sure they are qualified and reputable.
  • How busy is your company, and will you have time for my job?
  • When do you expect to start/finish my job?

5.     Check references. Call past customers and ask:

  • Were you satisfied with the work?
  • Was the project finished on time and within budget?
  • Were there any unexpected issues and, if so, how were they handled?
  • Would you hire this company again?

Visit past projects similar to yours. It may be tempting to skip this step, but better to recognize a contractor’s poor workmanship at someone else’s house than when he gets to yours.

6.     Get bids in writing. Be sure the bid contains the bid amount, deposit amount, and a list of any specified materials.

7.     Always get a contract. Even if you are friends with the contractor, a written contract will insure that everyone understands what work is to be done, when it is to be completed, and what costs are involved.

8.     Always secure permits no matter how small the job.

9.     You need a lien waiver signed by a contractor to show that they have been paid in full.