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No matter how large or small your next home improvement project is, you always want to know what type of general contractor you are getting into business with. After all, if it is a lengthy remodeling or construction project, you could be spending days or months together. Just like any job you apply for or new relationship your form, you want to get to know the person first. There is no better way to get to know your next contractor than with these five essential questions.
Be as prepared as possible for your next home improvement project by asking these five pivotal questions that all need to be answered before signing that contract (and yes, you should be signing a physical contract; no verbal agreements).
At the end of the article, we would love to hear from you. Let us know what questions we missed or what you thought of this piece in the comments section below. We love hearing from homeowners.
1. Are you licensed and do you have Liability Insurance and Workers Compensation? If so, may I have a copy?
In any home improvement contract, you need to make sure the contractor is licensed and has obtained General Liability Insurance and Workers Compensation. Like any hands-on project, there is the possibility of someone getting hurt. If the contractor or their corporation has Liability and Workers Compensation insurance, that means you are not liable if one of the workers get hurt completing your home improvement project. In fact, Liability Insurance is even required in certain states.
Make sure you ask for these documents. While we would like to take everyone for their word, you need to see solid proof of these insurance policies. Also, be sure that the expiration date does not bypass their expected date of completion for the project.
Bonus Tip: If they do not have either insurance, just know you could be liable for injury costs and other legal fees.
2. Once the project begins, what will I need to do?
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Even after you have inked a contract with a licensed contractor, you as the homeowner are never free of tasks until the final product is approved. A common chore general contractors put on their homeowners is pulling permits. Depending on the scope of work being completed, certain permits may have to be pulled or approved by your local building department. If you are adding a porch, a bathroom, bedroom or attic, your city may require a permit. Not all contractors agree to pull those permits for you and the burden sometimes falls on the homeowner. Nonetheless, we highly recommend you have the contractor pull the permit. Certain states even require it. You may save a few bucks by not paying a contractor to pull the permits, but the added responsibility to the project and time commitment with the building departments is most likely not worth it.
3. Do you give written warranties?
This may seem like an obvious question, but you should ask it nonetheless. Before investing $50,000 in a remodeled kitchen, you want a written guarantee that everything will be completed in the right timespan, under budget and most importantly, done correctly. Many contractors will ensure all this by providing a written warranty to the homeowner. Not only will this protect you if a problem occurs years down the road, but should also show you that this contractor is confident and can complete the job well.
4. Can you provide a list of references?
If you were hiring your next contracted employee, wouldn’t you want to hear from people who have worked with them before? The same principle applies to home remodels and contractors. Reach out to their current employers, other homeowners they have worked with or anyone else they give you. In this business, more information and fewer surprises are always well received.
Bonus Tip: Keep in mind, they are giving you these references for a reason. Don’t be surprised if they only have good things to say. After talking with all references, see if their stories match. In the end, if it all sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
5. Have you done similar projects to mine and can I see the results?
Hopefully, some of the references they gave you had similar projects as yours, but if not, ask the contractor if they have done similar work. Even if they have never completed a $50,000 basement remodel, the contractor in question may be the best out there. However, $50,000 is lot of money to invest in a rookie. You will be putting your mind at ease by hiring a contractor who has experience working on similar projects.
Now that you know the questions to ask, find local contractors in your area for your next home improvement project. Also, let us know what questions we missed in the comments section below.
(Flickr photo by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)