Hiring a general contractor isn’t as hard as it sounds. All it takes is a bit of research, the proper questions, and knowing how to be specific with your contract. We’ve built you a handy guide on what to ask and when before hiring. You’ll be living in style in no time.
Do your homework before responding to quotes. Investigate the three questions below to sort through your options. If the contractor isn’t up to snuff, you’ve saved yourself some time and effort.
1. Is the contractor bonded, licensed, and insured?
Find a contracting company that’s licensed and legit. Liability and workers comp insurance offer protection if your home gets damaged during construction or workers are hurt on site. Being bonded means you’re protected if the contractor bails on work, doesn’t pay for permits, or fails to pay workers. See why these are important? (If you want more info, each state has different regulations, so get up to speed by checking State Consumer Protection.) In addition, the contractor’s insurance company should issue a General Liability certificate to you showing your name and address as a certificate holder. This guarantees the coverage for the specific project at the address where the work is performed. They can also ask for a copy of the worker’s comp insurance certificate to be on the safe side. In addition, all subcontractors should have workers comp insurance.
2. Do they have good reviews?
Read online reviews – they can be telling. Of course you already know this. We’re just gently reminding you.
3. How does their online portfolio look?
Do they have photos of previous work? Does it look wonderful?
Talking to Candidates
Now you’ve narrowed down your options, engage with your contractors via phone or email. With these four questions, you’ll discover if they can work with your project and if you should arrange an in-person meeting.
4. Do you take on projects of my scope?
It might turn out your second story addition done entirely with mosaic tiles isn’t in the contractor’s scope. You’ve saved everyone the time and effort of a site visit. Separately, inquire if they have design training, and if not, consider hiring an architect or designer to ensure your vision is met.
5. How many projects do you run simultaneously and how long have you worked with your subcontractors?
You want a company that will have time for your needs, and a company that has long-term relationships with its subcontractors.
6. What permits does my project need and will you obtain them?
Permits mean the work is up to code, your homeowners insurance will cover it later on down the line, and everything is above board. If a contractor isn’t willing to obtain permits, it may be a sign they’re not licensed.
7. What’s your expected payment schedule?
It’s normal to put down a deposit of roughly 10 percent to get started, but anything more may be a red flag. Cash up front is always questionable. Ask in what time frame and increments payments are expected. Don’t be shy to talk about money!
In Person Meeting
Now you have two or three people you’re ready to talk business with. When you meet, ask yourself if they showed up on time, were easy to communicate with, and were respectful of your questions. You should never feel talked down to or like you’re putting a contractor out for asking these questions. It’s an equal business relationship and you have the right to know how this will go.
8. Who will be working in my home?
Many general contractors serve as the business head and hire foreman to run projects. Ask to meet the project manager and make sure it’s someone you want at your house each day.
9. How do you work?
What time does the work day start and end? Do they clean up at the end of each day? Will they haul off garbage and debris? If they’re working inside, ask how they’ll protect your hardwood floors from damage. It’s best to talk about all of this upfront and get it in writing!
10. Will you itemize the bid?
This allows you to see what each line item costs, and determine if you think it’s fair. It also means you can expand and contract, cost-wise, with more ease if there needs to be wiggle room in your budget.
11. How have you resolved differences of opinion in the past?
Massive home projects may involve differing ideas of what should happen. Does the contractor react sanely and soundly when you even ask this question? It would be nice to deal with someone who could communicate if challenges arose.
12. Does the contract cover everything?
Review the contract carefully and make sure you understand it. Have a clear start and end date in writing. Remodels are always prone to change, but putting as much of the plan into structured writing means everyone has clear expectations about what will happen when. Want to do more research for be you get started? Read the Federal Trade Commission’s tips for more information on protecting yourself and your home. It’s always wise to ask the contractor what is not included along what is included. This should help avoid conflicts during the project. For example, the discussions may have covered built-ins. So, are they included or an extra? If included, are they paint or stain grade? If paint grade, are they finished similar to quality you expect in furniture? A sample always helps.
You’re all set to be a savvy home remodeler! Ready to start your new project?