FAQs

Q?

How to choose a contractor?

A.

Start with your friends and family and then check in with the National Association of the Remodeling Industry for a list of members in your area. Once you've assembled a list, make a quick call to each of your prospects and arrange face to face meeting. Ask for references. It's crucial that you both communicate well because this person will be in your home for hours at a time. On the other hand, don't let personality fool you.
Check in with the Maryland Department Labor, Licensing and Regulation (DLLR) and the Better Business Bureau to make sure contractors don't have a history of disputes with clients or subcontractors. Once you've narrowed your list, call the references and find how their project went.

A conscientious contractor will want a sense of what homeowners want out of a project and what they plan to spend. To compare bids, ask everyone to break down the cost of materials, labor, profit margins and other expenses. The single most important factor in choosing a contractor is how well you and he communicate. All things being equal, it's better to spend more and get someone you're comfortable with.

Before work starts draw up a contract that details every step of the project: payment schedule; proof of liability insurance; a start date and projected completion date; specific materials and products to be used. Insisting on a clear contract isn't about mistrust, it's about ensuring a successful renovation.

Adapted from This Old House

Q?

Why use an insured contractor?

A.

Contractors should carry two types of insurance: liability and worker’s compensation. As a homeowner, these protect you in two ways. First, liability insurance will protect you in the event the contractor causes damage to your home. Workers' comp covers the people working on the job, in case of injury.

Bonding is often confused for insurance, but there is a notable difference. A bond is intended to act as a guarantee that the contractor will perform the work as he or she is supposed to. It is secured money that would be distributed to the homeowner in the event the contractor failed to perform as he or she should. Don’t take a contractor’s word that he or she is bonded. Ask for proof of the bond and be sure you understand exactly what it covers. (Keep in mind, though, that many successful contractors do not need to be bonded).

Licensing offers proof that the contractor has met certain industry training standards and is allowed to do the work in your area. Hiring an unlicensed contractor could cost you a lot. If the work does not meet local building codes, or the contractor doesn’t pull the necessary permits (which an unlicensed contractor cannot do), you will be responsible for making the repairs to meet code. Allowing work to be done by an unlicensed contractor could also void your homeowner’s insurance policy, should a claim arise as a result of that work.

Licensed, insured contractors usually charge more than those who haven’t earned the credentials or paid for the insurance protection. Uninsured? Unlicensed? Where else will they cut corners? If something goes wrong, don't let it be you who will be paying the price.

Q?

Are estimates complimentary?

A.

Generally, Improvement Zone will prepare a proposal for your project at no charge. Each project starts with a phone call to Improvement Zone (443 221 4661). An Improvement Zone representative will come out to your home to listen and discuss your project. Measurements, notes and information will be collected. You will receive an estimate and scope of work from Improvement Zone by email (or regular mail, if you prefer). Large jobs, which will require drawings or engineering, for example, will incur a charge as these take much more time to prepare. X

Q?

Do you get permits if needed?

A.

Yes, we will take care of any necessary permits with any county in Maryland.

Q?

Do you work in historic districts?

A.

Yes, We have experience in historic Annapolis, and Baltimore. We are familiar with the regulations, committees, review boards, and special permits necessary to get the job done.

Q?

Can you convert homes in accordance with ADA Guidelines?

A.

Yes, we convert existing homes to meet ADA Guidelines. Improvement Zone is registered with the State of Maryland as a Medicaid Provider. We are NARI (National Association of the Remodeling Industry) certified in Universal Design, a designation that focuses on designing living spaces for all ages and abilities. Learn more here

Q?

Are you certified to work with lead paint?

A.

We are a certified EPA Lead Paint Contractor and hold Maryland State Supervisor Lead Paint Removal and Demolition and Residential and Commercial Lead Paint Services Building Contractor. Renovations, repair jobs and paint jobs in pre-1978 homes and buildings can create significant amounts of lead-based paint dust. If your contractor will disturb lead-based paint while renovating, repairing or painting your home, they must be trained in lead-safe work practices..