Despite the wealth of information available at our fingertips, finding a good contractor for your next home improvement endeavor isn’t always easy. Whether you are installing a new pool in your Huntington Beach home or need a new roof for your cabin in Centerville, VA, your home is your haven and you want the work done right the first time. Not quite sure what questions to ask your potential contractor? You’ve come to the right place.
Sure, you can ask friends and neighbors for contractor recommendations, but once you’ve put together a list of companies, where do you go from there? How can you ensure that the company you hire is the best fit for your project? Check out our list of seven important questions to ask contractors before you hire them.
Questions to Ask Home Improvement Contractors
When you interview home service providers, be sure to compare apples to apples. A low price for a given service may be attractive, but if the company isn’t licensed or expects you to handle permit applications for the work, you may not be getting the better deal.
Ask the following questions of each home improvement contractor you interview to help you hire the right company:
1. How long have you been working in the industry, and when was your company founded?
Get a sense of how much experience both the company owner or job foreman and the company as a whole have with the work you need to be done. And don’t immediately write off a relatively new company—if the staff has plenty of experience working in the industry, perhaps for other companies or as independent contractors, you most likely won’t encounter major problems.
However, you’ll still want to exercise caution with brand-new companies. Getting a contracting business up and running is no small feat, and you may experience some hiccups while the team members learn to communicate and work together. If you’re impressed by a newly established roofing company, for example, your best bet may be to hire them first for a small repair rather than a full replacement. You might also ask for references to confirm the quality of the work.
2. Can I see your certificate of insurance?
You’ll be able to verify most state-required licenses online, but a valid general liability (and workers’ compensation, if required by your state) can be more difficult to check. A reputable contractor will have that documentation on hand and be more than willing to let you take a look.
3. Who is my primary point of contact during the job, and how should I contact them?
Be sure that you know who to contact with any questions or concerns. Typically, this is a project manager or job foreman, and sometimes it’s the company owner. Ask how that person prefers to be contacted and how quickly you should expect a reply.
4. Will you do all the necessary work to ensure the completed project meets local codes?
Large jobs, such as major renovations and structural additions, usually involve permits and inspections. Your contractor should not rely on you to apply for the right permits and schedule the necessary inspections. All of this should be done by the company. Work that is not correctly permitted or inspected can cause major – and majorly expensive – headaches down the road, especially if you try to sell your house.
5. Who will be doing the work?
You should be clear on whether the contractor uses subcontractors or company employees on the payroll as well as whether you can expect to see the same people working on your house every day. Most home service providers have several crews that allow the company to take on more than one job at a time, so be sure to clarify whether the same team will handle your job from start to finish.
If the company you hire uses subcontractors, ask for the subcontractor’s business information. The subcontracted company must hold valid general liability and, if applicable, workers’ compensation insurance as well as state-required licenses for the work they perform. Your contractor should be able to explain to you how they vet their subcontractors.
6. How will you ensure my home and yard won’t be damaged?
Your contractor should be proactive about taking steps to keep your property damage-free. Depending on the work being done, this may involve having workers wear shoe covers, using plastic sheeting to control dust levels in the house, covering flooring with a protective material, or protecting landscaping with tarps.
7. How will we handle payment?
You need to know how much the total project will cost, the payment types your contractor expects, and the intervals at which you’ll need to make payments.
Another important detail to clarify with your contractor is how any changes to the job cost or budget will be handled. Be honest and upfront as to whether your budget has any wiggle room and how you’d like the company to communicate any additional expenses that arise.
It’s essential to ask the right questions before hiring a contractor for your home improvement projects. By asking these questions, you can ensure that you’re hiring a qualified professional who is the best fit for your project. It’s crucial to know about their experience, certifications, and references to avoid any potential problems down the road. By being proactive and asking these vital questions, you’ll have peace of mind and increase the chances of a successful home improvement project.