When undertaking any new project involving working with contractors, the initial research process is a crucial, yet often overlooked stage. Asking the right questions can help you determine whether you’ve found the right contractor for the job and end up saving you time, money and headaches down the line. To help make this process easier for you we’ve compiled a list of some of the most important questions to ask when hiring a new contractor.
Q: What is your history?
This is a great first question and will help you gain a primary understanding of the contractor’s experience. Ask about their background and any relevant education or training they’ve received; this will help you determine whether the contractor has both the technical and business knowhow required to provide a quality service and run a solid company.
Q: What services do you offer?
Asking about the range of services offered by a contractor will help you better understand what exactly you’ll be receiving. You should have a clear understanding of the specific services a contractor can provide for the project at hand. As an example, some contractors may include design services whilst others will work with sub-contracted designers. If they make use of independent sub-contractors, it might be worth looking into them too to find out if you’re comfortable with them working on the project or not.
Q: Have you undertaken similar projects before?
It’s important to know whether the prospective contractor has experience with similar projects or not. This is especially important when working with contractors who offer more generalized, rather than specific services. If the answer is yes, ask about their experience and if they’re willing to provide any examples (photos, designs, etc) of work in the recent past (up to 5 years).
Q: Can we talk to some of your past clients?
Talking to past clients is an excellent way to find out whether you’ve chosen the right contractor. If the contractor refuses or is unwilling to provide past references, you might as well end the interview at this point. A professional contractor should take pride in their past work and shouldn’t hesitate to provide contact information from past projects.
Q: Can we visit one of your current projects?
If the contractor has a current ongoing project it is worth spending some time to visit the work site. Visiting the site will give you an idea of how the contractor operates – are they organized? Is the site clean and tidy or a big mess? Is the ongoing work affecting other areas not involved in the project?
Q: Do you carry Workers’ Compensation and business liability insurance?
Professional contractors should have no problem showing proof of business liability insurance as well as Worker’s Compensation coverage. A contractor who is not properly insured is not only unprofessional, but could also land you in serious legal or financial trouble should an incident occur on the job site.
Q: Will we get a written contract?
It goes without saying, but if the answer to this question is no, then it’s time to look for a different contractor. A contract serves as written evidence of the agreement between you and the contractor. Without this, there is no proof of agreement. Apart from the price being paid, a good contract should also include details such as a description of the work to be carried out, responsibilities of both parties, and the materials being used among others.
Q: What warranty do you offer on your work?
Nowadays, every contractor is expected to provide a detailed, written warranty specifying exactly what is covered and for how long. When checking references, be sure to ask past customers about their experience with the contractor’s warranty service. Was it required? How quick was warranty work carried out? Were they satisfied with the quality of the warranty work provided and are they confident the issue has been resolved? These are just a few of the questions that can be asked when discussing the topic of warranties with past customers.
Q: How would you deal with our project?
It is important to understand the contractor’s approach to the proposed project. Any professional contractor should be able to provide a clear construction/renovation timeline and plan along with relevant information such as start and end dates and the work schedule. Apart from this, it’s worth asking other questions too, like will a design need to be drawn up before you’re able to get a firm price? Who will be responsible for obtaining any necessary permits? Who is responsible for the cleanup? Will they assist/consult you when it comes to product selection? If any/how much is the work expected to disrupt your household?
These are just a few suggested questions that can be used when interviewing a new contractor. By the end of the interview, you should be feeling confident that the contractor has understood your needs and is able to help you accomplish them. If not, you may want to consider looking for alternative contractors that might be able to better suit your needs. Our own David Litwiller has recently been interviewed by Global News on the importance of asking questions when selecting a new contractor: