Ten Questions for Contractors
Hiring a contractor can be nerve-wracking. Chances are, you aren’t an expert in construction and remodeling or you wouldn’t be hiring a contractor in the first place, and as the less knowledgable party, it’s possible for unscrupulous contractors to take you on the proverbial ride. By knowing what questions to ask before you commit to hiring someone, you can help ensure you get the work done right the first time, on time, and on budget.
1. How is scheduling handled?
It’s quite frustrating to feel like you are low on the contractor’s list of priorities. Knowing how the contractor manages his schedule can help you manage expectations and make sure you aren’t the one gumming up the works by dragging your feet on important decisions like what materials you want used that could hold up your own job as well as the contractor’s other jobs. For example, you may want to know if the contractor will be working only on your job until it’s completed, or splitting his time between multiple projects ongoing simultaneously.
2. Who is my point of contact once the project starts?
Sometimes one person comes to your home to check out the potential job and make the initial deal, but a subcontractor may come to actually perform the labor. You may be dealing with a crew of multiple people. It’s a good idea to know in advance who to contact with questions and for updates so you don’t feel like you are getting the run-around from a handful of different people.
3.How is the company set up?
Is there only one person answering the phone, managing the schedule, or doing the work? Or will you be talking with a receptionist, sales person, building superintendent, and multiple subcontractors? Who owns the company? It can be very helpful to understand the size and scope of the business before entering into an arrangement with them. Whether you prefer a franchised, national corporation or a one-man operation, it’s helpful to know what kind of business you’re dealing with.
4. Who is actually going to be in my home?
You may find that the owner himself is the one coming to your house to perform the labor, but there may be one or more other employees or subcontractors there instead. You may also want to know what kind of background checks, if any, have been performed on the people coming in and out of your home.
5. Is my job the kind of project the contractor enjoys?
This can give you a good perspective of the scope of jobs the contractor prefers and the type of work he or she is most comfortable with. If the contractor usually does whole-home renovations and you are getting a very small project done, you may feel like your small job gets pushed to the bottom of the priority stack. Conversely, a contractor who typically does small handyman-type jobs may become overwhelmed with a very large job. You may choose to hire a contractor who specializes in only one type of work; for example, flooring or bathrooms only, or just paint and siding.
6. What work is done by subcontractors?
Many licensed contractors are limited to only one or two trades (for example, electrical or plumbing), while some general contractors will have their own staff and also subcontract certain specialty trade jobs to other companies. Check with the state licensing board for more details about contractor licenses.
7. Deal-breaker questions
Do you feel like flexing your DIY muscles but need help with the really complicated stuff? If you want to do part of the work, this might be a problem for some contractors who only do projects they can complete from start to finish. If you are dead-set on helping out, providing the materials yourself instead of letting the contractor buy them, or have any other specific requests, make them up-front and find out if those requests will be a problem for the contractor.
8. How many projects do you take on at once?
Larger companies may be able to take on many jobs at once without schedules suffering, but if you are using a small contractor, you probably will prefer they don’t take one ten projects at a time. Asking this question will help you get a feel for what kind of attention your project will get.
9. Do you see any areas of concern in the plans?
The contractor may be able to spot flaws in the plans that wouldn’t be obvious to a layperson but could put the entire project in jeopardy. For example, it might seem like a good idea to expand your dining room, but if you want to knock out a load-bearing wall, the contractor will know that’s going to cause problems and should be able to propose a solution. The contractor may need to know structural information about your home to answer this question knowledgeably.
10. What kind of paperwork will I get at the end of the job?
Generally at the end of a major project you will get paperwork including lein releases, final permit sign-offs, and information about any warranties you may be entitled to. Ask about this in advance to make sure you have what you need in the future if something goes wrong or you need further work done. For example, if you have electrical wires run, you will want to have these new lines added to your house plans so you know where the wires are for future renovations and you don’t accidentally rip them out trying to remodel something else down the road.
Source: photo from NY Surety Bond Assistance Program