10 Questions To Ask Contractors When Interviewing For A Major Home Improvement Project

By on December 15, 2012

Are you planning a major home improvement project such as an addition or a complete landscaping makeover in the near future? The thought of that can be intimidating and exciting at the same time. Part of that intimidation is finding the right contractor for the job.

If it were a small project such a new furnace or repairing a leaky faucet, it’s not bad. However, when your home or yard is going to be torn up for a while, you want to make sure that it’s going to be put back together with quality workmanship, at a fair price, and in a timely manner.

Interviewing contractors can seem like a daunting task, but it’s completely necessary when dealing with a major home improvement. Your home will be exposed in many ways, with strangers coming and going, leaving your family and valuables vulnerable. So, before you hand over the keys to someone you don’t know, make sure you interview them as if you were entrusting your first born with them.

To help you with the process of the interview, I have comprised a few important questions for you to ask each contractor you are considering.

1. Do they have any Specialties?

Some contractors will be more familiar with certain tasks than others, especially if they specialize in one area. For example, if the majority of their work is roofing, you probably wouldn’t want to hire them for installing a new cedar fence. But, others are comfortable with all areas, especially if they work with many qualified sub-contractors.

So, some contractors might be best to solely work on the fence, while others might be able to manage an entire backyard makeover…with a pool. There are some great tips and advice on www.a1-fence.com to help get the project done.

2. How big is their Crew?

The answer to this will depend on the size of your project. However, it’s nice to know that they have ample amount of people to cover each work day. In other words, if the contractor works solo, yet falls ill along the way, your project will come to a halt.

If someone works with several people, the chances of that happening go down significantly.

3. Do they utilize Subcontractors?

If the project is a major project, it is likely that your contractor will sub some of the work out. Ask them if they have a consistent group of people to work with and if he has a list of them to share with you.
You don’t need to interview them all, but having a list gives you the opportunity to search for information on them as individuals. If the contractor is not willing to share this with you, then I would be suspicious.

4. When will the Job be Complete?

Any contractor should be able to give you a start date, or at least a close estimate. They should also be able to give you a rough estimate of a completion date. Keep in mind, this could change if they run into problems, such as a broken pipe, electrical issues, or a rotted structure.

While you are talking about a schedule, ask what kind of hours they will be working so you know what to expect. If they are not able to work more than a couple hours a day, or couple days a week, then you might want to move on to the next interview. If you are not the priority, you will be the afterthought.

5. Who will be Supervising?

Not all contractors will be on-site at all times. So, find out if the contractor is hands-on, or not…and if they have a supervisor in place for when they are not there.

6. Are the Workers Insured?

A contractor should carry workman’s comp and liability insurance on each worker that enters your home. Have them make a copy of each policy, and keep that in your file.

While you are at it ask them if they are licensed by the following:

  • Local Township/City
  • County
  • State

If they are, get copies of those as well.

7. Will they Break Down the Estimate?

Any reputable contractor should be able to…and willing to walk you through each step of the project so you know what to expect for both price and time. Anyone who is not willing to do this might be less flexible than you care to work with, or just not knowledgeable enough to know. Either way, it’s not a good sign.

8. Do they need a Permit?

Certain projects will most likely require a permit by the city or county that you live in. Find out the answer before you ask, which will help gauge their honesty with you. There’s a possibility that they might not know, if they are not familiar with your exact location. And, there is nothing wrong with that, as long as they are willing to find out…and get back to you with the information.

9. Will they Share References?

They should be able to provide at least 3 references of homeowners they have serviced within the past year. When they provide these, call and ask specific questions such as “was it finished on time?” and “Did they stick to the budget?”. Questions such as “Are you happy with the results?” can be relative to personal taste, and not necessarily the quality of work.

10. What is the Percentage of Repeat Business?

Just as with any business, if consumers are happy with their service, they will go back to them again. So, ask what percentage of their business is based on repeat customers and referrals. Hopefully, that number will be at least 50%, or above.

Hearing the answers to the above questions should help you narrow it down, and give you an idea on whether or not you would be comfortable hiring one of the contractors.

Benjamin Baker is utterly addicted to his career in writing, and spends a lot of time in research as well. He writes on topics that are closely related to his own experiences, as well as what he learns online in his research. Sometimes, he combines them such as his latest series on home improvement after reading an article on Milwaukee fence contractors. Benjamin is married, with 3 busy teenagers and lives in Denver, Colorado. When he is not working, he enjoys playing his guitar, camping, and antiquing with his sons.

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