When hiring a contractor there are a few key things you should always do – make sure you get multiple estimates, check their references, never pay upfront, and always get everything in writing.
In addition, it’s important for you and your contractor to set expectations upfront. To do this, ask your contractor a few key questions before they get started.
1. How long have you been in business?
This will give credibility to your contractor. If they’ve been in business for five or more years in your area, then they will have a reputation to maintain. In addition, you should be able to find reviews and testimonials of their previous work.
2. Do you have a contracting license?
Make sure your contractor is licensed and ask them what associations they belong to. Are they involved in the local Home Builders Association? What certifications do they, or the company overall, have (the EPA, Vinyl Siding Institute, etc.)? Are they OSHA compliant and have they taken any OSHA safety courses?
3. Do you have insurance for yourself and your crew?
It is important that your contractor is fully insured and capable of covering any accidents or mishaps that might occur while working on your project. General liability insurance protects your home from damage or negligence of the general contractor, his employees, and any sub-contractors brought onto your property.
In addition, don’t just take your contractor’s word – ask them to provide a copy of their insurance certificate. And ask for copies of insurance for everyone who walks onto your property. If they don’t have a policy, do not let them work on your property.
4. Are you hiring sub-contractors for this job?
Make sure you’re aware of who is going to be in your home every day. Ask your contractor who will be responsible for opening your home and locking up, who will supervise sub-contractors on site, and who to call with any questions.
5. What’s their timeline for completing this project?
Does their answer reasonable? If you’re unsure if the time frame is reasonable, ask about similar projects they’ve done and the time those projects took.
For more information on timelines, read Building a Realistic Remodeling Timeline.
6. What’s your payment schedule?
Never trust a contractor that asks you to pay for the entire project upfront. The Better Business Bureau recommends arranging a small down payment and then paying for how much work is completed as the project progresses.
Do NOT make the final payment until the job is completed.
7. Will you take care of getting any building permits?
Not every job will require permits or inspections, but most remodeling projects that change the structure of the home will. Your contractor should know what kind of permits you need, how to get them and be willing to pull them for you.
8. How do you typically cleanup at the end of the day?
A quality contractor will make sure the job site is cleaned up at the end of the day, even if the project lasts for several weeks. Before you start a project, establish guidelines for how your home will be cleaned at the end of each day and where materials will be stored.
9. Do you offer an installation warranty?
Many contractors offer a warranty or guarantee on their work, and it’s important to know ahead of time what it covers and how long it remains in effect. In addition, the manufacturers of the products used on your home typically have a warranty as well. As soon as your products are installed, make sure you register the warranty and keep a copy on hand in case you ever have issues.
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