6 questions to ask before hiring a contractor
Before hiring a contractor, it's important that you have contact information such as business and cell phone numbers and a physical address, says Lindus. (Photo by Katie Jacewicz)
While it’s important to evaluate the quality of supplies being used when remodeling your home, it’s equally important to carefully screen potential contractors to ensure that you’re working with a reputable professional.
When getting a construction bid, we encourage you to meet with professionals to understand their credentials and the scope of the work they will be performing. Below are some questions that we urge you to ask prior to hiring a contractor.
1. Have you ever done business under a different name?
It’s important that you pay attention to how this question is answered, as it is very unlikely that a business that has operated under a different name is going to be willing to talk about it.
Operating the same type of business under a different name is often a sign that the business was shut down for shady practices, such as requiring that jobs be paid upfront and then disappearing before the work was completed. When in doubt, check with the Better Business Bureau and the Department of Public Safety to ensure that you are protected.
2. What is your license number?
In many states, a contractor must register with the state in order to do business. Having a contractor’s license number allows you to verify whether or not any claims or judgments have been passed against them. This can also show if the owner owned another home improvement business under a different name.
3. How can I get in touch with you?
Don’t neglect to ask this question. It’s important to get a physical business address along with the business and cell phone numbers of the contractor you’re working with.
If they’re only willing to give you a cell phone number and a P.O. Box, or their business is operated out of a mobile trailer, you may want to consider looking elsewhere. These signs are warning signals that you may not be able to reach the contractor in a few years if something goes wrong with the project, assuming they finish it.
4. Can I have a copy of your insurance policy?
You should always ask for a copy of a contractor’s insurance policy, not only to make sure that they do carry insurance, but to know what kind and how much. There are a lot of contractors that have coverage, but it may not be enough to cover your property.
You want to make sure that their insurance not only covers your property, but that they also carry a good amount of worker’s compensation coverage. If the contractor is not properly insured, you could be liable for any accidents or injuries that happen to the crew.
5. How much will this project cost?
Be sure to get costs associated with your contract in writing. Make sure that estimates are detailed so that when you compare them against each other, you know that you are comparing apples to apples.
Be wary of any quote that is significantly lower than the rest, as it may not include all materials and labor. If you receive a significantly higher estimate than the rest, this could mean that the other contractors were missing a key barrier needed to complete the project and may be coming back to you for more money once they get started.
6. How many projects like mine have you done in the last year?
In the same way that you wouldn’t call a podiatrist for a headache, it’s important to work with a contractor that specializes in the type of work you seek. Just because a company specializes in sealcoating, doesn’t mean they are the best people to install your gutters.
Asking how many similar projects a contractor has done in the past year will assist you in determining if you are working with the correct business. It also ensures that you are dealing with a contractor that is an expert in your type of project, not just one who dabbles in a little bit of everything.
Often, issues with installation are not immediately evident. Reduce your chances of having these issues by working with a professional who is an expert on your type of project.
The bottom line is, if you don’t trust what you’re being told, investigate it. You need to be an advocate for yourself and a reliable contractor is going to have no problem with the above questions being asked. In fact, they likely do the same thing when working with other service professionals.