Questions You Should Ask a Contractor Before Building

by Megan WildMarch 7, 2018

You started batting renovation ideas around the moment you realized your current living space wouldn’t satisfy the growing needs of your family. After a lot of research and internal debate, you’ve finally settled on a plan. What you have in mind requires a big financial commitment, and an even bigger emotional one if you take into account timing and relative inconvenience — but in the end, you’re convinced it’ll ease both cost of living and spatial flow issues.

First, you need to hire a contractor. Ideally, you’d like someone with marked experience who displays both innovation and hard-line completion skills. How can qualities such as these be determined in an initial interview? Is there a way to assure your chosen candidate will ultimately deliver what’s promised?

Read on for a list of questions to ask your contractor which, when answered definitively from the get-go, help protect the value of your investment and smooth the way for a successful project partnership.

What Is Your Anticipated Timeline?

This question sets the standard for a course of action that puts you firmly in the co-pilot seat. Because renovation timelines are necessarily sequenced — demolition comes before reconstruction, and structural elements are installed before decorative — your participation and involvement can be entirely proactive.

With a shared task schedule, you’ll know exactly when to remove furnishings, how long you can expect to be without water or electricity and when things will begin to finally come together.

You should also discuss subcontractor scheduling and work out a means of payment installments that fit within your overall budget plan.

Do You See Any Red Flags?

Most of the time, worrying about the possibility of bad news is an unfortunate waste of time and energy. Not so with a renovation. Seasoned contractors spy water stains, foundation cracks or buckled shingles and walk into a project prepared for the discovery of deeper problems.

Since many alarming issues are hidden behind walls, under floors and in ceilings, you can’t be sure about anything until demolition begins full swing. But you can discuss possible red flags and suggested remedial plans, including a blow-by-blow cost analysis before the first sledgehammer hits home.

Can I See Your Certification?

In addition to inquiries regarding relevant experience and customer feedback, make sure to ask for a certificate of insurance and any licenses that may be required under the terms of the project in your particular state.

You’ll also want to know if sub-contractors are covered under workers compensation and confirm that check payments will be made out to a business or LLC, not an individual.

How Will My Property Be Protected?

Ask specifically about how your possessions, home structure and surrounding property will be protected while work is ongoing. Stealing from an active construction site is unfortunately common. So make sure your contractor will take proactive measures such as installing exterior lighting and making sure that all entry points are locked when they leave the site.

Go over what you are willing to be responsible for in each scenario, such as placing valuables in storage, maintaining a consistent system of airflow ventilation after-hours and covering or relocating delicate plantings.

Will I Receive Complete Documentation?

Your project may require building permits and certificates of completion from your local land office. Typically, the application is made by the contractor. Make sure you receive final copies of all inspection reports and certification approvals. In addition, compile bills marked paid-in-full for tax and resale purpose, as well as a list of service technicians well-versed in the maintenance and care of your newly-installed upgrades.

What Is Your Preferred Mode of Communication?

Get a feel for your contractor’s work routine and how he’d prefer you to check in and coordinate. If you send a time-sensitive email, will he see it that evening or over the weekend? Is it hard to hear a cell phone ring on site? Don’t be afraid to get up close and personal regarding the best times and methods of communication. After all, you’re partners in this building project!

These questions are a good place to start when evaluating a contractor’s qualifications and availability. Make sure to also ask your neighbors and family about their experience and to check out their recommendations before hiring a contractor!

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About The Author
Megan Wild
Megan Wild enjoys finding easy and low-stress ways to improve your home. In her downtime, she enjoys flipping flea market finds, hanging out with her dog, and writing on her home-themed blog, Your Wild Home. She's passionate about sustainability and environmentalism, and you can find her tweeting about both @Megan_Wild.