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Homeowners' FAQ
(Frequently Asked Questions)

#1: 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?

Here 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 building permits?
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 lien waiver?
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 your property.
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 at




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