10 Questions To Ask Before Hiring A General Contractor

You’ve done your research, used Remodel It to estimate costs and find certified contractors in your area, and you’re ready to start on your dream home. At Remodel It, we’re all about educating the homeowner to be a more informed client. So before you hire a contractor, make sure you’re asking the right questions up front to help ensure a smooth process.
Before you start your project, make sure you read our article on what to remodel first!
1. How long have you been in business and can you provide references for similar projects?
Not every contractor has been in business for many years, and that’s ok, but most have been in the trades for years before starting their own company. If they are relatively new, consider starting them on a small project to assess the quality of their work. Be upfront about your concern that their business is new. They will understand and will want to do a great job to get follow on work.
No matter if they are new or have been in business a decade, make sure you get references for similar projects. Talk to the homeowners about their experience. Find out if the project was completed on time and on budget. Did they clean up after themselves or leave a mess? What is the quality of their work?
2. Are you licensed and Insured?
Different states, counties, and sometimes even cities have different licensing requirements. Make sure the contractor you hire has gone through all of the necessary hoops to obtain their license for the job you are hiring them for and that their license is in good standing. Many states maintain a directory of licenses so get a copy of their license and look them up. The same goes for insurance. Obtain a copy and be sure they have both liability and workers’ compensation insurance.
Additionally, there are several trade organizations that offer rigorous certifications such as the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) and the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). Remodel It only uses NARI and NHBA certified remodeling contractors to ensure you are hiring a top quality contractor.
3. Who will be supervising the project?
Will the same person be here each day overseeing your workers and the subcontractors? Having a single source of contact on the job site each day will make communications go smoothly and give you peace of mind that the project is in good hands. If the contractor is using subcontractors you will want to obtain the same license and insurance information from them as well.
4. Will you get permits and arrange for inspections?
Whether or not you need permits depends on the project being done and the local building department. Not every project needs permits, but renovation projects that involve plumbing, electrical, or changing the structure of the home will require permits and inspections. The contractor should obtain these permits and be present for all required inspections.
5. What will this project cost?
The first step is to use Remodel It to estimate renovation costs before talking to contractors. As a more informed client, you can have more productive conversations with your contractor, better understand project costs, and move more confidently and quickly through the renovation process.
Naturally, costs can change during the course of the project due to a number of unseen factors, or due to changes you make as the homeowner. But be sure you obtain detailed estimates in writing. This will help keep the project cost on track and allow you to compare multiple quotes to each other.
When comparing quotes be wary of an estimate that is significantly lower than the others. This estimate may not include certain materials or labor, which can lead to a higher than expected cost.
Pro Tip: Contractors typically charge a % of the total project cost as their fee. This will include the purchasing of materials. You can reduce the amount of fees paid by purchasing some materials yourself. Read our article “How To Save Money On Your Next Renovation Project
6. What is the payment schedule?
Always discuss the payment schedule and preferred payment methods before you start a project. Make sure you understand how much is due and when. Money may be due at specific dates or project hurdles such as after the completion of demolition.
7. What is your timeline for this project?
It’s important for you to have a complete understanding of the project timeline. Nobody wants a project that’s supposed to take 3 weeks to end up taking 2 months. Are there materials that need to be ordered at a certain time to stay on track? Are there other projects you’re working on that can affect our timeline?
8. How will you protect my home and keep it clean?
A great contractor is going to be respectful of your home and make sure the necessary precautions are taken to protect your home and limit the projects impact on your daily life. Dust barriers should be set up inside to keep dust contained to the project site. If workers can’t access the project directly and need to go through your house, protective floor and wall coverings like Ram Board should be used. The site should be cleaned at the end of each day and, of course, when they complete the project. Discuss how and where trash and debris will be thrown out.
Are they getting a dumpster or hauling it off themselves? Also find out if they will be keeping tools and materials on site and ask where they will keep them? If they plan to keep tools and materials on site, make sure they store them in a secure place.
9. How do you handle changes to the project?
Sometimes remodeling projects can be unpredictable. Unforeseen hurdles can arise which increase the original price quoted to you. Have a discussion with your contractor and stipulate they bring these issues to you before spending anything over the original price. This should also be a part of the signed contract.
10. Do you provide a warranty for your work?
One thing I always look for when working with a contractor is a warranty on their work. I prefer to see at least a 1 year warranty. Most will offer some kind of warranty. Make sure you understand how long it lasts and what is covered under the warranty.
Happy renovating!