Here you are, both feet in the door of a beautiful home. You’re ready to take on a home project, and more inspired than ever to create that Pinterest-inspired backyard you’ve been wanting. Here are some professional tips to keep in mind when hiring any contractor.

A landscaping design sketch.

1. Know Exactly What You Are Trying to Achieve

Before you begin, make sure you have a game plan. What exactly do you want your finished project to look like? Will you need to hire a designer first and then hire someone else to execute? Be sure to have example photos and/or a sketch of your vision to share with the contractors you contact.

A couple comparing bids from multiple contractors.

2. Get Multiple Bids for Your Project

We recommend going through the original installing contractor, but it is never a bad idea to seek out bids from multiple contractors. As a rule of thumb, 3 bids will give you a good idea of fair pricing in that market. When comparing prices, don’t forget to consider that cheaper is not always better when it comes to quality.

A woman researching contractors online while her son plays in the background.

3. Ensure Contractor is Insured, has a Valid Contractor’s License and is Bonded

Visit the Contractors State License Board’s website to check the status of a contractor’s license prior to hiring them for a job:

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A couple visiting a kitchen remodel showroom.

4. Interview Contractor And Check Out Their Previous Work

Ask for a portfolio or pictures of their prior work, or check out their website or showroom, if available. Ask them about how long they’ve been in the business, and ask about the expected timeline, process, and payment schedule. Check to see if there will be disruptions to your daily life and if there are any accommodations you will need to make beforehand. If there is poor communication or unclear answers to things at the beginning, you probably should avoid working with them since it will likely be the same throughout the process of completing the job.

A contractor installing a tile backsplash.

5. Ask About the Warranty on Labor and Installation Errors

Most contractors provide some sort of warranty for their work. In addition, the materials used in a project may come with a manufacturer’s warranty. You will want to know what these warranties cover, and within what time frames. Request copies of this information before any work begins.

Two people shaking hands after signing a contract.

6. Get it in Writing

Ensure all agreements, warranties, timelines, and costs are all in writing. It’s okay to update the contract as long as both parties are in agreement and both sign off on any changes in costs or scope of work.

Did You Know?

Hiring an Unlicensed Contractor Can Be More Costly

The California State License Board recommends that you only hire licensed contractors. Hiring an unlicensed contractor may jeopardize your ability to recover payment or warranty when problems occur.

You Could Be on the Hook

When you hire a contractor without workers’ compensation insurance and they become injured on your property, you may be responsible for the medical and disability expenses incurred. Furthermore, if the contractor you hire does not carry liability insurance and the installation fails and damages your property or injures someone that you love, you may have no financial protection!

Protect Yourself

Please insist upon seeing the documents supporting the contractor’s compliance with state code, such as licenses and insurance certificates. Be wary of people who are not willing or unable to provide this information to you. You may also choose to research the contractor’s history with the Contractor’s State License Board. This information and much more is available to you at

Know Your Rights

The California Business and Professions Code requires that a contractor use a home improvement contract that affords you certain rights.


  1. Houzz Real Estate (2016) How to Hire A Contractor. Forbes Media
  2. California Association of Realtors (2015) How to Hire A Contractor. Contractors State License Board.
  3. Entrepreneur (2017) Header Image-10 Tips to Renovate your House Beautifully yet Economically. Entrepreneur Media.