Five Things to Ask a Contractor Before Hiring

Whether it’s remodeling your existing home or taking the leap into building a brand new home,  hiring a contractor will take your project from DIY to dream home. Good news: finding a contractor couldn’t be easier in the days of Google. But while finding a contractor isn’t brain surgery, finding a qualified contractor can be quite a bit trickier.  

We’ve all heard horror stories of contractors that do terrible work, or don’t even finish the job at all. Recently, the TV show, Home Work, ended up in the news and in a lot of legal hot water after the contractors didn’t follow through with what they had initially promised. And since nothing turns a dream home into a nightmare faster than a bad contractor, it’s important to find someone reliable.  Here are 5 important questions you should ask before hiring your next contractor:

  1. Can I see your license and insurance?

In 2022, scamming is more prevalent than ever before. There are plenty of unqualified people waiting to rip off unsuspecting homeowners with big promises they can’t deliver. Make sure your contractor has all the necessary licenses and insurance. 

It doesn’t matter how big or small your project is, any contractor without a license or insurance could cause you a financial headache if something goes wrong. Without insurance, or at the least workers’ compensation, you could be financially responsible for any on-the-job injuries— and nobody wants, or can afford, that. 

  1. How do you clean up your job site at the end of the day?

This is a particularly important question if you’re planning to live in your home during a renovation project, and even more so if you have children or aging adults living in the home as well. Remember, this is the time to get into the details regarding clean-up and site maintenance, not after you’ve already signed a contract. 

What do they do with nails and power tools each night? Are they left out all over? Are you  responsible for any equipment left behind at the end of the day? It is completely appropriate to ask the contractor and his work crew to clean up the site before they go home for the night, so if your contractor seems unwilling to do this, it’s time to move on.

And if you aren’t living at the work site and don’t mind a crew leaving things all over, it is still appropriate to state that you will not be held responsible or liable for anything left behind. Construction site break- ins are extremely common, and unattended equipment can become a gold mine for thieves and local pawn shops.

  1. How often do you communicate with your customers?

Playing phone tag quickly becomes very aggravating, and multiple unreturned messages can instantly make you question your trust in a contractor. Make sure to ask any potential contractor to detail how they plan to communicate with you. Will you get a daily report of progress or at least a weekly one? You can even suggest a photo text of the daily progress if you can’t visit the work site regularly.

  1. What is the estimated cost and do you anticipate any additional costs?

There is nothing worse than receiving a bill that is more than anticipated, but this can and should be avoided whenever possible. Ask your contractor to provide an itemized list of costs up front,  and require any additional costs to be cleared by you before starting additional work..

Other important payment questions: How often do you expect payment? What is your payment processing system? What percentage do you require to be paid upfront? 

  1. When can you start with the project and how long do you think it will take?

A contractor with a lot of projects may not be able to start on your project immediately. Obviously, this is an issue if you need a project started right away.But even if you’re not really in a hurry, you should know a start time so you can make any necessary preparations. You also need to know the estimated finish date so you can make plans to sell an existing home, move additional furniture out of storage, or schedule landscaping.

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