15 Questions To Ask A Contractor Before Hiring

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Before you get started on any new repairs around your home, you’ll need to interview several contractors. Remember that experience counts, and you’ll need to know that the contractor you hire has successfully completed jobs similar to the one you want, hopefully many times before. It’s best to work with knowledgeable, reliable, honest professionals who can be trusted with a large physical and financial task. When you begin the search for a contractor and want to narrow down the candidates, use the following questions to interview each one:

  1. How long have you been a licensed contractor and what’s your state license number? Verify this before considering any contractor’s services. One of the easiest ways to spot a contractor you do not want is to find out they are not licensed. Not only will you risk your home’s safety, but the work they do may need to be torn down and redone by a licensed professional in order for your home to meet required building codes.
  2. How long has the company been doing business under their current name? If a contractor or construction company has had negative reviews, serious issues or other concerns, they may change the company name in an attempt to escape the bad reputation they have earned. Always verify whether or not this particular contractor and company have ever been known as something else to ensure you have access to their complete history.
  3. Are you bonded? A bond (surety bond) acts as a promise to the customer, ensuring they will receive the quality work they ordered, or be reimbursed. A bonded contractor helps ensure the work performed on your home is of a higher standard, and can help pay for repairs should the work be faulty. Verify with the contractor what their surety bond states, as they vary with each professional. These specific details must be adhered to when your contractor works for you. Should the contractor not provide the work assured in the bond, you may be reimbursed up to the amount that the bond covers, short of any amount owed to another client.
  4. Has the company declared bankruptcy within the past five years? While a failing business isn’t always a sign of a bad company, knowing the history and financial stability of your contractor can help prevent work delays, material shortages or sudden price hikes due to an unstable construction company.
  5. Will they provide business references from within the past year? Speak with previous clients to determine their satisfaction with the work completed, and the general experience working with this contractor.
  6. What terms of payment are anticipated? Find out when, and how much, you will need to pay. Arguments over money can quickly turn an otherwise pleasant construction experience into a home improvement nightmare.
  7. How many employees will be assigned to your project? Knowing who will be working on your home will determine how quickly the work will be completed, and give you a sense of how intrusive the project may be.
  8. Will the foreman be on site? Are the employees working on this project employees of the contractor? Make sure the work done by employees will be monitored to ensure it is completed quickly and accurately. Direct employees of the construction company will also be subject to different regulations than sub-contracted workers, giving the construction company more control.
  9. What type of repairs/installations/new construction does the contractor recommend? You’ll need to know what the contractor considers the best course of action for your home before beginning any work. Hearing their opinion can also give you a better sense of their knowledge and vision. Just be sure you’re not talked into any work you cannot afford.
  10. What details can you provide regarding the project materials? Have the contractor describe to you which materials he will use during the project. Listing and explaining the wood/vinyl/metal/stone, etc. he plans to use will give you a better understanding of the project and what it will require, as well as how it will benefit your home.
  11. Is the warranty guaranteed? The warranty offered by your contractor may sound nice, but if it’s filled with loopholes, you may find yourself out of luck. Verify that the warranty you agree to is guaranteed.
  12. What are the best materials for this area’s climate? Because the climate varies dramatically throughout the country, ask your potential contractor what they know about recommended or discouraged materials for your specific area. Materials that simply look nice or work well elsewhere may be unreliable or unable to withstand the weather in your particular region, meaning more time and money in the future. This is particularly important for homes in areas prone to tornados, hurricanes, heavy snow and extreme rain.
  13. What sort of maintenance will be necessary with this project? Find out if hiring this contractor for this particular job will mean years of subsequent maintenance projects. Sometimes the initial cost of a construction project is only the beginning.
  14. Are there prevalent problems that occur with this type of project? Know what to expect with your intended project, rather than being blindsided by issues you didn’t expect. This can also give you a better idea of how familiar your contractor is with this project, and how knowledgeable they are about avoiding and fixing issues.
  15. What is the life expectancy of the proposed project? Know what to expect from your new construction. If you’re expecting new flooring, roofing or decking to last 30 years, you may be disappointed after needing to replace it sooner. Get a better understanding from the contractor of what they expect for the life of the project.
Ready for Planting Finished Product

Hiring a contractor for your home’s construction project can be tricky, but having a list of prepared questions can save you plenty of time and headaches. Determine how respectable, knowledgeable and reliable the contractor is, and learn more about how they would handle your particular project. Going into your construction with a clear understanding of what is expected can greatly increase your satisfaction with the resulting home improvement.

Last Updated: January 28, 2012
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About Alexandra Kerr Through Ideal Home Garden, Alexandra covers topics ranging from interior design to home improvement, gardening and cuisine. Having a passion for cooking and entertaining in her own life, she hopes to communicate her love of home design and decorating with her readers. 

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