10 Important Questions To Ask Before Hiring a Contractor

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Deciding to remodel your home is a big step that comes along with many anxieties, a lot of them unforeseeable. Before you hire a design company and their contractors to work on your home, do extensive research on several companies in your area, read their reviews, check out their rating on the Better Business Bureau and ask ample questions when you interview them. You can easily eliminate a lot of stress during the project if you know exactly what is going on and who you’re working with. It’ll also be unlikely that you get taken advantage of or mislead if all lines of communication are open between you and the company you hire. To help prepare you before hiring someone to work on your home, here are some questions to ask and why:

1. How long have you been in business?

This is definitely the first question you should ask. You want to know that you’re working with people who are experienced and established. A company that has been in business for at least 5 years will likely deliver better and faster results than the new company on the block. They’ll also have a closer relationship with manufacturers, suppliers and contract workers who know what they’re doing.

2. Are you licensed?

Licensing requirements vary by state so make sure you know what your state’s licensing requirements are for hiring contractors. For example, in California, if the project on a building, highway, road or other structure costs more than $500, the company working on it must be licensed by the California Contractors State License Board (CSLB). Working with a licensed company ensures that they have met the standards of the state. If you hire an unlicensed contractor and the project doesn’t meet the local building codes once it’s complete, you will be responsible for the costs to make the necessary repairs, not the company. Working with an unlicensed contractor can also jeopardize your homeowner’s insurance policy if a claim comes up regarding the remodel. It’s okay to ask to see the company’s license to make sure it’s current.

3. Is this price an estimate or fixed?

You’ll want to know what the final price tag will eventually be for your project. Sometimes companies offer only an estimated amount when you’re still throwing out ideas or negotiating, but once you’re settled on the company, ask for a fixed price. You don’t want to end up paying more at the end once the project is completed. Also, make sure you ask for an itemized list of the project costs so you can see where you can eliminate any unnecessary charges. If you’re only given one big price for the project, you won’t know exactly where your money is going. A breakdown of the price will likely include electrical work, plumbing, trash hauling, demolition, painting, tiling and lighting. Knowing the breakdown will also help you compare prices between several companies you’re considering.

4. Do you have general contractors insurance and workers comp insurance?

Insurance and workers comp both ensure that you’ll be covered if any accidents happen. You don’t want to be paying the medicals bills for any worker who gets injured on the job in your home and when you’re working with ladders, hammers and quite possibly a wrecking ball, accidents are bound to happen. You also want to make sure the company has insurance to cover the cost should any of your personal belongings become damaged. It’s a good idea to remove these things from the demolition zone to ensure their safety but you never know what can get broken during a remodel. Definitely ask this question before anyone steps into your home and starts hammering holes into the wall.

5. Do you handle pulling the permits for the project?

The answer should be yes. You shouldn’t have to be the one handling this as the contractors are the professionals who know what exactly needs to get done on your home. Take it as a red flag if they say you’re in charge of the permit process.

6. What is the projected timeline?

It’s not only important to know when the project will begin and end but also what’s going to happen in between. An outlined timeline gives you an idea of what will be going on in your home and paints a bigger picture. You’ll also be able to tell if things are falling behind schedule and can address it to the company as soon as you notice. In a remodeling project, scheduling is key and one task completed leads to another one beginning. You don’t want to be left in the dark if something doesn’t go according to plan.

7. Can I see a list of client references?

It’s always a great idea to get genuine feedback from people who have worked directly with the design company and contractors you’re considering for your project (and having a list of reputable references shows that they’ve been in business for a while). Their opinion is invaluable and will give you an unbiased view on what it will be like to work with them. Call at least 3 references before making a decision.

8. Who exactly will be working in my home (and can I meet them)?

Even though you hire a home design company, the person you interview will most likely not be doing the dirty work. Ask them about the contractors who will be working in your home and try to meet them, especially the foreman or project manager. He’s the one who supervises the other contractors and will (hopefully) be at your home majority of the time during the project. Ask if they’ll be there to oversee the remodel daily and if they won’t be, ask how often they’ll stop by. It’s also good to know who to call with questions on a daily basis.

9. How will you communicate with me and when?

Communication is key to ensure that your remodel goes according to plan. Make sure you and your contractor establishes a primary mode of communication, whether that’s through emails, phone calls or texts. If you know exactly when your contractor will contact you and how, it’s unlikely you’ll encounter any miscommunication. It’ll also be easier for your contractor to contact you should an emergency arise. Having weekly in-person meetings is also ideal as you’ll be able to go over any updated drafts in the design and make sure everyone is one the same page.

10. What concerns you about my remodel?

They are the professionals and have hopefully done several jobs before, meaning, they may have encountered problems one time or another and know how to fix or avoid them. Finding out now that there’s a flaw in the plan eliminates problems in the future that can cost you more money. Talk about a game plan should something go wrong and run the numbers to see what the cost will be should said-problem arise. You don’t want to just hire anyone to work on your home and the project will probably take months to complete. You’ll want to make sure you’ve hired the best team for the job so do your homework and ask the right questions. And always get all the information in writing.  It’ll be worth it in the end.