Pulling Permits To Verify Your General Contractor's Claims

Posted on: 10 August 2015


If you have ever shopped around for construction or remodeling services (such as those offered by Battistelli, Glenn LLC), you know that glossy brochures of beautiful work are the norm. What you don't know, is whether the contractor touting his or her services, really did the work in that highly staged photo shoot. Likewise, favorable reviews are hard to trust, since they can be bought.    

How do you cut through the clutter? You could ask the contractor for references, but the contractor is likely to only give you contact information for happy customers. The answer lies in reviewing your contractor's building permits.

What are Permits?

Most municipalities require any professional construction or remodeling project to first apply for a permit before beginning construction or reconstruction. The permit is really just a way for the city to keep track of and inspect projects at various stages to assure that building codes are being met.

The plans for the project are presented to the permitting commissioner and sometimes to the city or county engineer for review. If consultation beyond the first review is needed, the city will usually require the contractor to go through revisions or an appeals process. Sometimes public hearings are even required, though most of the time, the process is fairly simple.

Available Permit Information

The permit is a public record that is available in the permit office. Though most municipalities do not release the plan drawings or details of the permitted projects, the general scope of the project, whether and which subcontractors are utilized, and any inspection reports, are usually available for inspection in the commissioner's office during normal business hours.

Permits are indexed in several different ways: by contractor, by address, and by date. Simply search for your contractor's name and then review the permits issued for his or her projects.

Look carefully at the inspection reports. This will give you a good and unbiased analysis of the soundness of the final product.

Look for trends in the contractor's inspections. Do they frequently fail inspections for particular issues? This is a red flag that the contractor is not skilled in that particular type of work. Do the issues appear to be random? This is a red flag that your chosen contractor is trying to rush his jobs.

Dig Deeper

Once you know the projects your contractor has completed in the area, based on permits in the permit office, you can take a look at his work.

You can see a lot of detail from the curb, especially for exterior residential projects. For instance, and good roofer has well spaced, straight rows of shingles with no tar backing showing.

Better yet, with interior projects, knock on the door, introduce yourself, and see if the homeowners mind you inspecting the contractor's work. Many people are more than happy to show off their new home or renovation project, and you will gain the information needed to make informed decisions regarding contractors.