Hiring a contractor can be intimidating. It is common for homeowners to research contractors and check their reviews or status on Better Business Bureau to ensure they are hiring a reliable company. In fact, in a survey by Home Advisor, nearly 84 percent of homeowners admitted to researching their project heavily before talking to a contractor in hopes of sounding knowledgeable. The fear of being taken advantage of during a major or minor home project is a legitimate fear, and can be avoided with prior research such as finding out costs of similar projects in your area. In addition to pricing information, there are some questions you should ask your contractor.
How long have you been in this industry or how long have you been in business?
This will help you know whether or not they have been in business long enough to have a credible track record of past jobs.
Are you insured, licensed, and/or bonded?
It is important to know that your contractor’s license is current, and make sure they have worker’s comp and liability insurance to cover any accidents that could occur on the job. Being bonded is not required everywhere, so some contractors may not have this. A bonding is essentially an insurance policy that protects homeowners if the job doesn’t go well.
Do you include a written contract about your work?
People like to talk, but you can’t always trust that they will keep their promises or remember everything. You want your contractor to include a written guarantee that states what is and what isn’t covered.
Can you give me references?
Although reviews and ratings online can give you a good idea of a contractor, it is also wise to ask your contractor for references you can contact personally. It will give you a better idea of the contractor, and if they hesitate or don’t provide a list, it gives you more to think about before hiring them.
Do you pull all the required permits?
Before you start a project, make sure your contractor has all of the permits required for the job pulled. Otherwise it will cost you a pretty penny, and while you can do research and obtain the required permits yourself, it is a better sign if the contractor does it. It gives a better sign that they will follow by their work, and shows they have the licenses required to pull the permits. If they hesitate on this, think twice.
Who will manage this project?
This isn’t always a common knowledge question to ask, but nevertheless, is very important. If the project isn’t being led by the person you are discussing estimates with, insist on meeting the project manager. This will help you know if you feel comfortable with them, and whether or not you want to move forward.
What is the projected timeline and daily work schedule for this project?
Construction can be unpredictable at times; workers get sick, work order delays, and weather doesn’t always behave. Regardless, it is wise to get an outline from your contractor of the project start date and expected end. In addition, the hours and days crews are expected to work.
Will your crew need access to a bathroom or water facilities?
Unless you have a major project where a port-a-john is being placed on site, crews may need to use your facilities. Asking before a project gives you the opportunity to specify which bathrooms to use.
Do you need keys or a garage code? Who will have access to these?
In a survey from Home Advisor, 16 percent of people said they feel comfortable giving their keys or garage code to contractors. Although many homeowners don’t feel comfortable giving these things out, it is important to either plan to be home while work is being done, or know exactly who will have access to the key or code to your home. This will help give you a peace of mind.
Will you sign a contract?
Any contractor willing to write out a contract is worth the time. Make sure the contract details all of the work to be done, the materials, project costs, the project timeline, and stipulations detailing what will happen if problems arise. In addition, make sure the contract has a termination clause that makes it clear the circumstances in which both parties are able to terminate the contract.