Nailing Down a Good Contractor

Nailing down a good contractor is key to great home improvements

I recently sat down with Curtis L. Godoy, a licensed NYC contractor, EPA-certified Painter, and Master Carpenter. This time, the conversation wasn’t about certificates of Insurance he needed for his latest home renovation. This conversation dealt with everything home and property owners need to know to nail down a good contractor.

Your search for a good contractor begins

You are finally in your dream home.  You designed the perfect floor plan. Everything you need is in just the right place.

You even have a sign on your wall saying ‘Welcome Home.’

However, a few months after moving in, you may notice that something isn’t quite right or you want to change something.  Wisely, you realize what you want to accomplish is far beyond your DIY skillset.

If you don’t know exactly how to do this, why not find a good contractor?

Good contractors, like good men, can be hard to find

A good contractor possesses several qualities necessary for them to help you with home improvement.

First, they will listen to and work to understand what you need during an initial joint walkthrough of your home. Now, some contractors actually charge for the walkthrough, with a credit given should they get the contract. Some, like myself, don’t charge. We consider the walkthrough a great opportunity to learn two (2) things.

A good contractor wants to see and understand your vision for your space.

When you meet with the contractor, share your thoughts concerning new designs, improvements, or changes to your home. Is the good contractor the right contractor for you?

This walkthrough also provides the good contractor with an idea of whether they can work with you to make your vision a reality. This ‘meeting of the minds’ is most important as your contractor must be as comfortable working with and for you as you are with them.

When you are in agreement

Should you and the contractor reach an agreement about your vision and the work necessary to make it a reality, it’s time to construct a contract.  The contract will fully detail the work the contractor will complete, the attendant costs for materials, labor, and any additional insurance costs, the starting and completion dates, and the payment schedule.

No client should be expected to suffer frustrating delays caused by the contractor’s failure to perform for any reason except supply chain issues or local natural or medical disasters.

The recent pandemic lockdown is a perfect example. In New York City,  prevented contractors and their workers from starting, continuing, or completing work. Getting caught trying to enter buildings, ‘on the sneak’ could result in license suspension or loss.

And the contractor shouldn’t be delayed in meeting payments to workers and subcontractors and purchasing additional materials because you fail to make scheduled payments on time.

For this reason, my contracts always include client and contractor penalties for failure to make scheduled payments on time and meet construction deadlines, respectively.

depicts the full range of tools a master carpenter and painter uses
Some of Curtis Godoy’s tools of the trade

Check the contractors licensing and insurance

Make sure your contractor candidate is properly licensed in your municipality. In New York City, your contractor must be licensed for home improvements and carry Worker Compensation, State Disability, General Liability, and Umbrella Insurance. Also, they must possess a Department of Buildings Contractor ID. (You can check to make sure a contractor has a valid ID at  https://www.nyc.gov/site/buildings/industry/check-license-registration-status.page.) This will enable them to secure the necessary permits for the work they plan to do.

Contractors should be licensed in their particular specialty. Their subcontractors should also provide proof of their meeting the same insurance requirements as the contractor. Each will provide Certificates of Insurance naming you as an additional insured.

What about using the local handyman to do the work?

I don’t suggest the use of handy people. Always use fully insured and licensed professionals.  This protects you and your property. Also, should you suffer what would normally be a fully insured loss, the company could refuse to pay the claim. Why? Because without the ability to pull the necessary permits, any major work will be considered illegal modifications by most insurance companies.

And companies either don’t pay or don’t like to pay for losses caused by illegal modifications.

How does one meet a good contractor?

Like many good contractors, most of my projects come from clients recommending my firm to their friends and neighbors. This isn’t a guarantee your home project will be perfect, but it is a good way to add a layer of comfort when choosing a good contractor.

So, if you’re vetting several contractors for a particular job, require each provides references and pictures of similar projects.  Ask each for references from the last five (5) years. This speaks to their years in business and the satisfaction of their customers. Pay close attention to any complaints of workers refusing to work because the contractor failed to pay them for the work they perform.

Competent home improvement and maintenance are important for those who invest in their property.  Before you jump into knocking down the walls, make sure that you have the right contractor to make your dream and vision for your home a reality.

This will help when you are working towards turning a house into your home.


Meet our expert, Curtis L. Godoy

Curtis L. Godoy is an NYC-licensed contractor and EPA-certified painter and Master Carpenter. Mr. Godoy brings over 20 years of experience in interior renovations and restorations.

You can reach Mr. Godoy by telephone at 347-581-5562, or by email at mourse413@optonline.net.


You can reach Eustace Greaves, Jr. at 718-489-2218 or by email at info@greavesinsurance.com

Author: brooklyncovered1

An independent insurance agent and broker, and income tax preparer who combines over 37 years in financial services with experience as a bank mortgage administrator and Community Relations Manager.

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