Not everyone is comfortable with asking questions. Some people might feel self-conscious, while others just aren’t able to think of good ones when they’re put on the spot. But when you’re hiring a contractor to do work on your home, it’s important to ask lots of questions and make sure you’re both on the same page. To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of 11 questions you should absolutely ask before hiring a contractor.
Do you have a contracting license?
Licensing requirements for contractors can vary by city, county, or state, so it’s important to check up on these things. Research what credentials are required in your area, and make sure your contractor is up to date on them. Remember that having a business license is not enough. You want to make sure they are licensed to perform the type of work you’re hiring them to do.
Are you insured?
A contractor should have insurance specifically for the type of job they perform. They need to at least have worker’s compensation and liability insurance to protect themselves and you in turn.
How long have you been in the business?
This isn’t to say that someone who’s been in business longer is automatically better at their job than a newer or younger contractor. But one who’s been in business for five to ten years will probably have a solid list of subcontractors and suppliers in the area as well as a reputation to uphold. There’s something to be said for experience and networking!
Do we need permits and/or inspections for this job?
You should actually research the answer to this question before you ask the contractor. If they don’t have the correct answer (or can’t explain why their answer is different from the info you found yourself), they might not be up to par. Not every job requires a permit, but if it does, a contractor should be able to tell you how to obtain one and should be willing to do so for you.
How long will it take to complete the job?
Yes, there are always fluctuations that affect exactly how long a job will take, but your contractor should be able to give you a pretty close estimate of start and finish dates. You should also be clear about what happens if the job takes longer than they estimate. Will there be more fees involved, for example?
Can you itemize your bid?
Most contractors will give you a bottom line estimate, but an itemized bid can help you both. If the overall estimate seems too steep, itemization can help you get rid of the things that aren’t as important. For instance, if you find that taking the tile installation and paint job out of the equation puts you way under budget, you can DIY those afterward and still hire the contractor for the heavy duty work.
When is payment due?
Never, never pay the full price for contracting work upfront. The Better Business Bureau advises against it, and any contractor worth his salt shouldn’t request that you do so. Before any work starts, you and your contractor should come up with a payment schedule that specifies when certain amounts become due, based on dates, stages of completion, etc.
How many projects like mine have you tackled lately?
It’s important to hire the right contractor for the right job. Just as you wouldn’t go to a dermatologist for a toothache, you probably wouldn’t hire an electrician to install your hardwood flooring. Ask how many jobs exactly like yours the contractor has done in the last year or two. Request photos if possible, and ask if they have references from people who’ve hired them to do the same type of project.
How would you like me to communicate with you?
Contractors are generally very busy people. Ask for some guidelines about how and when to communicate with them efficiently. Do they prefer a phone call, a text message, or an email? Would they rather you call first thing in the morning, during working hours, or in the evenings when they’re getting caught up?
What steps will you take to protect my home?
Specifically, will the contractor and his crew be responsible for moving or covering any furnishings that could get dirty or damaged during work? Will they wear shoe coverings? Will they make sure all doors and windows are closed and locked before leaving? How will you clean up the job site at the end of each day to prevent accidents?
Is there a warranty for your work and/or the materials involved?
The materials used on your home will usually come with a manufacturer’s warranty. Ask for a copy of this for your records just to make sure. Most contractors also offer some sort of guarantee on their work as well, and they should be clear about the terms from the beginning.
A quality contractor won’t have a problem sitting down with you and addressing all of your questions and concerns. Just as much as you want to know you’re getting quality work done, he or she wants to know that the job they’re about to get into is worth the time they’re taking to perform it.