This blog will help you determine the following:
- What questions are important to ask my contractor?
- Why are these questions important to ask?
- Is this contractor a right fit for me?
There are questions that MUST be asked. We will cover these first. Then there are questions that are not typically asked that can make the difference between hiring the 'cheap guy' who takes your money and runs OR the contractor who you rave to all of your friends about. Let's jump right in...
The Obvious Questions To Ask Your Contractor:
- How long will this project take?
It is important to get an idea for how long this project will take to make sure it fits in your timeline. We will go into more detail with this with one of our not so obvious questions.
- What areas do you typically work in? This is important to know because if you have a contractor that works 'everywhere', you may find that this company spreads itself too thin. Unless you are hiring the Amazon of contractors, you typically want to find someone who focuses on a specific geographic area.
- Are you licensed in this area?
Not having a license in the area where your job is located can get you and the contractor in a lot of trouble! Be sure to confirm this.
- Can I see your certificate of insurance?
There are a lot of different types of insurance out there! The better the insurance the more money, it costs the contractor and the safer you are as the client. Be sure your contractor has Employer's Liability not less than$1,000,000, Worker's Compensation and Disability.
- Are permits necessary for this project?
If you are doing anything structural, permits are almost always required. In some towns and villages here in Long Island, NY you even need to get a permit for changing the siding on your house. While this varies, it is important that your contractor is well versed with the codes required for your area.
- What is the payment schedule?
While there are different types of payments schedules, you must feel comfortable with how much money you are giving at each point in the process. We have found that billing as a 'percentage completion' is fair for both the contractor andhomeowner (meaning that as a certain percentage of work is completed in each area of the project, it is billed).
- How long have you been in business?
A company that has been around for 3 years is not the same as a company that has been around for 30 years. The company that has been around for 30 years has experienced recessions and problems in their business that the 3 year company has no idea about. A follow up questions for the 30 year company would be, 'What are you doing differently now than you were 10 years ago'? This answer will tell you if they are adapting and going to be around for another 30 years...
- How is your company structured?
Is the company a team or is it a one-man show? This will affect some of the other questions you ask. For example, if it's team where there is an owner(s) with employees in the office and/or in the field, they might be able to take on a little more work than the one-man show. It is typically the single owner/worker who will be spread too thin.
- Who will be on my job site?
It is important to know who will be at your house, especially if you will be living through the renovation. Has the contractor been working with their subcontractors for an extended period of time or are they using them for the 1st time because they were cheap? Will the contractor or someone in the company be visiting the job on a daily basis? The Not-So Obvious Questions To Ask Your Contractor:
- How do you schedule You Projects?
Scheduling projects is one of the most important things a contractor can do. Most contractors fly by the seat of their pants. This leaves your project in limbo and dragging on for much longer than it should! If you have a contractor that can provide you with a detailed schedule that shows you when your project will start and when it will end, you have yourself an A+ Contractor.
- How many projects do you (really) take on at a time?
This is crucial to find out! It can make or break your project and your relationship with this contractor. In order to make sure your project gets the necessary attention, you must make sure that your contractor is not spread thin! There are countless horror stories containing contractors that 'never came back'. Don't let that be you! Which leads us to the next question...
- How do you handle the punch list at the end of the job?
The good ol' punch list. A contractor’s kryptonite. The contractor MUST have a process to handle the punch list at the end of your project. If they say, "We'll get it done," but provide no method to do so, you may be in for a surprise at the end of your project. For example, at the end of our jobs, we walk through the house with the homeowner and make a list. This list is then immediately sent to our office manager who then schedules our in-house carpenters to address the list within the next week. Simple, yet effective!
- Where do most of your jobs come from?
This is an interesting question. In theory, you would think a busy contractor must be a good contractor but this is not always the case. The best-case scenario is a company that gets the majority of their leads through referrals. Think about it. If you want to tell your friends and family about someone you worked with, there's a very good chance this company is going to do right by you.
- What are the core values of your company?
If you really want to see if your contractor is on their toes, ask him/her what the core values of their company are. It's always best if you can find someone to work with that aligns with your values. Asking the right questions to your contractor can determine whether or not your project is amazing or a total disaster!