What to Ask a Potential Contractor

How long have you been in this business? Look for a well-established company, who has not changed names numerous times in the past. Check them out with the local BBB. If there are unresolved consumer complaints that is a red flag. Note:: No record of complaints against any contractor does not mean no previous consumer problems. Many problems go unreported and many contractors do business under several names.

Are you fully licensed and registered with the county and state? Most states license electricians and plumbers but fewer have licensing and registration for contractors and remodelers. Licenses can range from simple registration to a more detailed qualification and testing process. Licensing requirements in one locality are different from neighboring localities. Your local building department is a good place to find out about licensing requirements in your area. If your state has licensing laws, ask to see the contractor’s license. Make sure it’s in-state and current.

How many projects have you completed in the last year like mine? This will help you determine how familiar the contractor is with your type of project. Whatever he tells you ask how many of these people is he related to.

Do I need a permit for my project? Most states and many localities require permits for building projects, even for simple jobs like decks. Competent contractors will get the necessary permits before starting your project. If the contractor asks you to get the permit(s) be suspicious. It could mean his license does not exist or is under suspension.

May I have a list of references? The contractor should be able to give you the names, addresses, and phone numbers of at least three or four clients who he has completed projects that are similar to yours. Ask each how long ago the project was completed and if you can them. Then tell the contractor that you would like to visit his jobs in progress.

Who will be supervise your project? The contractor will predetermine which crew, if he has more than one, your job is best suited to. How long has this person worked for you? This question often leads to the next...

Will you be using subcontractors for my project? If yes you want to make sure they have current insurance coverage and licenses, if required, and a clear complaint file. Also ask them if they were paid on time by this contractor. Even if you pay your contractor in full a "mechanic’s lien" could be placed on your home if your contractor fails to pay his subcontractors and suppliers on your project. That means the debt he incurred on your project may become your debt, even though you paid it. You can protect yourself by asking the contractor, and every subcontractor and supplier, for a lien release or lien waiver.

Who will be working on your home? Ask yourself If you can trust them when your children come home early. Who will need keys or alarm codes - if anyone.

When could you start and finish?

What insurance do you carry? Contractors must have personal liability, worker’s compensation, and property damage coverage. Ask for a copy of insurance certificate. Make sure they are current. Do not do business with uninsured contractors or you may be held liable for injuries and damages that occur during your project.

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