My friend did some beautiful remodeling work in his own home and I've also seen work he's done as a contractor in other homes. He's not officially licensed as a remodeling contractor but I'd like to hire him because he's a friend and it will save me money. Any thoughts?
Regan ~ Los Angeles, California
An unlicensed contractor doing work on your home is not a good idea, even if he is a friend. It may cause problems in the future with your insurance company, and it can also be a major issue if any accidents occur while he is working on your home. He could not pull permits for doing the work without a license, so the permits would have to be in your name. Counties and cities frown on unlicensed contractors doing work on other people's homes, so you could have a problem with your local jurisdiction, as well.
In addition, financial issues may develop when working with your friend. A lot of emotions could come to the surface while your home is being remodeled, and I have always found that the best relationship between a homeowner and a contractor is one that is friendly, but professional. Any remodeling project can have concerns arise that must be addressed in a businesslike manner between the customer and the contractor, and sometimes a friendship can get in the way of that.
A better arrangement might be to hire a licensed contractor to do the work, and have your friend act as a consultant for the project. He can take a look at the project from time to time and advise you if he sees any potential problems, or offer suggestions based on his experience. Perhaps you could have your friend over for supper once a week while the project is progressing, in lieu of payment. I have done this myself for friends, and it usually works pretty well. That way, you keep a friend, get the benefit of his expertise, and have a licensed contractor doing your work. You may find that your friend also prefers an arrangement like this.