BBB: Home shows are hot during the winter chill

Homework can help you avoid substandard contractors

In addition to the four seasons of the year — some would say you can add the home show season.

These popular events/exhibitions are staged yearly from late winter to early summer and showcase the latest home improvement and remodeling trends. Preparing before you go to find the best deals can save time and trouble.

If you’re considering a project, attending a home show is an excellent way to gather information on new products and features. However, there are issues with which you should be concerned. The Better Business Bureau offers tips to help avoid possible problems with home shows and expos.

“There can be hundreds of vendors and contractors offering their services and products, making it a convenient way to do one-stop shopping,” said Steve J. Bernas, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau. “However, it can also open the door to unscrupulous vendors and high-pressure sales tactics. With a little homework, you can confirm great vendors and lockout substandard contractors.”

Because home shows can become overwhelming with so many vendors and products, have a plan before you go. Prioritize the type of vendors you want to visit.

“First, do research,” Bernas said. “Visit before making any purchases to help avoid being coaxed into making an impulse buy. Home improvement scams, in fact, landed at number five on the Top Ten local scams list for 2023.”

Also, during peak hours, home shows can be crowded, and it can be more challenging to get the answers to all your questions. Plan to arrive early or see if there is a virtual option for attending the event.

If you’re going to a home show to find a contractor, consider these tips before you sign any agreement:

• Research and gather information. Search for a contractor’s Business Profile at for free information on their history of complaints, read verified Customer Reviews, and see if they are a BBB Accredited Business. Also, search for the name of the company online along with “Complaint," “Review,” or “Scam” to see what experience other people have had with the company.

• Ask for references. Ask the contractor for a list of recent local references you may contact. Ask the references about the services performed, their overall experience with the contractor, and the work’s quality. If possible, inspect the contractor’s work yourself.

• Contact at least three businesses. Shop around and get multiple quotes. Make sure all bids consider the same set of criteria. Remember that the lowest bid may not necessarily be the best bid.

• Get it in writing. Always get estimates in writing and never let any work begin without a written and signed contract. Do not be pressured into signing an agreement before you are ready, and make sure you read and understand everything before signing. The contract should include contact information, start and completion dates, a detailed description of the work to be done, material costs, payment arrangements, and warranty information. Never sign an incomplete or partially blank contract. Illinois law requires a written contract for projects over $1,000.

• Verify license and insurance. Always ensure the company you decide to work with has the necessary licenses and insurance.

• Confirm building permits. Your contractor must have the correct permits before starting your project. They usually obtain the permits, but you will probably pay for them. That should be detailed in your contract.

• Inquire about a lien waiver. A lien waiver is a statement from your contractor that says all suppliers and subcontractors have been paid for their work.

• Arrange a payment schedule. Never pay in total upfront. Stagger your payments so your final payment is not due until the work is complete and you thoroughly inspect it. Do not pay cash; make sure your check is written to a company, not an individual, or use a credit card.

• Get a receipt. Request a receipt marked “Paid in Full” when the job is completed, and your final payment made.

• Keep your contract. Hold on to your contract for future reference or if any questions arise after the work is completed.

If you've encountered a scam, report it to BBB Scam Tracker. Your report exposes scammer tactics. Sign up for BBB’s free consumer newsletter, BBB Edge, at Visit or follow @ChicagoBBB on social media. Look for the BBB seal, The Sign of a Better Business.

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