Interview All Prospective Contractors
Interview all prospective contractors
To ascertain your comfort level with a prospective contractor, you need to conduct a thorough interview with them. You can get most of the information you need by asking them the following questions
What are your qualifications for doing the job?
An experienced contractor will be well qualified to do your job. In finding out about their qualifications you need to find out how long they have been in business and how and when they got started. Ask them about the size of their company. You also need to find out if they do their own work or do they hire subcontractors and what their other company operating policies are. In addition, you will want to ask them about their background, education and training to make sure that they have both the required technical and business skills to provide you with quality services and to ensure that they run a solid company.
What services can I expect from your company?
Depending upon the size of their company, the contractor’s services available to you may differ. They will each provide a specific range of services with some including design services and others possibly working with independent designers. Therefore, it is important for the success of your project that you have a clear understanding of what services the contractor has available to you.
Does your company carry workers’ compensation and business liability insurance?
A professional contractor will be willing to provide you with proof of their Workers’ Compensation and Business Liability Insurance. Remember that hiring someone who is not properly insured could put you at considerable risk, legally and financially.
What kind of warranty does your company offer on your work?
If the contractor does not offer a warranty for their work, you need to find one that does. A professional company will spell out in a written warranty what they cover and for how long they cover it. Professionals will also promptly follow-up if there are problems or if defects are found in their work. It is important to check with past customers about how well the contractor honored their warranty and the service they gave in doing so.
Will your past customers give you good references and can we talk to them?
Request a contact list of at least three of the contractor’s past customers for whom they did similar projects so that you can get references from them. If the contractor is reputable, they will be proud of their work and will be happy to provide this information. If they refuse this information, don’t go any further. You should never hire anyone who refuses to give you references from prior jobs.
Can we visit one of your current job sites?
If you can, visit one of your contractor’s current job sites. In doing so, you can learn a lot about how they operate. You should take note of how well the materials, tools and surroundings are organized, how neat the site is and any measures that have been taken to protect the homeowner and their property.
What kind of contract will I get?
A contract sets out the agreement between you and your contractor and contains the details of your project. It provides the description of the work that is agreed upon, the actual materials to be used, the responsibility of both you and your contractor and the price you will have to pay for the job. If you don’t have these things in writing, there is no proof about what you and your contractor agreed to. If they are not willing to give you a written contract, don’t hire this contractor and stop the interview. You need to always get everything in writing when hiring any contractor.
Are you familiar with this type of building or renovation project?
It is important to know if a contractor has experience and how much experience they have in doing projects like yours. This is because many contractors specialize in certain types of projects such as roofing, flooring, decking or kitchen/bath remodels or repairs. Other contractors are called general contractors because they have experience in almost all phases of building and remodeling. It would be silly to ask a plumbing contractor to build your deck when there are general contractors or specialized decking contractors available to do your job. So, make sure that you have the right kind of contractor for your project and that he has been frequently involved in projects like yours. Ask them how many similar projects they have done in the last year or two.
How would you deal with my specific project?
Ask the contractor for ideas about what they think about your project, what ideas they have for improving it, how they would approach it, and how could you get more value for your money. Include questions about whether they would assist you in choosing the right products for your job and in your budget. You also need to ask them if a design and working drawing is necessary before they can give you a firm contract price. Find out who would handle getting the necessary permits and inspections and would they be responsible for cleaning up the work site during the job and after it is complete.
How long will my project take and what about a start and end date?
It is important to ascertain whether the contractor has the time to take on your project. You need to find out if they are spread too thin. Some questions that you can ask regarding the time schedule should include when they could start the job, how long it would last, what would the schedule be like, could they fit it in your deadline if you have one, and how much and how long would it disrupt your household. If the start date isn’t for several months, they are probably too busy to take on a new project and you might want to find another contractor who has the time to start your project within a reasonable time frame. Moreover, you wouldn’t want to hire someone to do a job for you if you have a deadline you are trying to meet within a short period of time. For example, if you need to add a nursery before your baby is born in 3 months.
How much do you estimate this project will cost?
In your initial consultations with a contractor, you need to get a “ballpark” estimate of the cost of your job. You should compare their figure with that of other contractors for the same exact work to help you make your choice about which contractor to use. While price isn’t the only factor, it is an important one when doing any building or remodeling project, especially if there is a big discrepancy between the quotes you are given. When you get ready to sign the contract, the contractor should be able to give you a final price that would be written into the contract. If he refuses to do so, find someone else to do the work for you.
While you are getting to know the contractor, they should be getting to know you and your project and what you expect out of them as a contractor. If they are talking to ten other people while you are trying to interview them, they are probably not really interested in your job. You can tell their interest level if they are listening carefully, taking notes, offering ideas and suggestions and asking the right questions of you. You should be able to decide at the end of the interview if they understand what you want and if they can help you get it done. By this time, you should be confident in the contractor. Otherwise, you should be ready to find another one who can answer your questions satisfactorily and who is attentive to you and your building or remodeling needs.
We’ve provided you with an easy-to-use Worksheet for Interviewing a Contractor for you to print out to help you conduct these interviews. It includes important questions that you need to ask your contractor.