Hiring a qualified contractor is a crucial component of a home project. Trustworthy professionals need more than a good reputation. When you ask specific, targeted questions about who they are and what they do, the experience a contractor conveys in their answers can make a significantly positive difference in the work you need to be completed.
What questions are essential to ask when vetting a potential contractor? Although every situation is a little different, here are our recommendations.
Top Questions to Ask a Contractor You Might Hire
1. How long have you been in business?
Contractors who have been in business for several years have already experienced the growing pains of the startup months. These companies have controls and systems that help stay on time and budget.
Everyone needs to start somewhere. You can hire a new contractor if they have provable skills that you can verify. There’s just more risk to manage when going in that direction.
When you ask this question, it often helps to request references you can check. The best contractors let you speak with clients who had great experiences – and those with not-so-great ones.
2. Can I see your contracting license?
Every city, county, and the state has different requirements for contractor licensing and credentials. Although people shouldn’t advertise services they can’t legally provide, it still happens. It’s up to you to determine if the person has obtained the required items to work.
If you hire an unlicensed contractor and something goes wrong, you might be paying out-of-pocket for the expenses the issue incurs. The license should also reflect the work that needs to be completed. For example, you wouldn’t hire someone with a roofing license to install a hardwood floor.
3. Do you have a certificate of insurance?
Contractors should have liability and workers’ compensation insurance for the specific job types they perform. Insurers provide certificates that prove this coverage exists. If something happens, you can inspect these documents to ensure that the policy will cover the unexpected expenses instead of your checking account.
4. What is your timeline for the project?
You should have a clear picture of what to expect about the starting time of your project and when it should be finished. In addition, it helps to ask about any current outstanding bids that haven’t been finalized because that work could impact what happens at your place.
Consider talking about how timeline updates get addressed when having this conversation. What circumstances might impact the schedule? It helps to get as much clarification here as possible.
5. When will you obtain the permits or scheduled inspections?
Contractors should secure inspections and permits, but it’s important to remember that some jobs don’t need them. However, if you’re changing the home’s structure, it is typically necessary.
If your contractor doesn’t know what kind of permits would be necessary for your project, you’ve got the information needed to find someone else. They should be willing to pull the permits for you and include the cost as part of the project.
6. What is the payment schedule?
You should never pay the total price of contracting work upfront unless a third-party intermediary handles the transaction. If you pay someone everything before they get to work, they can leave with your cash. Always discuss the payment terms, including how much is due and when needed.
7. How can we get in touch?
It helps identify a designated point of contact when talking with a potential contractor, including the best way to reach that individual. Find out the best times for availability, especially when an immediate response is necessary. You might chat about what to expect for a general timeframe for the answers you need.
8. Will there be a dedicated team on my project?
Many contracting companies work on multiple projects simultaneously. Asking this question ensures that you’ll have some consistency with the work that needs to get finished. In addition, it doesn’t hurt to ask how often the business owner plans to check on the project’s progress.
9. How would you describe your typical working day?
Contractors and homeowners need to know what to expect on each construction day. That means a mutual understanding of when the day starts and ends should be present from the start. You might also talk about noise levels, if your presence is necessary, and what items need to be removed.
When you get the answers to these questions, it’ll be much easier to decide which potential contractor is the best for your upcoming project.