What to expect when hiring a contractor
Hiring a contractor for a home improvement project can be a complicated process. If you’re not sure how the process works or what to expect, you’re not alone! Many homeowners have questions about how to hire a reputable contractor with confidence. To help you have a better experience, we’ve compiled a list of key actions and questions that will help you pick the right contractor for your home improvement project:
Ask key questions
Once you know what you want done in your home and find some contractors who offer the service(s) you want, it’s time to start the hiring process.
Set up an appointment or home visit with a contractor and be sure to cover the following topics:
Credentials, certifications, and licensing
Does the contractor you’re talking to have all required state or regional licenses to legally complete the work? Make sure their licenses are current. Are they certified and qualified to do the work you want? Do they have additional memberships? National and regional memberships to organizations like the Better Business Bureau and industry-specific certifications can indicate a contractor’s dedication to training, service, and ongoing education.
Find out if they use subcontractors
Many contractors will bring in subcontractors to complete pieces of their jobs. If the contractor you’re evaluating is one of them, make sure the subcontractors are also properly licensed and do reputable work.
Check the contractor’s permits and insurance
Make sure you’re not liable for any on-the-job accidents or damage by checking the contractor’s insurance. Contractors should have coverage for property damage, worker’s compensation, and personal liability insurance. Get a copy of the contractor’s insurance policy before they start work.
Does your project require a permit?
Some home improvement and construction projects require a state or local permit. Ask your contractor if your project will require a permit and whether they are comfortable with the permitting process.
Does the contracting company have any litigation history or a bad reputation?
Check the Better Business Bureau, your state’s contractor licensing board, and online review sites like Angie’s List, Home Advisor, and Yelp.If there is any record of issues with the contractor, it may be an indication that you should continue your search somewhere else.
If it’s a large project, you probably want to ask your contractor for 2-3 references.
A high-quality contracting company should be able to provide references upon request. These references are usually some of the contractor’s most recent past customers. Be aware that the contractor will filter the detractors out of this list, so it’s important to do some research beyond the references they provide you.
Friends and neighbors
Has anyone in your area used this contractor before? Were they referred to you by a friend? Be sure to ask questions about the contractor’s timelines, courtesy, cleanliness, and quality of work.
Get your contract in writing
Some states require written contracts and some don’t, but be sure to ask for a written agreement regardless. The contract should include the who, what, when, where, costs, and any additional details of the project. This agreement will provide a reference point if timelines or prices start to slide.
Be aware of timelines
A homeowner’s nightmare is a contractor who keeps pushing out timelines and gives inaccurate estimates. It’s important to understand that the contractor you select might be too busy to start immediately. Even so, they should set clear expectations upfront about how long the project is expected to take. Ask your contractor for the key factors that may extend the project, and do what you can to keep them from happening.