How to Interview a Contractor
Know what to ask when hiring your home improvement contractor
By Julie Hampton
Hiring a reliable contractor who will provide quality work can be a difficult task. While most contractors provide excellent work, there are always a few whose standards are low and whose work quality is poor. Interviewing a contractor may be a lengthy process, but the end result will leave you with a professionally finished project you will be happy with.
- What You Need to Know
- You want to provide your contractor candidate with as much information as possible so that they can make an informed decision about what services they can provide, in what time period and at what cost. The more information you provide, the better you'll be able to gauge the interviewee's skills and professionalism, allowing you to make the right decision.
- When meeting with potential contractors, invite them to meet at your home so that they can see the project up close and offer detailed suggestions. Before the meeting, gather your information in a folder, and bring a notebook and calculator to talk numbers.
Initially interview the contractor over the telephone. Discuss what is important to you about the project and what will make the project a success. Ask the contractor if he or she is interested in the project and if the work can be completed by your specified deadline. Listen to the contractor's responses, and decide if you would like to meet for a one-on-one interview. Interview several contractors over the phone, and schedule personal interviews with at least three of them. Take notes and place all information in a folder to stay organized.
Bring a friend or spouse to the interview. The other person may be able to sense or notice things, both good and bad, about the contractor you may not see. Tell the contractor that you would simply like to get to know her better and that you have several questions. Explain to the contractor you must trust the person working in your home or business.
Ask questions about the company's background. How long has the company been in business and who will perform most of the work are common interview questions. Inquire how many employees the contractor has. Question the contractor as to whether the company has ever been involved in a lawsuit. If the response is yes, ask if you can get more details about the case and the resolution.
View pictures of previous projects and jobs completed. Ask for professional references, including names or telephone numbers. Request samples, sketches and other materials, so you can better visualize the finished concept of your project.
Insist that a contractor have insurance which includes worker's compensation for himself or employees. Be aware that some state's allow owners of small businesses to be exempt from worker's compensation. The contractor should be able to provide documentation or certification of insurance. Ask about the skill level and training of the contractor and employees: Are they certified in their fields? What are the employees backgrounds and skill levels? How long have the employees been working for the contractor? Determine if the contractor will also be on site during the project, involved hands on or simply managing the crew.
Openly discuss price with the contractor, so he or she understands the scope of the project. Discuss different options for performing the project and how each option may be priced. Ask how the contractor would like to be paid.
About the Author
Julie Hampton is a regular contributor to DexKnows.
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