Questions to ask prior to hiring a Contractor

How to hire the right contractor!

How do you know which contractor is right for your remodeling project? Will he or she complete your project in a timely fashion and stick to your budget? Will they practice safety measures acceptable to your family? Will the contractor respect your home and keep it clean? Learning to interview your contractor will help you decide if it is a good fit for both parties.

How long have you been in business ?

This is a very good first question to ask because:

Companies that have been in business 10 or more years, have not only become a part of their community but have also survived the hard economic times that we recently experienced as a country. They will have necessary references available to you and you should be able to read about them online, and/or see work via their website. The building and remodeling community is small and often decorators and interior designers are able to provide great references and have worked closely with contractors in your area. Your contractor should be able to provide you with at least one reference from a peer and/or a decorator to discuss previous projects.

Do you have a license in your state and are you properly insured?

If this answer is no, there is no need to go any further!

A legitimate Contractor should have not only be licensed and insured but also be able to provide you with their contractor license number in the state the work is being performed, along with proof of insurance.  If this information cannot be provided no further question and/or consideration are necessary, as this eliminates any consideration on your behalf to hire this contractor.

Do you belong to any professional organizations and/or community groups in your industry?

What certificates have you obtained over the years and what is your education level?

A contractor that invests in his business and his education and community is in it for the long haul.

Not that it is necessary to have a college degree and/or certificate in the industry, but it sure speaks volumes about the contractor when he is truly invested in his craft. Often the know how and experience is derived from practical experience and theoretical experience. A contractor that has a degree in architecture or engineering is most likely going to be precise and detail oriented. Furthermore if the contractor lives in the community and invests in local associations and groups it speaks volumes about the goal, meaning that this contractor cannot afford to make a bad name for him or herself without experiencing direct consequences from their community.

How many projects similar to mine have your performed recently?

Why this question is another crucial factor when it comes to design work, remodeling and renovation.

You want to be sure that this is not the first time this type of project has been performed by the contractor. Experience and know how is the key to success in your kitchen & bathroom design, remodeling project, or complete home renovation.

How do you charge ?

Know what you are getting in to and agree on a price ahead of time.

A contractor that is vague and or charges depending on time and material costs may overlook or under-estimate the project cost.
Get a fixed price for your project ahead of time and come to an agreement on any possible additions in writing. If you change your mind along the way and request upgrades, the upgrade charge should be agreed upon and put in writing. These steps will protect you and the contractor from any misunderstandings.

May I speak to your previous clients?

References and the willingness of a few previous clients to speak to you speaks volumes!

Every good contractor has at least a few previous clients that are excited to speak to anyone about their experience and outcome.
Though it may not be realistic to gain access to a lot of previous clients due to privacy in the high-end community, ( time-restraints).

May I physically visit a few of your projects?

Great question, and possible if the previous client is willing to share their home with the public.

This might be more realistic for a local community project such as a club house and/or a swimming pool contractor.
Most clients do not want to share their home with the public unless it is a family member of the contractor and/or a good friend.
Though this type of viewing would really put things in perspective, a second choice would be visiting their picture gallery on their website.
If the contractor does not have a website to view, or uses simple stock photos, you might want to ask them for photos of recent projects that they can either email and or show you in person. The photos should have a variety of projects to show. A contractor with experience will be able to show you a kitchen, a bathroom as well as a basement and even an entire home.

Who will supervise the project and the subcontractors during the project?

This is another potential deal breaker and if the answer is vague and/or simply avoided, run!

This should be easily answered and preferably the general contractor should stay involved and have a foreman that is a good communicator. We have all either experienced unprofessionalism or heard horror stories about drunk contractors, unskilled workers, as well as uncleanliness and lateness. When remodeling, adding on to your home, designing, renovating, and/or even building a home, the last thing you want is an un-supervised crew.
You are not the boss of the sub-contractors and should avoid communication with anyone except the general contractor and the appointed foreman. This cuts down on the confusion and stress and prevents delays.

Finally lets take Payment schedule, how does that work?

This final answer should be easy and precise, if not, this might not be your contractor.

A legitimate Contractor will provide a fee schedule and billing will be based on percentage of work completed.
You should obtain a copy of the draw schedule ahead of time.
Deposits and final payments should also be in the contract and agreed upon before beginning the project.

Last but not least, how do you handle warranty issues on work completed? Call backs?

Inform yourself ahead of time!

Obtain copies of warranties on each company ( materials) utilized during the project.
Often the contractor offers warranties on labor and guarantees his work for a certain time span, but in addition the appliances and brand names used in the project offer additional contractor unrelated warranties, that can pan out to be very beneficial, should something break.

Now you should be able to choose the right contractor for your next project, without losing sleep or second guessing yourself.

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