7 Questions to Ask When Hiring a Contractor

With technology advances and companies like Yelp, Houzz and Home Advisor, it’s easier to research a company’s reputation.  But, aside from researching a company’s reputation online,  before your hire the right contractor for your next home improvement project, here are some questions you should ask the organization’s representative.

How many years has the company been in business?

This question just gives you an idea about the level of expertise, and whether or not the company or contractor is an established business. The last thing you want is to give some newbie company or contractor a deposit and never see the contractor again or your project completed. So, there’s a lot to be said for a company with years of experience and a  solid track record of completed projects.

What is the payment policy including deposit and final payment?

Sometimes, we can take payment terms and conditions for granted because either as consumers we assume all business policies are the same or the company assumes “it’s a given” when doing business with a new client. It’s important to make sure you understand when the payments are due, understand any additional fees and what payments are accepted.  It’s also important to ask if there are any additional fees if a scope of a project has even the slightest change on the agreed terms. We’ve seen this quite a bit, when homeowners assume something can be added at no cost because this is not relayed to them until they receive their final bill.  This is definitely unavoidable and worth the time to ask before you approve any changes to the original estimate.

Will the company pull permits?

This is also something that as a homeowner, we can take for granted.  Knowing whether or not the company or contractor you’re working with is responsible for acquiring the permits or whether you’re responsible can avoid any potential project delays.  Some companies do this for you and some companies make this the client’s responsibility.  Be sure you know ahead of time what to expect.   Also, please consider there may be associated fees for acquiring these permits depending on the type of permit and the city you live in.

Will the company or contractor provide a written estimate and/or contract?

Most professional companies or contractors will provide a written estimate or contract. If they don’t, be sure to ask for something in writing.  When you receive it, be sure to read over and ask any questions you may have.  Knowing what you’re agreeing to can prevent any surprises or headaches that can stem from project delays, hidden fees or any other unforeseen issues that you may have missed in the contract or estimate.

What is the company policy on waste removal/clean up after completion?

Most contractors include clean up or waste removal in the price of the estimate, but some companies add it and bill you separately for it.  If you don’t see a line specifically for waste removal, be sure to ask if this is included in the price of the estimate.  It is important to make a note or if possible, have this in writing as well, either via email or on the estimate or contract.

What is the expected start and completion date?

Clear expectations on when the projected start and completion date is extremely important, especially, if you’re on a tight deadline for some reason.  Contractors and the construction industry, in general, have a reputation for going over the allotted time, so be sure you set clear expectations if you’re on a tight deadline.

What materials is the company using for the project?

As a homeowner, some of us are not very familiar with materials needed or used in certain projects. We have to rely on professionals to inform us and determine the best materials to use. However, knowing how to compare bids is important. Sometimes there is a great disparity in bids because one contractor may use lease expensive materials and the other contractor may be using materials of higher quality. This can of course affect the price of the entire project. Be sure to get clarification when needed when it comes to building materials. You can also do some research if you still don’t understand certain line items on the estimate or contract.

Aside from all of these questions, as we mentioned earlier, knowing a company or contractor’s reputation can also avoid any problems in the future.  It’s very easy nowadays to know a business’ history and reputation. By researching the business online, you may also find samples of the company’s previous completed projects.

In a nutshell, be sure you spend some time doing your homework before hiring a company a contractor for your next home improvement project. And remember, there is always “word of mouth.” Your neighbors are a great resource for recommending who they’ve worked with and can give you some ideas on who to call and what to look for.