If you're in the process of trying to find a dependable contractor for a home improvement project, there are several steps you can take to ensure a positive outcome. Since clear and frequent communication is the foundation of any successful relationship with a contractor, knowing what questions to ask can make all the difference. Here are some general guidelines for screening potential contractors and determining which one would be the best match for your budget, your home improvement needs, and your personality. Not only is it important that the contractor be experienced, dependable, and conscientious, but it's also crucial that they're easy to work with and customer service oriented. If they're too abrasive or don't seem genuinely interested in ensuring your satisfaction, then you'd probably be better off looking elsewhere. Being competitively priced is also very important. Questions to Ask Contractors Although each situation is different when dealing with home builders, handymen, or home improvement contractors, here's a list of questions that would apply to most companies:
- "How long have you been in business?" One of your top priorities is to avoid fly-by-night operations that are in business today, and nowhere to be found, next week. Longevity in business is usually a sign that the contractor is conscientious about customer satisfaction, that they care about doing good quality work, and that they're in compliance with the legal requirements of running a contracting business. It's certainly not a guarantee of any of those things, but it's a good starting point in evaluating their qualifications.
- "Would you provide me with some recent customer references -- preferably ones who had the same type of work done as what I'm planning." If the contractor balks at this, then they may have something to hide -- like a trail of dissatisfied customers or a just a lack of customers. The ideal scenario, of course, is to get a contractor recommendation from a trusted family member, a friend, or a neighbor. When that isn't possible, a brief telephone conversation with a couple current or past customers of a contractor you're considering can provide a lot of insights into key factors like timeliness, professionalism, the quality of their work, whether they leave their work site clean, and their level of customer service and communication. By the way, one online source for neighbor recommendations is a social networking site called Nextdoor.com.
- "What type of insurance do you have?" If they're not current on their personal liability insurance, Workers' Compensation, and property damage insurance coverage, then you could potentially be liable for any injuries and damage that take place on your property during the project. However, reputable contracting companies recognize the importance of carrying the necessary types of contractor insurance, and they make it their business to keep those policies current and up to date. As a side note, it's also wise to find out if there will be any subcontractors working on the job, and if they also have the required licenses and insurance coverage. Asking for copies of insurance certificates is generally the only way to make sure the needed coverage is in place.