(Frequently Asked Questions)
I know that it is a good idea to interview at least 3 contractors
before hiring one for my job. But what should I ask a contractor?
are 12 questions to ask when choosing a contractor:
1. Are you licensed?
Some states require that contractors be certified
or registered (such as California and New York). Check if your state
requires these professionals to be licensed. If so, ask the contractor
to show you their license or provide you with a copy. Then confirm
the license number and expiration date with your local jurisdiction.
2. Do you carry general liability insurance?
This type of insurance protects your property in case
of damage caused by the contractor or his employees. The insurance
company will pay for the cost of repairing any damage that occurs.
Ask to see a certificate of insurance and make a copy for yourself.
3. Do you carry workers’ compensation insurance?
This type of insurance protects you from liability
if a worker is injured while on your property. Without this coverage,
you may be liable for any injuries suffered by the contractor or any
of his employees on your property.
4. Can you provide written references?
Good contractors are happy to provide you with references
because they are proud of their work. Look for the references from
jobs that were accomplished within the last 6 months to 1 year and
those jobs that are similar to yours. See if you can arrange a visit
to those past jobs. Try also to ask for professional references from
suppliers or subcontractors to verify sound business practices.
5. What portion of your business is from
repeat or referral customers?
A high percentage here is a good indicator that past
clients are happy with the work.
6. How many projects like mine have you
completed in the past year?
Even contractors with years of experience could be
tackling a particular type of job for the first time. You want a contractor
with experience in the same type of job as yours.
7. Do you guarantee your work?
A good contractor will guarantee their work for at
least one year. Some even guarantee the work for 2 or 3 years.
8. Can you help take care of all the required
When a contractor pulls the required building permits,
you know things will more likely be done to code. Many contractors
will prefer not to pull permits because of the time and effort involved.
Some may even ask you get the permits yourself. Even if they prefer
not to get the permits, they should at least be willing to help if
you ask them.
9. How is your firm organized?
Do you have employees or do you hire subcontractors?
If you do have employees, what are their job descriptions? Do you
use a project supervisor or lead carpenter to oversee the project?
Other firms will have additional positions. You should know what parts
of your project will be handled by staff, and which will be contracted
out to independent contractors.
10. Who will be in charge of the job?
Ideally, the contractor or his foreman is on the job
whenever work is being performed (especially if sub-contractors will
be used). If you will not be home during construction and must leave
a key with the contractor, you must feel comfortable. Ask for contact
information of the person in charge.
11. How do you handle dust and dirt?
Obviously, construction gets dusty and dirty. You
want somebody who will make an honest effort to keep dust contained,
or keep you informed if heavy dust is anticipated so that you can
take the necessary precautions with your belongings. Also, it should
be the contractor’s responsibility to keep all construction debris
at a predetermined place at the end of every workday.
12. Will you provide me with a written
This is a legal document, which says that you, the
homeowner, have paid the contractor in full for the services rendered
and the contractor waives his right to place a mechanic’s lien on
If during the course of construction, you receive any Notice to Owner
documents from material suppliers or sub-contractors, it would be
prudent to ask the contractor for a Final release of Lien from each
one prior to giving the contractor his final payment. This protects
you in case the contractor doesn’t pay his material suppliers or sub-contractors
after you have paid him in full.
Print out a copy of these questions to take with you when you interview
a potential contractor. If you do not have any potential contractors
yet to interview, use the free online contractor referral service