Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Contractor

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Construction Contractor

Whether a client is planning to do a small remodeling job or planning the construction of a home, one of the most important aspects of the job is the selection of contractors. When wondering how to hire a contractor it's important to know that hiring contractors should never be taken lightly. When considering contractor candidates for potential work, clients tend to focus on the costs quoted for the actual project.

And there's nothing wrong with that, but low quotes should never be the only criteria in selecting contractors. As that old adage goes, "You get what you pay for". Saving money on an overall project by cutting corners won't matter much if the result is a structure that is unsafe, unhealthy, inefficient, or in violation of building codes.

It would seem a no-brainer that a contractor who makes errors, does damage to property, violates codes, and doesn't complete work should have to compensate clients. But plenty of unscrupulous contractors have left clients in the lurch and having to correct code violations (with yet more contractors) before they are sued. The good news is that this type of contractor within the construction industry is rare. The even better news is that this contractor can be avoided altogether if clients are willing to do some research and ask some questions.

Are You Bonded And Licensed?A bond issued by a surety company is financial protection against work by a contractor not being completed to a client's satisfaction. In many areas, professional contractors are required to be both bonded and licensed in order to work. A client should always ask to see proof of both before committing to a contractor, and should avoid ones who produce only excuses instead of documents.

What Do You Require For A Down Payment?Ten percent is the industry standard, and some contractors ask for less. Huge red flags: contractors who want payment for work materials or overhead costs "up front" or who want payments in cash. Also beware contractors who want checks or money orders made out to personal accounts as opposed to company ones.

Do You Have References? Is It Possible To See Past Examples Of Your Work?If the answer to either of these is in the negative, keep looking. A reputable contractor will happily direct you to both. Yelp, Angie's List, and HomeAdvisor are good online sites to check for good (and bad) contractors as well. And don't be afraid to check a potential contractor out with the Better Business Bureau and town and city offices.

Are Your Employees Insured?If both the contractor and its employees lack insurance and there is a worker accident on site, then you, client, as the ultimate employer could be responsible for those medical bills! A reputable firm will have a worker's compensation program in place and can verify this for you.

Do You Belong To Professional Organizations?It's not a must that a contractor do so, but it is a good sign that the contractor is invested in the industry, ongoing education for entire staffs, and a desire for continual improvement to benefit both the firm and clients.

How Do You Communicate With Your Clients?It's an important aspect of choosing any contractor, but you should definitely get down, right at the beginning of the selection process, how frequently and how often your contractor will be communicating with you and in what form. For example, you can request that a construction daily report be sent to your email after every day of work. Any professional contractor will be completing one of these anyway, so it is well within your rights as the owner to request that it also be sent to you.