Marcia's Blog

6 questions to ask before hiring a contractor

If you are a homeowner, there will come a time when you will either want to make home improvements or you will need to have something in your house repaired.

If you are a homeowner, there will come a time when you will either want to make home improvements or you will need to have something in your house repaired. While you may be able to fix a leaky faucet, there are some improvements that are so complex that you’d be better off hiring a contractor.

If you’ve never hired a contractor before, the process could be a little overwhelming. After all, you’re trusting the well-being of your home to this person so you want to make sure he or she is qualified and not running a scam. You also want to make sure you’re getting the best possible deal.

Unless you get a glowing recommendation from someone you trust, always interview more than one contractor before hiring one. Not sure what to ask? Here’s where to start.

Question one: What insurance do you have?

If damage is done to your property or someone is hurt on the job, you want your contractor to have insurance to pay for it. Make sure your contractor has personal liability insurance, worker’s compensation and property damage coverage and always ask to see a copy of the insurance certificates so you know they are current.

Question two: Are you licensed with the state?

Some states require certain types of home contractors to be licensed in order to sell their contracting services. Before you start looking for a contractor, check with your local building department or your state’s consumer protection agency to see if your state is one of them. If your state does have licensing requirements, make sure you see the contractor’s current license.

Question three: How many similar projects have you completed?

While every contractor has a first customer, you don’t want it to be you. Look for someone who has plenty of experience, particularly in performing the repair or improvement you’re hiring the contractor for.

Question four: Could you provide me with a list of references?

Once you’ve established that the contractor has done this type of work before, ask for a list of happy customers who can vouch for him. Don’t just take the contractor’s word for it. Take the time to actually call the references to make sure that he has a history of performing good work.

Question five: Does the project need a permit?

Many building projects require you to get a permit from your city or local jurisdiction to do the necessary construction work. Your contractor should not only know what permits you need, but he should also get the necessary permits for you before starting work. If the contractor asks you to get the permit yourself, look for another contractor.

Question six: Will you be using subcontractors?

Some contractors will hire subcontractors to help out particularly if it is a big job. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but make sure you know in advance and ask to see insurance certificates and licenses for the subcontractors as well. Another thing you should do if the contractor is using subcontractors is ask all parties in the project to give you a lien waver. That’s a document that ensures that you won’t be sued if the main contractor fails to pay the subcontractor for the work.

Home improvements are not only necessary for home maintenance, but they can often increase the value of your home and help you to build wealth. The key to success is information. You’ll be glad you took the extra precautions to find the right contractor for the job.