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Questions to Ask When Interviewing a Contractor

Updated on May 25, 2016

You’ve decided to take the plunge and make the home improvement—an updated kitchen, an extra room, an enlarged master bedroom—that you’ve always dreamed of. A big part of making sure that the process goes smoothly and the end result meets your expectations is choosing a knowledgeable, reliable contractor to get the job done right. How do you find the right person for the job? Here are some of the questions you should be asking to make sure you are hiring a qualified professional.

The Basics

  • Are you licensed?
  • Do you carry workman’s comp insurance for your employees?
  • Do you carry liability insurance in case something goes wrong on the worksite?

Getting a “no” in response to any of these questions on a major remodel should be a deal breaker. According to experts at Sea Pointe Construction, in California a contractor working on any job valued at over $500 must have a current, valid license from the Contractor’s State License Board. Using an unlicensed or uninsured contractor may open you up to financial liability without recourse if a worker is injured, something is damaged on your property, or a subcontractor goes unpaid, not a situation you want to find yourself in.

Learn About Their Prior Work

  • Can you provide a list of references?

Ideally your prospective contractor will be able to give you a list of references so you can check the quality of their work and find out if previous clients were satisfied with the remodeling process. If they hesitate or cannot provide such references, take it as a sign that they probably don’t have any happy former clients for you to talk to.

Get It In Writing

  • Can you provide an itemized price estimate?
  • Can you provide a detailed schedule?
  • What is the payment schedule for the job?
  • Who will pull the permits?

You should be able to make your decision on a contractor based on a detailed estimate that itemizes costs for labor and materials on each part of your job. When you decide to proceed, your contractor should provide all of the details regarding cost, schedule, work hours, the agreed-upon payment schedule, guarantees, and termination clause in a written contract. The contract should outline who is responsible for tasks from start to finish, so there are no nasty surprises along the way. Reputable contractors will not hesitate to put the terms of your agreement in writing.

Establish Communication

  • Will you be on site daily?
  • If not, who will be the responsible party on-site managing the process?
  • How will you keep me up to date on progress?

A general contractor is meant to oversee your remodel and coordinate between the various subcontractors. You’ll want to know that even if they aren’t on site at all times, they are keeping close tabs on the progress of your job. Just as important, you’ll want to establish ahead of time how they will share information on that progress with you, whether that’s by regular phone calls, daily emails, or some other mutually agreed-upon method.

Doing your homework in advance can help make your remodel a more pleasant experience from start to finish.

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