10 Questions to Ask Your Contractor
Protect yourself and your property by playing detective when hiring a contractor
By Stevie Donald
When you hire a contractor, you enter into a fairly close relationship, especially if the job is extensive, such as doing a major remodel or home addition. Here are ten questions you should ask him before you sign a contract.
Are you licensed to work in the state?
If the contractor isn't licensed, he or she can't pull the building permits necessary to do the job. Be wary if the contractor expects you to pull permits -- this could put your project in jeopardy if the building inspector finds fault with the construction.
Do you have worker’s compensation, personal liability and property damage insurance?
Make sure you’re not liable for an injury incurred on your property. If additional employees or subcontractors will work on your job, they need to carry their own insurance, or have worker's compensation insurance under the contractor's policy.
What projects have you done that are similar to this job?
A contractor might have 20 years' experience building new homes, but you don't want to be the test subject for someone's very first kitchen remodel.
Can I contact your previous clients who had similar work done?
References from recent clients give you honest and relevant feedback, but clients from several years ago can tell you how the work held up, and if the contractor honored warranties.
How long have you worked with your current employees and subcontractors?
Consider it a good sign if a contractor has a long-standing relationship with his subs, because it means they work well together and he pays them on time. If any of the subcontractors will be doing a major portion of the job, such as finish carpentry or painting, get their contact information and meet with them as well.
Do you have financial references from suppliers?
A reputable contractor should have accounts in good standing with his main suppliers for lumber, cabinets, and other expensive materials.
How long will my project take?
Get an approximate start date and timeline for your project. Bear in mind that construction can be an art, not a science, and many things -- including weather and slow suppliers -- can hold up progress through no fault of the contractor.
Would you write up a detailed estimate?
The estimate should cover costs for materials, labor, demolition and clean-up.
What is your standard payment schedule?
Reach an agreement about how and when your contractor will be paid, and put it in writing.
Do you guarantee your work and materials?
Find out how long and under which circumstances the contractor will make good on any workmanship that doesn’t last. Get this in writing.
About the Author
Stevie Donald is a regular contributor to DexKnows. She has been a painting contractor since 1979.
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