Hiring A Home Contractor: Top 10 Questions to Ask Before You Decide
By Kathryn Haley
Don’t ever assume you know the answers. What you expect contractors to do and what they actually do can be miles apart. Ask the questions before you hire them; put their answers down in writing in front of them and you stand a much better chance of your renovation going well.
So here we go. In no particular order, the top 10 questions to ask before hiring your contractor.
1/ How long do you estimate the job will take?
It is important you understand this is an estimate, however, you want the contractor to know they are being held to a reasonable timeline.
2/ What kind of insurance do you carry?
When hiring a contractor or sub-contractor, make sure each carries public liability and property damage insurance. Do your homework by taking the time to check with the insurance agency to verify that the policy is still effective and will be throughout the duration of your renovation.
3/ How big is your crew?
If they work alone the job will take longer than if they have a crew of 2 or 3 guys. You should insist on licenced plumbers and electricians for those areas of the job. Also ask if they are all employees or do they use sub-contractors. They will have more control over employees.
4/ Will YOU be on site every day?
Home owners tend to assume the general contractor will be on site at all times. Rarely is that the case.
5/ Who is responsible for getting permits?
This one will flush out those contractors who don’t want to get permits. Although it may make the job go faster and save a little money, you as the home owner run a huge risk if the workmanship is faulty and there are no permits.
6/ What are the names of 3-5 past clients I can contact?
Speaking with past clients, and if possible, seeing the work done, is very important. I recommend seeing the work since your expectation of finish quality may be different then the person you are speaking with.
7/ What is not included in the quotation that you know I will need?
This one flushes out those contractors who are trying to low ball the quote to get the job, and then come back to you later and add things in. Unforeseen things come up in renovations, however, too many contractor are leaving out things they know you will need just to get the job.
8/ Do you belong to any professional organizations?
They will have more accountability if they are members of professional organizations. These could include:
Home Builders Association
Better Business Bureau
Chamber of Commerce
NKBA (National Kitchen and Bath Association)
9/ What is the schedule of work?
What you are looking for here is an approximate timeline for each sub trade; to find out if there will be people on site every day; what hours they will work; when there will be lulls in the progress. Home owners are often surprised to find out the workers want to start at 7:30 or 8:00 am or work on the weekends.
10/ What is the best way to get in contact with you?
Determine if email, text or calling is the best form of contact. Communication breakdown is the number one source of renovation frustration. Also determine if they are available after business hours to discuss concerns.
So there you have it; the top 10 questions to ask before hiring a contractor. Getting the answers to these questions will give you the clarity you need to make the best choice for you.
Remember, the contractor isn’t the enemy. If both parties are clear of the expectations from the beginning of the project, you stand a much better chance of having a successful renovation; and ultimately that is what you and your contractor want.
Can you think of any other questions to ask? Share them with us in the comments below!