7 Questions To Ask Before Hiring a Contractor

by Akin Akin

DIY Landscaping for Less photo

Need to hire a contractor? Don’t hire trouble for yourself. Here are 7 questions to ask before hiring a contractor and signing a contract.

Imagine what you could lose, tapping into your home equity only to hire a bad contractor for a home renovation. In this case, prevention is better than cure and the best way to do so is to interview your prospective contractors and ask the right questions. These are seven questions you should ask before hiring a contractor.

1. Do you have a contracting license?

Contractors are required to be licensed. The type of license needed depends on the type of projects that such a contractor handles and the state in which he or she operates. The first question you should ask is if he or she is licensed. There are strict consequences for hiring an unlicensed contractor. For instance, in California, the person hiring an unlicensed contractor could find themselves liable for any injuries suffered by workers on the job.

2. Are you insured?

According to the Federal Trade Commission, there are three types of insurance policies that a contractor should have. They include Contractors Professional Liability Insurance, Property Damage Insurance, and Workman’s Compensation Insurance. If your contractor doesn’t have any of these, you could end up being liable for any injuries or damage that occur during the completion of your project.

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3. How long have you been in business?

Asking a contractor how long he has been in the business is simply a way of asking how much experience he has. The more experienced contractors are familiar with the problems that can surface during a project. Moreover, they are capable of sticking with budgets and keeping to schedules. It is always recommended that you inquire about your would-be contractor on the Better Business Bureau website before entering into any agreements.

4. How many projects are you currently working on?

Although it is ideal for a contractor to be busy, a contractor that appears to be too busy is a bad choice. The implication of hiring an overly busy contractor is that there is a high probability that your project would be handled by subcontractors that you have not checked out.

5. Will I need a permit?

It is essential that you ask your contractor if you require a permit to execute a particular project. Different projects require different types of permits. For instance, the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Stormwater Program requires a permit for discharges from construction activities that disturb one or more acres of land. Depending on the location of the construction site, either the state or Environmental Protection Agency would administer the permit. Going ahead without a permit for a project that requires one comes with serious consequences.

6. What is the payment schedule?

It is important you agree on a payment schedule that would benefit you and minimize loss. Payment schedules vary from contractor to contractor. This is why you need to ask this question upfront. If a contractor cannot agree to a payment schedule that would allow you to pay in installments based on a contractor’s ability to meet project milestones, then you should be interviewing the next contractor.

7. Do you offer a warranty?

To safeguard yourself against bad workmanship, it is important to ask a prospective contractor if he offers a warranty. A contractor who provides a warranty would be liable for repairs and damages that occur as a result of poor workmanship. Some states like California require that a licensed contractor provide a warranty against defective workmanship. Whatever the situation, you should not hire a contractor that does not offer a warranty.

Reviewed July 2023

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