We always recommend choosing a contractor before your insurance adjuster assesses the damage to your home and property. Insurance companies train their employees on how to “manage” a claim, you should have your trained representative too.
Always check your states department of labor “license lookup” to see that your contractor is currently licensed in your state. They MUST be licensed in YOUR state.
Always ask for evidence of general liability insurance. This is the policy that most protects you from being actionable. Make sure coverage meets the minimum required by your state and is sufficient for the project being considered.
Manufacturer status such as “elite” or “preferred” are often based on yearly product purchasing with that supplier and not training given. Consider visiting the BBB to see what kind of reviews or complaints you find.
Check a few references. Ask a few creative questions. Make sure the reference isn’t a friend or relative of the contractor.
Avoid contractors with unmarked vehicles.
Avoid contractors with only a PO BOX for an address. They know your address, why can’t you know theirs?
Avoid contractors who claim they can “roll in” or absorb the insurance deductible. These contractors get caught eventually and the homeowners are just as actionable by the same laws as the contractors. Also be aware, there is a do not insure list.
Always report fraudulent contractor behavior to your state department of labor. You might save someone from being taken advantage of who wasn’t lucky enough to see them coming. Many people file fraud charges and civil claims every year.
Once you’ve made your choice don’t be afraid to ask questions along the way. A good contractor has the time to answer them if they are important to you!
It’s always been my rule of thumb that the more transparent a contractor appears to be the more trustworthy they usually are. It’s not an exact science but it has worked for me.