10 Questions You Need to Ask Your Contractor Before You Hire Them

10 Questions You Need to Ask Your Contractor Before You Hire Them

  • Zita Billmann
  • 01/28/24

It goes without saying: your home is important to you. Not only is it a large financial investment, but it’s also your sanctuary from the outside world, the place where memories are created sharing moments with your loved one. It is the place where you feel safe and most comfortable. When you need work done on your home- be it a repair, or perhaps a large remodeling project- you want to make sure that you are securing a contractor who meets your strict criteria for professionalism. Finding an honest, reliable, and communicative contractor can seem difficult, but with some forethought and a little preparation, you can approach each potential contractor with confidence. Here are ten questions you should ask any contractor before the work starts:

  1. Are you licensed and insured? Many states and jurisdictions, including Pennsylvania, require home improvement contractors to register with the government and be licensed. You can even search databases to double check if the contractor is actually licensed. While this license is important to guarantee the authenticity of their business, it is not an endorsement of the quality of their work or their ethics. Along with a license, many contractors will carry insurance. Again, while insurance is not a guarantee, it is an important sign of a contractor who is operating above-board and establishes a foundational understanding of who they are as a business professional.
  2. How do you manage your projects, and how do you communicate? All relationships, personal and professional, are based on good communication. From the start, you’ll want to rate the contractor’s availability and willingness to communicate with you. It’s also important to understand if the contractor themselves will be doing the work, or if they’ll be relying on a team of individuals. Establish the expected frequency of supervision should they rely on a team of subcontractors. Will you have direct contact with the contractor during the project, or will you communicate through a third party- such as the subcontractors or project manager. During home improvement projects, quick and continual communication can be the difference between costly delays.
  3. What are your standards for worksite safety and cleanliness? Not all job sites are created equally, and as such, it’s important to talk with a contractor about the realities of the jobsite that’s going to be taking place at your home. If you’re remodeling a kitchen, for example, will you still be able to use your appliances? Will there be a work crew constantly coming in and out of a house? Will heavy equipment such as power tools be regularly used, which bring with them safety and noise concerns? These are all questions you need to ask your contractor. Make sure that you feel comfortable with their safety and cleanliness guidelines.
  4. Do you have a portfolio of similar, recent work? Portfolios are great ways to begin assessing a contractor’s worth as a craftsman who can do good work. A photo is worth a thousand words but if possible, making an in person inspection is more telling.
  5. Do you have references to past clients? You are simultaneously attempting to determine a contractor’s honesty but also their capabilities, and speaking to past clients can be a treasure trove of good info. Ask previous references about any of the contractor’s shortcomings- you can even use this list to ask them for their after-the-fact point of view.
  6. Do you have a sample contract to review? While the details of your own contract won’t be finalized until later in the hiring process, it can be useful to get an early look at what you can expect from the scope of work to be completed. Take note of clauses and provisions which may impact you. Ask questions about any concerns you might have.
  7. How are selections and allowances handled? Depending on your project, there may be a lot of both practical and creative decisions that need to be made. Understanding how your contractor will approach these situations can help you get a better idea of how the project will continue. Again, a contractor who practices good communication skills will often help you decide if you want to be more hands-on with the decision making process, or if you’d prefer to leave it up to them.
  8. How are payments handled? This is a great time to talk about a payment schedule. Home improvement projects can be timely processes, and depending on your arrangements, there may be an opportunity to pay for the project throughout the process.
  9. What is the estimated timeline for planning, start date, and completion? While these dates are only estimates, you can discuss with the contractor contingencies. What happens if a shipment is delayed? A good contractor will be honest and up front with you. Expect some sort of delays, and appreciate a contractor who can easily and honestly explain any setbacks.
  10. How do you handle delays? While a shortage of materials or a late delivery might be out of the contractor’s hands, sometimes they are responsible for setbacks and mistakes caused by them or their teams. Ask about how this type of delay will be handled. Are you entitled for compensation for price overruns or late completion? Make sure these are covered in the contract.

Big or small, a home improvement project can mean weeks or even months of time spent dealing with a contractor. Before you get started, take a little time and effort to really search around for a quality contractor that suits your needs. It will pay dividends to find one who you feel you can work with, protecting your investment and giving you peace of mind throughout the project.

Work With Zita

Whether you are a first time homebuyer, looking to upsize to a larger home, relocating to or from the area, or downsizing as an empty nester, my expertise and 20+ years sales experience will get you where you want to go.

Follow Zita on Instagram