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interviewing a contractor

Some things to ask when interviewing a contractor for any job in or outside of your home
When was your company started?
A good threshold is at least 3 to 5 years, with older companies being better.
What is the size of your company?
You can get a sense if you will be dealing with a few people or a larger company. You should also ask the contractor about his newest and oldest employee. This will let you know if they retain their employees.
What is the size of the crew for my project?
If your project is small, expect there to only be two or three workers involved. For an extensive remodeling project, you will expect more personnel assigned to your project.
Will work be subcontracted out?
If any of the work on your project is to be subcontracted out you should find out whom the subcontractors are and if they have worked together previously.
Will there be a supervisor on my job?
The contractor should supply you a list of names, numbers and in which order to contact them for any needs or questions you may have. Whom is accountable?
What is the schedule for my project?
The contractor may have a start date on your job estimate. You should also ask how long the entire job will take and what the plan is for any supply delays. Discuss daily work hours and any scheduling conflicts you may have up front.
Whats the plan for staying on time?
Can you break down my project for me?
The contractor should take you through the steps of the project and what you can expect. If a contractor is unwilling to go into detail, they may not have a well organized system in place for your project. You have a right to know every step of something you are paying and will have to live with.
Do you specialize in certain projects or are you a general contractor?
The contractor should explain what type of projects they mostly do and what they have done in the past. You may be seeking a specialty contractor if you need only one room done such as a bathroom. You are wanting to know if the contractor is a good fit for the job at hand.
Are your employees covered if they get injured on the job?
The contractor should tell you they carry both workman's compensation and liability insurance and provide copies of the insurance certificates to you. Also ask if they are licensed and registered as required by the city, county, or state. If so, get copies of these documents too. In this way you can be sure their licenses are up to date.
Do your workers have any specialized skills?
If a contractor has employees with specialized skills they will usually share with you any certifications they possess. This shows that the employees are the best in their field and have highly specialized knowledge.
Can I ask for some recent homeowner references?
The contractor should provide you at least 3 homeowners whom they have completed a project for in the past year. Make sure they give you names, addresses, and phone numbers. When you contact these homeowners stay away from broad questions and ask specifics such as "was the job on budget" or "did they keep to their schedule". You will likely get the homeowner to open up more and provide more honest answers. Also ask the contractor for a few business references so you can be sure they are paying all their suppliers on time.
Do you get a lot of repeat customers or recommendations?
If people like a restaurant, they come back, and they come back with friends. Contractors are no different. Typically, a reputable contractor should be getting at least 50% of their business from repeats and recommendations.

There are always more questions to ask.  It may take several talks and calls to find the best contractor for the job at hand.  Good luck.  Its spring work and the projects are in the air.


16 Comments to interviewing a contractor:

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