Top 20 Questions To Ask Contractors Before Hiring

Top 20 Questions To Ask Contractors Before Hiring

Finding the right people for your unique home improvement situation can take time and energy. We strive to simplify the process, connecting you with specialized professionals who can efficiently schedule a home consultation with a free estimate and customized quotes. We can connect you with potential contractors, but it’s also important to evaluate anyone you screen to make an informed choice and ensure the highest quality of supplies and service will be provided. Use these 20 questions to find out more about the credentials each contractor can provide and how they would approach your situation.  

1. How many years of experience do you have? 

The specific amount of time isn’t as important as finding a contractor who can provide at least 10-20 positive references. Having extensive experience and a portfolio of completed jobs increases your chance of working with a quality contractor. 

2. Do you hold a license? 

Not every state requires licensed contractors, and requirements can also vary by project. For example, a job that costs less than $30,000 can be completed by anyone in North Carolina, but anything more expensive requires a licensed contractor. Whether a contractor is licensed doesn’t tell you everything about the quality of work you can expect, but the security of working with a state-licensed contractor gives you legal recourse for formal complaints if something goes wrong. If your state does require licensing, double check to make sure your contractor is up to date by getting in touch with the state licensing agency.  

3. Can you provide worker’s compensation insurance to any employees who get hurt on the job? 

If a worker is injured on your property, you could be liable for medical care and lost wages. Make sure your contractor covers anyone who will be part of the project with adequate worker’s comp insurance. You can check your state’s laws regarding worker’s compensation by reading more from the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB). 

4. What other insurance do you have to protect my home? 

Accidents happen, even with the best contractors. A company that carries insurance to cover damage to your home during the construction project can keep you from being financially responsible. Make sure a contractor can ensure they’ll fix and pay for any damage they might cause. 

5. What professional organizations do you belong to? 

Being a member of national, state, or specialty professional associations aren’t strictly necessary for a contractor to do good work. However, these organizations offer ongoing training, research, and networking that can keep members updated to the most cutting edge practices. Committing to membership shows a commitment to the industry, and is a predictor of quality workmanship. 

6. Who can I contact for references? 

Any contractor who has sufficient experience through completing jobs for satisfied customers should be able to quickly and happily provide references. Follow up with the references to find out what the contractor was like by asking good questions about communication, schedule, and other elements of their past performance. You can ask your own questions, or look to the National Association of Remodeling Industry for ideas. 

7. What timeline do you think is reasonable? 

All projects encounter unexpected setbacks, and not all of them minor. Experienced contractors who can make more informed predictions about possible complication can give you a projected timeline for project completion and stick to it. If a contractor needs more information about work to be done in hidden areas like under floors or behind walls, they may not be able to commit to a time estimate without knowing the extent of possible damage, but they should still be willing to enter a “time and materials” contract. 

8. Do you use “time and materials” contracts?

If unexpected complications arise, homeowners can get trapped in a half-finished project and without a contract, are at the mercy for the pricing and timeline a contractor decides to offer. Prior to beginning the project, a “time and materials” contract can help establish the costs of labor and materials for changes to the project. 

9. When do your projects take longer than planned? 

Most contractors will tell you they almost always finish a project on time, but you should also follow up with their references to discover how accurate that estimate is. You might also want to ask how many clients a contractor is working with simultaneously: having too many ongoing projects can increase the likelihood that yours will get delayed. 

10. How often will you be onsite? 

A contractor serves as a manager for the whole project and should be on-site often to oversee progress and keep things on track with your original plan. It may not be necessary for a contractor to be there at all times, but if not, they should be able to explain their plan for checking in. 

11. How often will you check on the progress of the project?

A main benefit of working with a contractor is having someone provide quality project management and coordination of other workers. You’re paying for that customer service, so it’s reasonable to expect your general contractor to be on-site at least once every day. 

12. Who will be managing the project on-site? 

Whether it’s the general contractor or another project manager, your contractor should be able to name a single person who will be on site daily keeping the project on track and serving as your contact for concerns. Don’t work with contractors who don’t have this aspect of project management determined before the start of work. 

13. How will I get updates? 

Ideally, you’ll get daily updates from the contractor themselves. This helps ensure they are visiting the site often enough to be aware of progress and concerns, and gives you a scheduled time to discuss concerns or changes that may arise. 

14. What permits will we need, and who will handle them? 

Permit requirements vary by location, and the laws that apply to your home may change over time. Your contractor should research which permits are necessary and pull them from the city as needed. This makes the inspection process easier later, and an experienced contractor who is familiar with working in your area can complete the process efficiently. 

15. What will you include in a contract? 

The only way to legally ensure a contractor follows through on promises is to request a written contract that includes exactly what will be done, the anticipated time frame, a list of all materials need including their cost, a realistic estimate of a project timeline, a ‘time and materials’ contract and a termination clause. Keep a signed and dated copy in your records and make sure you understand all the inclusions and clauses so you know whether the terms are being upheld. 

16. Do you guarantee your work? 

A contractor should believe enough in their work to guarantee it for a reasonable time. Defective materials or workmanship problems may not be immediately obvious at the close of the work, so you should be offered 6-12 months of warranty written into the contract, including specifics about what the contractor will fix or replace and how you can initiate that process. 

17. When will the work take place each day? 

An organized contractor who plans to be at your house frequently during the project should be able to promise a predictable work schedule that allows you to organize your life and keeps the project on track for the timeline. You may have a preference for work times, such as 9-5 when you at work and won’t be disrupted, but the contractor may also have limitations on workers, lighting, weather etc. that affect the schedule. Look for a contractor who is willing to discuss these issues together and who will stick to the schedule you create. 

18. What legal disputes have you experienced in the past? 

Ideally, a contractor will not have had any legal problems with their past work. However, an honest answer about a prior legal dispute may still set your mind at ease. If the quality of materials or a timeline led to a dispute, a contractor with good communication skills should be willing to discuss the details of that history and give you a satisfactory explanation for what happened, and how they will prevent those problems in future work. Follow up with the Better Business Bureau to check for any legal disputes that were not included in your conversation. 

19. How do you handle payment? 

No reputable contractor should require full payment before the job is finished. A down payment or deposit is usually appropriate, but establish the terms and schedule of payments before work begins. If a contractor offers financing, research the terms and look at other options to make sure you get the best possible financing program for your budget. 

20. Do you include a standard termination clause in your contracts? 

A contract should allow either part to terminate the agreement without penalty under certain conditions. Both the contractor and homeowner are protected with a termination clause in case of non-payment or unexplained disruptions in work. Starting a home construction project is a major undertaking. Finding a contractor you trust and getting an effective contract to guide the work can help ensure you’re happy with the outcome. Use these questions to screen anyone you consider for work on your home, and let us help you streamline the process by connecting you with professionals who specialize in the work your home needs.