10 Questions to Ask a Contractor

“I regret hiring this contractor.”

This is the sentence no homeowner wants to say aloud.

It’s a huge decision to finalize plans and hire a contractor. A wrong decision can lead to stressful days, sleepless nights and costly fixes. 

But given the amount of contractors to choose from, how do you decide which person or company can get the job done?

First, do your research! Ask your family, friends, and real estate agent for a preferred contractor they have used in the past. Online reviews can also paint a very clear picture of the quality of work a contractor can provide. Consider joining an online neighborhood group or network to ask your neighbors who they would recommend. 

Second, once you have narrowed down the list of contractors you would like to contact, you can significantly increase the probability of finding the right contractor by asking important questions upfront.

In this article, you’ll learn 10 critical questions to ask contractors prior to hiring. And for ease, the questions are framed according to the mnemonic PREDICTION: 

  • Process-Oriented
  • Reference Ready
  • Experienced
  • Dedicated
  • Insured
  • Cost-Effective
  • Timeline Friendly
  • In-Charge
  • Organized
  • Non-Negotiables Compliant
  1. What is your process?

Talk to the contractor to understand their process. Ask about their daily operations. What are their working hours? How long do they see the project taking and for what cost?  How many people work together onsite? 

If they can respond to these questions with confidence, it’s a sign they know their stuff. Moreover, it helps you get an idea of what to expect. You want predictability. The more process-oriented a contractor is, the more predictability there will be.

  1. Do you have references?

Past performance determines future performance. Ask the contractor to provide a list of references. Unless the contractor/company is just starting out, they should be able to provide a list for you. 

Getting information from previous clients can be very beneficial. Have a list of questions prepared for the references as well. 

  1. Can you talk about your experience?

Think about how organizations hire employees. They look for ‘relevant’ experience. You must ask the contractor about their work history. How many years of experience do they have? A contractor with decent experience under their belt is likely more dependable. It’s also worth looking into their past work to see if they have pending mechanics liens, if they have a good completion rate for their projects, and other indicators that can help you gauge their competence and professionalism as a contractor.

  1. Will there be a dedicated team on site?

Many times, contractors work on multiple projects simultaneously, which may cause some to prioritize one project over another. Confirm whether they intend to give you a dedicated team that will solely work on your job or ask for a daily breakdown of hours.

  1. Do you have insurance?

You must ask about insurance. The contractor needs to have coverage for liability and worker’s compensation. The former protects you from paying for damage that they might cause, while the latter protects anyone who works on site.

  1. What is the overall cost?

You need to agree on the price of the job and the schedule for payments. Will it be a fixed-price contract? Are materials and labor factored into the cost? Request detailed estimates as you want to prevent extra charges due to ‘unknowns’ and overruns. 

Also, ask about the contractor’s policy for handling additional charges. Do best to ensure the numbers in your final bill do not stump you. 

  1. What are the timelines?

The contractor must provide an overall timeline and the timeline against different steps of the work. Get them to commit to a completion date. Probe to find out what can affect the timeline. Things such as weather and health can play a role in delaying your project, it would be wise to have a plan of attack in place if and when these concerns emerge. 

  1. Who’s in charge?

Once the job starts, you need a designated single point of contact for all your communication. Find out who is in charge and how to reach them for anything and everything. 

  1. How do you stay organized?

Although this may seem unrelated, how a contractor cleans up and stays organized can be a good indication of how they will treat your property. Have the contractor describe how they go about keeping things in order. 

  1. Do you…? (the non-negotiables!)
  • The contractor must be licensed to operate in your city or state. Ensure they are certified to do the type of work you want them to do.
  • The contractor must provide a warranty. Ascertain whether they stand behind their work and can cover if something goes wrong after they leave.

 Conclusion

The success of your home improvement ultimately depends on the quality of the contractor’s work.

Therefore, ensure that you engage contractors with potential and ask them all the questions on your mind. Remember to use ‘PREDICTION’  before making the hiring decision. 

About the Author:
Chris Woodard is the Co-Founder of Handle.com, where they build software that helps contractors, subcontractors, and material suppliers with late payments. Handle.com also provides funding for construction businesses in the form of invoice factoring, material supply trade credit, and mechanics lien purchasing.