For something as important as insulating your home, you’ll need to hire the right pro
If your energy bills are soaring and the winter drafts from the attic have you reaching for the heavy coats, your home probably needs an insulation upgrade. For many homeowners, this means calling in the insulation pros. Hiring the right pro is crucial to ensuring your home is properly shielded from the elements. Plus, installing the right kind of insulation can save you 15% annually on average for heating and cooling, according to Energy Star and the EPA.
The right pro will understand R-values and climate zones, so you don’t have to. The following seven steps will help take the guesswork out of hiring a reputable insulation contractor near you.
1. Understand Your Insulation Needs
Before you begin looking for a contractor to install or replace your home’s insulation, take a moment to clarify your goals and how insulation will help you achieve them. That way, a contractor can ask specific questions to create a targeted plan for your needs. If it’s a drafty attic causing you stress, tell them. If you’re dead set on using spray foam versus cellulose, let them know. While you don’t need to know every in and out of insulation strategies, having a basic understanding of your project needs will help source the right pro.
2. Have Them Walk Through Your Home First
Before signing any paperwork, your insulation contractor should perform a walk-through and inspection of your home, pinpoint specific needs by looking for air leaks and condensation buildup, and identify any other issues that need addressing. Remember, a phone call can only convey so much. This in-person inspection will also help them recommend the best type of insulation for your home.
3. Go With an Insulation Pro, Not a Handyperson
While you or your neighborhood handyperson might be capable of handling the installation process, it’s generally a better idea to hire a local insulation contractor to do the work. Your local pro will do a more thorough job while maintaining safety standards and offering a warranty on their work. However, you can and should learn as much as you can about the insulation installation process before making a final decision.
“Building codes for insulation include things like blocking the spaces where electrical wires go from one floor to another,” says Bob Tschudi, a Raleigh, NC-based general contractor. “We always go to the insulation pros—they might cost a bit more, but a failed inspection or two for incomplete work by a general handyperson will end up costing you more.”
4. Get (at Least) Three Written Estimates
Contractor’s fees can vary widely. Inexperienced contractors often underbid a project to score the gig. This might seem like a great idea initially—hey, look at all the money you’re saving!—but when that bid turns out to be wholly inadequate to cover costs, or worse, indicative of their quality of work, you’ll be slapped with substantial price increases before all is said and done.
That’s why getting written estimates for the work from three different contractors is a smart step for homeowners in need of skilled labor. Comparing three or more estimates helps you weed out quotes that are far outside the average, which can indicate an inexperienced pro.
5. Check Your Energy Provider’s List of Preferred Contractors
To help narrow the playing field, search your energy company’s website for a list of suggested, approved, or preferred contractors. Not every energy provider will provide such a list, but if yours does, it’s a great place to start your search.
6. Ask for Recommendations
Your friends, family members, and colleagues are often your best source for quality leads. Also, referrals from neighbors who’ve had similar work done on their homes are especially helpful in vetting craftmanship.
When getting referrals, ask how well the contractor adhered to the contracted timeline, their responsiveness to questions and concerns, and what it was like having the contractor working in their home.
7. Check Online Reviews
Checking out a potential contractor’s reviews online is a must and hardly a novel idea these days. But scan those website reviews with a cautious eye, as not every testimonial can be trusted as an independent, reliable source. Look up reviews for your top three to five contenders on trustworthy sites maintained by unaffiliated outlets and brands. Sites such as Angi.com can help you locate reliable contractors in your area with reviews you can trust.
Any reputable contractor worth their weight should be happy to provide you with a few references and former customers who are willing to talk to you about their experience. Give those people a call and ask them directly about the contractor’s work and performance on the job site.
8. Confirm the Contractor’s Licensing and Insurance
Before you select a contractor to install or replace your home’s insulation, verify the contractor’s qualifications. First, look up the contractor’s status with your state’s licensing board or agency and verify that they’re fully licensed to perform the work you need.
Next, ask to see proof of insurance: the carrier, the certificate, and the coverage details. If your insulation contractor of choice checks out on both fronts, you can move on to negotiating a contract for the work. Otherwise, scratch them from your list and move on.
9. Clarify Payment Terms Before You Sign on the Dotted Line
You’ll definitely want to get a written agreement with your contractor before you allow work to begin, but clarify the project’s payment terms before you sign anything.
Make sure your contract is as detailed as possible, including:
Amount required upfront before work begins
Milestones for progress payments
Itemized budget (including materials, labor, permits, and fees)
Types of payment accepted
Scope of work
Make sure each of these written terms lines up with the written estimate the contractor gave you earlier. If you have any questions or would like to request revisions to the terms, come to an agreement before signing any document.
“As a rule, we will only pay for material costs before our insulation contractor begins the job,” says Bob Tschudi, a Raleigh, NC-based general contractor. “Then, as they install, you can pay a second installment. Never pay the entire amount before the job is done. If a contractor insists, walk away.”