There is no doubt undergoing a home renovation can be a stressful situation, and there are few people who can alleviate any anxiety and confusion more than a good contractor. But how do you seek out the right person for your project needs? Here, we work through 10 vital questions to ask a contractor during an interview.
1. How Long Have You Been Working in the Business?
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While many of us may want to give people the benefit of the doubt, this is a situation where years of experience both in the field and working as a business owner is hard to over emphasize. Someone who has years of knowledge will not only know how to solve common problems that may arise during construction, they will also have well-established connections to subcontractors and suppliers, and will know how to set up reasonable deadlines to ensure their work is completed on time.
You may find some contractors that are new to the business but have years of work experience in the industry. If that’s the case and you’d like to engage with that contractor, consider starting off with a smaller project and seeing how it goes.
2. Are You Licensed?
Although this may not be a requirement for all projects (requirements for licensed contractors depend on the scope of work and the location of the project), it’s important to know that the contractor you engage with has experience in the work you’re looking to have done.
3. Is Your Team Covered by a Certificate of Insurance?
While this may initially seem like a little more information than you need to know from the get-go, this is actually one of the most important pieces of information you can learn about your contractor.
Contractors should have both liability insurance for the type of work they’re going to complete as well as worker’s compensation. Plus, if you live in an apartment building, your building may also have insurance requirements.
4. Do You Have References?
If you didn’t hear about your contractor from a friend or other reference in the first place, you’ll want to reach out to someone who has experience dealing with the company and its team. Typically, past performance from a contractor can be a great indicator of how your project will go, so it’s ideal to speak with someone who has completed a similar scope of work as you’re looking to do.
5. What Is Your Proposed Timeline For This Project?
It’s important for any homeowner to understand and agree to a realistic schedule before any work begins. Ideally, you would get this in writing, along with an explanation of how to proceed if the timeline is changed.
It’s also good to know how many other projects the contractor is working on at the same time. You will likely also want to ask about a proposed daily schedule. For example, knowing what time the team will start every day, and what time their workday will end is important to note, because this may or may not coincide with your own schedule.
6. How Often Do You Finish a Project Ahead of Schedule?
This is a question that you’ll also want to ask your references. It’s highly unlikely that your contractor has finished all of their projects early, but hearing that even just a few were completed before the expected deadline is good news, as it means your contractor provides realistic schedules and doesn’t take on too much work at the same time.
7. Can We Sign a "Time and Materials" Contract?
A "time and materials" contract outlines a set price for labor and materials based on hourly rates or price per quantity in case unexpected circumstances arise. For example, imagine that all the wiring in your kitchen will need to be replaced, but this wasn’t part of the original scope of work. Your contractor, from the beginning, can provide the hourly rate for an electrician and the cost for rewiring materials if you’ve signed a "time and materials" contract.
8. Will You be Obtaining Permits and Setting Up Inspections For the Project?
Depending on the scope and location of the project, you may need permits and inspections to get approval from local buildings departments. This is the type of expertise that your contractor can provide, and you should make sure from the beginning that he or she is aware of this, and is planning to pull the necessary permits, complete required paperwork, and schedule inspections that align with the project timeline you have both agreed to.
9. Who Will be Working on the Project?
Are you planning to be on site on a regular basis? As most contracting companies have multiple projects going on at the same time, it’s normal to not have your prime contact on site at all times every day. However, he or she should be on site at least daily to check on work progress and monitor the job.
What’s more, there should be a consistency to the team that completes the work depending on the scope. For instance, it’s likely the person installing the cabinets in your kitchen will not also be the plumber who is installing your sink, but at the same time you should know that the team putting up drywall shouldn’t vary from day to day, creating inconsistencies in the workmanship.
10. Do You Have Questions For Us About the Project?
It may seem like the ideal contractor just agrees with everything you say and want in a project, but he or she should have questions for you about the project to truly understand what you’re trying to accomplish.
Questions from your contractor means that he or she has taken the time to review the construction documents or drawings and scope of work. It also means that they’re trying to gain a better understanding of the project, and how they can accommodate your requests before the work begins so that the project will have a smoother roll-out.
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