A good contractor is key to saving you time and money during your home renovation. But what actually makes a good contractor? While you’ve probably wasted no time doing some research online on the backgrounds of various contractors in your shortlist, you may still be unsure of the questions you should and shouldn’t ask them. And you’re not alone.
Knowing the right questions to ask a general contractor upfront is important because waiting to speak up once the project is underway or the contractor isn’t meeting your expectations will only set you back — big time.
RenoFi is here to help you prevent that from happening. We’ve compiled a list of acceptable and smart questions to ask a contractor. Check them out below.
16 Questions for Contractors
1. Are you licensed for this type of work?
It’s not only super important to know if your contractor is licensed but also if they’re licensed for the work they’ll perform on your project. You can ask to see the contractor’s “pocket license,” which will show distinctly the type of trade in which they are licensed and that license’s expiration date. Even further, you can ask for a physical or digital copy of their license, and then contact the issuing authority to ensure it is currently in good standing. You know the old saying, better safe than sorry.
2. Can I have a copy of your insurance policy?
There’s a difference between asking a contractor if they’re insured versus asking how they’re insured. In other words, you’ll want to specify what types of insurance the contractor carries.
Keep in mind that contractors should have two types of insurance:
- General liability insurance that protects your property in case of an accident
- Workers’ compensation insurance that protects you in case someone gets hurt on the job
Go ahead and ask for copies of insurance certificates for everyone who will be working on your project to ensure all are covered in the capacity that your project requires.
3. Will you be using subcontractors?
If the answer to this question is yes, then ask if they are properly trained, qualified, and insured. Feel free to get as detailed as you want with this one in regard to specific information about the subcontractors. They will be coming and going from your home after all.
4. Who exactly will be at my house and when?
Sure, your contractor will likely have a team of various subcontractors, but not all of them work solely for that contractor. You want to have a dedicated team on the project and know which guys will be there every day and if they’ll be bringing anyone else in. This will help you feel more comfortable and informed about who is in your home each day.
5. Who is the project manager?
You’ll want to know who you can check in with on a regular basis and feel confident that they’ll be responsive to your questions. Find out who they are, what they’ll oversee each day, and how often they’ll check in.
6. What is your working day like?
It’s totally acceptable — and smart — to get an idea of what a typical workday will look like for your contractor. This could mean asking questions like, What are the approximate start and end times for construction? And What will the noise level be like throughout the day?
7. Will you use tarps and shoe coverings?
Don’t be afraid to ask about the protective measures taken in the areas affected by the work zone. Better yet, emphasize it is important to you that crew members protect your home.
If your project involves heavy construction work, ensure crew members use tarps to cover large furniture items and surfaces in work areas. You can even ask if you should remove any items from certain areas to protect them from potential damage during construction.
8. How and where will tools and materials be stored?
This is a big one in terms of safety — especially if you have kids. Make sure that the contractor’s tools, materials, equipment, and supplies are all safely stored away at the end of each day, so they will not pose a hazard in the home when they’re not being used.
9. Do you need me to be home at any point during the day?
While your initial reaction is that your contractor probably just wants you out of the way, in reality, he will likely appreciate the offer. It may also be helpful if you share any useful information about your home or neighborhood for the parts of the day you are away. Some examples could be:
- The neighborhood parking situation
- Which restrooms are available for the subcontractors to use
- Where power outlets are located
- Anything concerning pets you have in the home
10. How will you clean up at the end of each day?
In addition to putting tools and equipment safely away, there are several things you should clearly establish about cleanup. This includes confirming the removal of trash and where the contractor will dispose of it, ensuring that nails and other potentially hazardous items will be picked up off the floors, and wiping down surfaces of dust and other remnants, etc.
11. How will we regularly check in?
Having a direct point of contact on the project is key. First, figure out who this person is, how they plan to communicate with you, and how often. Determine whether your contractor prefers to communicate in person, through phone calls, texts, or email, and determine the best times to reach them. It’s important that you both agree to have a regular check-in plan in order to ensure work is getting done on time and to your expectations.
Pro tip: log any updates or correspondence in writing so you can hold your contractor accountable.
12. Have you obtained building permits in my area?
Obtaining permits and setting up inspections for you is something any qualified contractor should be able to take care of from the get-go. This is where having a contractor who is familiar with the area and has done work here before comes in handy. Make sure they know the permits you need, how to get them, and are willing to get them for you.
13. Are there any other projects you’re working on now?
There’s a good chance your contractor has other projects in their schedule in addition to yours. So by asking this question, you can gauge if there is anything on their plate that could interfere with your schedule. And if your contractor is splitting the time between projects, you can even ask him how any changes to the timeline will be addressed in the future.
14. How and when do you invoice customers?
Eliminate any confusion when it comes to paying for your project from day one. Make sure you know how much is due, when it’s due, and what form of payment your contractor accepts.
15. Do you offer a warranty or work guarantee?
In most cases, a contractor will offer a warranty or guarantee on their work. Find out if yours does, and if so, what it covers and how long it will remain in effect. You should also request copies of manufacturer warranties for the materials used in your home and keep all of this information in one place.
16. Will you agree to include a termination clause?
A termination clause can be a bit of an awkward question to ask, but in the end, it benefits both you and the contractor — not to mention it avoids any ugly disputes. This agreement allows either party to get out of the contract at any point along the project on terms that both parties agreed to. For example, if a contractor isn’t getting paid, they can pull out of the project. Likewise, if the work isn’t getting done, you can sever ties as well.
To learn more tips about choosing the right contractor, questions to ask a general contractor, or how to deal with shady contractors, contact RenoFi today.