10 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a General Contractor

10 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a General Contractor

Hiring the right improvement specialist is kind of like buying a new car, You want to pick one whose work will make you happy and improve the daily functionality of your life for years to come—all while staying within a reasonable budget. With so many general contractors to choose from, it might seem overwhelming deciding which one to hire to accomplish your remodeling goals.

Our many years in the home improvement industry has helped thousands of Americans find the right contractor to remodel, renovate, and repair their residences. This experience helped us put together a list of the top 10 most important questions to ask before hiring a general contractor. Continue reading to find out how you can hire the right home improvement specialist for your new project!

The importance of asking the right questions:

No matter the project size, every homeowner needs to assess their potential contractors’ strengths and suitability to accomplish remodeling goals. Thanks to our many years in the home improvement business, we know the essential questions to ask to find the best general contractor.

Print out or keep in mind these questions when you hire a professional general contractor to perform a new construction, remodeling, rebuilding, or repair job. If your contractor can easily and readily answer all these questions, then you have good judgement to believe they will successfully provide you with a responsible, fully legal remodel.

Question #1Are you licensed pro?

This is a make or break question. You need to verify that the contractor or company is properly licensed. For larger jobs, you want to hire someone who is licensed because they are obligated to construct everything to legal standards, which is important when you decide to sell in the future. Licenses are either issued by states or local counties/cities. Ask for their license number and check for expiration dates. It is also a good idea to check if they are bonded, which makes sure that the company is financially responsible and capable of paying back filed claims.

Question #2How long have you been in business?

While a new contracting business isn’t necessarily a bad choice to go with, when you decide to choose a more experienced company, you have the assurance that they have a proven, accomplished system in place to finish jobs in a professional manner. Some trades require years of knowledge and practice to perfect, so picking a business with at least a few years of proven experience is alway preferable. If you have found a contractor who fits your specific needs, but they lack experience and credentials, consider subcontracting them to do a smaller job. Then, assess their work and use your judgement on whether to hire them for a larger gig.

Question #3Can you provide examples (i.e. photos) of similar jobs you have completed in the past?

In today’s day and age, many contractors and their respected companies will take photos and keep detailed records of previous jobs. Ask for some images of projects that are similar to yours to get an idea of their level of work. If you are spending thousands of dollars, it might be worth it to go the extra mile and ask for the contact information of previous customers to really get a grasp of what finished results look like. Ask the following questions to see how they liked or disliked the contractor.

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    Were you satisfied with the results of the project?

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    Did the project match your budget and was it completed on time?

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    If any, what types of problems or delays occurred?

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    Would you hire the general contractor again?

Question #4Will you be hiring subcontractors for my project?

Contracting companies may handle the majority of a project, but if they lack the skills or tools to accomplish a certain aspect of your project, they will usually hire another group of workers outside of their company to help complete your remodel. If this is the case, ask for the name of everyone who will be hired and the type of work they will complete. Ensure they have the necessary insurance requirements and licenses.

Question #5Will you obtain all of the required building permits?

Depending on the size of your project and where your home is located, certain jurisdictions will require you to obtain building permits (i.e. if you are transforming a garage into a livable room). It is a time consuming and somewhat costly process to collect the required building permits, so we recommend having your contractor do this for you. When your general contractor handles the permit/inspection process, it is their responsibility to bring all your remodels up to legal standing. It’s a bad sign if they ask you to obtain the required permits.

Question #6Who will coordinate the required inspections?

Inspections are required and conducted by local building departments. A qualified general contractor will gladly handle and supervise all parts of the building permit process and any subsequent inspections that are required by law. Make sure you are present during the inspection. You will want to hear the feedback that is given regarding the work.

Question #7How will my project be supervised?

Proper supervision by a lead individual should be conducted at all times, from project start to finish. The project manager must be experienced and extremely familiar with the details of your specific remodel. He or she is held responsible for your work and should be willing to maintain great communication during the construction.

Question #8How can I keep in contact with you?

It is a rather straightforward question but a necessary one that might only come into your mind when you really need them. Some contractors are old school and prefer phone calls, while others are up to speed with all forms of digital communication. Make sure they can be easily reached and ask them what are the best times to get into contact.

Question #9Can you show me proof of your general liability insurance and workers’ compensation?

Just like your automobile or personal health, you want your contractor to have insurance. General liability assures that you are not entitled to pay for damages or negligence. You never know what can happen on a work site, accidents can happen in a blink of an eye. When your contractor is fully insured it gives you peace of mind and shows professionalism. If your contractor is working alone, he/she may not need to have workers’ compensation.

Question #10What kind of written warranty will you give me?

A credible and experienced contractor should provide you a warranty. This guarantees his or her work with a legal warranty that clearly lays out what is covered, what is not, and the length of the coverage. A one or two year is an adequate minimum, however longer coverages are preffered..


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