Anyone who’s ever seen Tom Hanks in “The Money Pit” or Ice Cube in “Are We Done Yet?” has an appreciation for the contractor’s role when it comes to influencing the nature of your home remodeling experience. As these films so heartily illustrate, remodeling can be a less-than-pleasant undertaking when handled poorly.
Ultimately, it all comes down to the nature and qualifications of the individual running the project. Consider these nine questions to ask when you’re hiring a contractor to help make sure your job is more uplifting than demoralizing.
Are You Licensed?
Lots of people will tell you they are. It might even say so on their website and business card. However, when you go check public records for their license, it’s nowhere to be found. It’s far easier to track someone down when they have a license. You can also check to see what their reputation is with far less difficulty.
Are You Insured?
Hiring an uninsured contractor means gambling with your financial future. If your contractor accidentally causes you or a third party bodily injury or property damage, you might be financially responsible as the property owner — unless the contractor has contractor business insurance, specifically a general liability insurance policy. Then their policy will cover these expenses following an accident.
Request a copy of the contractor’s certificate of insurance before you sign the deal. Make sure it lists you as the certificate holder — and get it from their insurance company. Don’t accept one handed to you by the contractor.
Can You Provide References?
You want to talk to people with whom they’ve worked in the past to ensure all of the stipulations of their agreements were met — in a timely fashion. You also want to get a look at the quality of the work they did.
Granted, the prospective contractor is going to refer you to someone for whom they did a stellar job. However, you can then ask that person how they found the contractor and if they would refer you to the people who provided the original reference.
You’ll also want to check with the Better Business Bureau, Yelp, Angie’s List, and other referral sites to get an idea of this person’s reputation.
Where Is Your Office Located?
Ask for their physical address and meet them there to ensure it’s a real place. Do not work with people who can only provide a cell phone number and communicate with text messages. It’s too easy for someone like that to disappear with your deposit money — never to be heard from again.
Can You Introduce Me to the Foreman?
This is the person with whom you’ll be working day-to-day. You want to make sure they are articulate, communicative, and have a professional bearing. Ask to be taken to a job that person is currently managing so you can get an idea of the way they run a site — which your home will also become once you sign with these people. If the contractor says they’ll run the job themselves, ask if they will be there every day — and you’ll want an unequivocal yes to that question.
Do You Warranty Your Work?
Materials must be of good quality. They must also be installed properly. One bad measurement can throw an entire project off kilter. If this happens, what recourse will you have to ensure the project is completed to your satisfaction?
A warranty is a written pledge or guarantee that, for example, any defect or flaw will be replaced or repaired. The guarantee has a time limit.
What Logistics Should We Be Prepared to Accommodate?
An experienced contractor should be capable of giving you a solid time estimate once you’ve spelled out exactly what you want done. They should also be capable of looking at the site and telling you where the dumpster will have to go, how many people to expect at the place on any given day, and where they’ll need to park. Where will the portable bathroom need to be located and what permits will be required to comply with all appropriate regulations? You’ll also need to know how materials deliveries will be accomplished and if there’s enough room for larger trucks to do so.
Do You Itemize Bids?
It’s really easy to bury outsized costs in a blanket bid. Further, if you decide to make changes along the way — say you eliminate slate flooring and go with linoleum — the final price should reflect that change. If you go with an overall price, you’ll have no way of knowing whether or not the funds you provide are spent appropriately.
Satisfactory answers to these nine questions to ask when you’re hiring a contractor should get you a capable professional who is sincere about doing good work.