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What to Ask Contractors Before Hiring Them
1. Are you licensed for this type of work?
Ask your contractor for a copy of their license or certification. Contact its issuing authority to confirm whether it is in good standing or not.
2. Which types of insurance do you carry?
There are a few specific answers you would prefer to hear in response to this question. The contractor must have general liability insurance. This will cover an accident during the project or construction. An example scenario would be where they hit a water line which floods your house. You want to know that they’ll be the one to take responsibility for the costs of the damage. Second, the contractor should also carry workers’ compensation insurance. This will protect you from liability if someone got hurt while working on your property.
3. How many permits have you obtained in my area over the last two years?
Make sure your contractor knows your local building code and permitting process. It’s important to find a contractor who is credible and has recently worked within your area.
It’s best to find a contractor that has worked before in your area.
You wouldn’t want to hire a contractor who is new and unfamiliar with the regulations of your town.
4. Can you provide a list of references?
Talk to former clients who have hired the general contractor you’re considering. Ask them about the process, as well as the final product. Discuss budgeting, timeliness, and professionalism.
Contact some former clients who have hired the general contractor you’re considering. Ask them about the process, budgeting, timeliness, and, of course, the final product.
Finally, ask them “would you hire this contractor again?”.
5. What is an expected timeline for this project?
You need to know when the contractor will begin and end the project. This is especially important if you have an ideal deadline. Ask about any circumstances that may push back your deadline. Ask how many projects they’re currently handling. Also, make sure the timeline is realistic.
6. Will you hire sub-contractors for the job?
General contractors often need to subcontract work out. Check references for every person they will hire, know their names and what type of work they do. Verify their credentials. Make sure that they also have the necessary insurance requirements. Also establish how communications will work with you. Will everything go through the general contractor or will they be coming to you? Subcontractors should also have insurance. All subcontractors should have at least a $500,000 insurance policy.
7. What kind of written warranty do you have?
All credible contractors will guarantee their work. They will have a written warranty agreement. This should disclose what is in the warranty, what is not, and for how long. A one-year warranty is good, but two years would be better. The electrician may only guarantee materials if he or she buys them from their accounts. A separate warranty will come from the manufacturer of equipment that they install.
8. What’s your typical payment schedule?
Don’t pay the entire price upfront, even if they offer a discount for doing so. Discuss the budget and payment terms before the work begins. It should include payment amounts, due dates, and key deliverables.
9. Will you get all the required building permits?
Permits and inspection requirements vary depending on the location. This may include a county, city, or even HOA approvals. A reputable contractor should know the required permits for your project.
10. Will you provide a written lien waiver at the end of the project?
A lien waiver is a legal document that confirms you have paid the contractor for all the work in the project. It waives the signer’s right to file a lien on your property. It is the construction industry’s version of a receipt.
11. What is the total cost?
Make sure you have three bids for this one. That way you can see if one of your contractors is overbidding or underbidding. You don’t want unpleasant surprises like inferior materials or shortcuts taken. You also don’t want to overpay. Also, check if there are other things not covered in the cost such as clean up and other incidental work.
12. What should be in the contract?
Final Cost – this should include a breakdown of materials and labor costs. Also ask them to itemize any part of the project that is optional. You might want to drop it during your review of the bids). Breaking the whole project down into separate costs helps when comparing the bids.
- Permits –include the cost of permits in your contract.
- Sketches – don’t depend on the vision in your mind being the same as the vision in your contractor’s mind. Get it all drawn out including locations of all components.
- Timeline – the contract should include estimating starting time and estimated duration. You don’t want to have a floor you can’t walk on yet when you are expecting houseguests!
13. Is this project fixed price or am I paying hourly?
For an hourly rate project, make sure you get a range of how long the job will take.
14. How long have you been in business?
At least four or five years is a good answer to this question. Be wary of new companies. Let other people try them out first.
15. Do you clean up the area afterwards?
By asking this upfront, there is a better chance that it will get done.
16. How will I care and maintain my new floor?
Find out how long it will be between installation completion and when you can walk on the floor. You might need to stay somewhere else until installation is complete.
You also want to know how to maintain the floor to protect this investment.
17. What certifications do you hold?
For example, there are a lot of different types of electrical work. You want an electrician who is a specialist in what you need done, such as residential rather than commercial. Other industries have certifications for the contractors.
18. What is your emergency service rate?
Most contractors who deal with emergencies, such as plumbing companies, have a higher rate for evenings and weekends.
19. Which unit should I get?
Your contractor will probably already be able to sell you certain brands. Often, this helps because it narrows down the choices. Within the lines the contractor represents, there are some things to keep in mind. For example, furnaces or AC units have these to consider:
- Choose a local company. Ordering a furnace or AC unit and having it delivered may mean you are limited to how many local contractors are willing to install it. You might also be paying a lot for shipping costs. A local company can offer a service contract or maintenance agreement so if something is wrong, there is already a process in place to fix it.
- Quality trumps affordability. Your furnace or AC unit is not a place to try to save money. A better unit is going to work better and last longer. In the long run, you’ll be glad you went with quality.
- Bigger is not always better. If you have a unit installed that is too large for your space, it will cost more to heat or cool that space than if you choose an appropriately sized unit.
20. How will you be replacing my windows or doors or any renovation that takes place in the living space? Will you be taking all of them out at once before putting the new ones in?
This gives you an idea of what to expect and tells you that the contractor knows how to get started and how to get the job done.
21. How will you dispose of the old siding, windows, doors, appliances, cabinets, etc.?
They should bring a bin for collecting all materials that are to be disposed of. Also ask where they plan to park the bin. Trapping your car inside your garage would be a bad thing.
22. Can you work in bad weather (a question for contractors working outdoors)?
Roofers cannot work during a lightning storm, for obvious reasons, but you want to know if there are temperature and other weather restrictions. You don’t want to have them remove the roof and not be able to replace it until a storm passes. Windows and doors, also, may need to be replaced at a time if bad weather threatens so the house isn’t completely open to wind or rain.