Must Ask Questions For Your Next General Contractor
Updated: Sep 8
For many home owners, especially new ones, renovating your home can seem like a daunting task. Depending on the scale and scope of the project you might be thinking about outsourcing the work to someone who has a little more expertise.
Doing DIY project in the home can save you a lot of time a money, but when you factor in the price of having to fix errors you make along the way, hiring a general contractor is a more logical option.
This is your house, your pride and joy, so let's make sure you hire the right contractor that will get your project done smoothly and on budget.
How long have you been working in the industry?
Experience says a lot. For the most part a contractor that has been around for 30 years has a lot more experience than one that has been around for 10 years.
A proven track record of work and and stability also shows that the seasoned contractor is more credible as well.
Have you done a project comparable to mine? Do you have photos of your work?
All general contractors will answer “Yes” to the first part of the questions, but the second part will force them to put their money where their mouth is.
Ideally the right general contractor can show you a portfolio of the best and most comparable work to prove their experience.
Why hire someone who can’t prove they can give you the result you want.
Are you licensed?
Unlicensed contractors will cost you more. An unlicensed contractor might even give you better rate than a licensed one as well.
But what does it mean to be licensed? Well, it means that the contractor paid the dues, passed the proper tests and is properly bonded & insured by the county.
If a painter is painting your home and falls off of a ladder, resulting in a broken arm, that painter can sue you, the homeowner, to cover his medical bills. If you would have hired a licensed contractor, the insurance would have covered it.
Reputable General Contractors will have their licensing information in the footer or somewhere on their website.
Do you belong to any professional organizations?
A Contractor that is apart of local organizations shows that they are an authority in their field. There are a lot of professional organizations, based on trade, that a contractor can join to stay up to date with the most current trends and issues.
This isn’t a very important thing for a contractor to have, but if you are weeding down your top 3 contractors you might want to go with the one that is apart of an organization.
Can you provide a list of references?
Yelp and other directories are an easy way for you to see what the public thinks. Your contractor should be able to direct you to their Yelp, Google My Business or a page of their website.
Hopefully your contractor won’t give you a list of their client’s phone numbers to call. Stay far away from a contractor doesn’t respect your privacy.
What is the projected timeline for this project?
Any contractor worth his or her weight can give you a detailed plan and timeline of materials and steps that need to be taken to complete the project.
Some projects require more time simply because they require permits, inspections and audits. However, your ideal contractor should give you a detailed timeline.
This timeline is called a Time and Material Contract and it give you more leverage. This contract insures that the contractor won’t stretch the project out too long and spend more money than needs to be spent.
A lot of contractors will not sign a Time and Material contract, but if one will it is a good sign to go with that contractor.
Will you be on site at all times to oversee progress of the job?
Most contractors are simply too busy to be on site all of the time. However, a good contractor will stop by to check in.
An even better contractor will send you photos of the progress being done or even post them to social media for you to see.
Any contractor is transparent in the work process is worth your time because it will make the process more stress free.
Who pulls required permits for the job?
Pro tip: any contractor who want you to pull the permits is trying to avoid licensing requirements or responsibility for your project.
Whoever ends up pulling the permits is the one that is responsible for things getting done and obtaining the notice of completion.
You can save yourself a lot of stress by getting a contractor who pulls the permits.
Do you have any guarantees of your work?
A lot of contractors do not do this, but any contractor that does is worth it. Any guarantee can insure that you are going to get quality work on your project.
It doesn’t hurt to ask about any work guarantees that they might not have opening listed on their website.
Have you been involved in any legal disputes?
Sometimes contractors get involved in legal disputes because they perform low quality work that ends up breaking or even worse injuring the homeowners.
A contractor will try to bury these disputes to let them show up to anyone, but if you find out a potential contractor was in one, you should stay far away.
Have you ever operated under a different name or declared bankruptcy?
You should always ask if the contractor has operated under any name. If they say that they haven’t you should always do your due diligence and make sure for yourself.
When contractors get sued and declare bankruptcy, they will often times change their business name to cover it up.
How many other projects do you have going on right now?
When you hire a contractor it would be a good idea to know how spread out the contractor’s resources are.
You wouldn’t want to hire a small contractor that has 5 other jobs going on at the same time. This would result in your project taking a lot longer that normal.
How do you maintain a clean and safe job site?
Safety is essential on a job site. Since there is such a high chance of someone getting injured on a job site, it is a good idea to hire a contractor that practices safety.
This not only makes sure the workers won't get hurt, but also makes sure that other parts of your home won't get broken.