Hiring a Contractor? Here’s What to Ask


You’ve decided to call in a contractor for your next home renovation project, but you haven’t chosen who to hire yet. How can you make sure you select one that is competent, qualified and trustworthy? It’s all in the questions you ask while hiring a contractor.

If you don’t ask the right questions, you could be creating a giant headache for yourself down the line. Being shortsighted and neglecting to conduct a thorough interview of each potential contractor only invites trouble.

According to the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI), their contractor members say these are the most common questions they get from homeowners:

  • When can you start?
  • When will you be finished?
  • What time will you knock on my door each morning?
  • What time will you quit for the day?
  • Are you going to work every day?
  • Can you finish before (insert any major holiday or significant family event)? How much will it cost per square foot?

However, NARI says these are the questions homeowners should actually be asking when hiring a contractor:

  • How long have you been in business?
  • Who will be assigned as project supervisor for the job?
  • Who will be working on the project? Are they employees or subcontractors?
  • Does your company carry workers compensation and liability insurance? (Always verify this information by calling the agency. A copy of an insurance certificate does not let you know if the policy is still current. Even if the certificate has an expiration date, you cannot tell if the insurance has been canceled by either party. If licensing is required in your state also ask if the contractor is licensed and call to verify compliance with the law. Not all states offer or require licensing. Check with your local or state government agencies.)
  • What is your approach to a project such as this?
  • How many projects like mine have you completed in the past year?
  • May I have a list of references from those projects?
  • May I have a list of business referrals or suppliers?
  • What percentage of your business is repeat or referral business?
  • Are you a member of a national trade association?
  • Have you or your employees been certified in remodeling or had any special training or education?

You want the basics: the professional’s permanent place of business, telephone number, tax identification number and business license. Obtain copies of the contractor’s license, liability and worker’s comp insurance; then confirm the standing of the license with your state’s contractor board. On insurance, check the term of coverage and confirm that it extends through the expected duration of your project.

Ask what type of training the contractor’s team has received in the products you’ve selected. Improper installations can void warranties and worse. A so-so installation can cut a 20-year roof down to 10 years of service, sinking the return on your coverage accordingly.

Check with the Better Business Bureau to confirm that there are no complaints or suits against the pro.  Then actually call the references provided.  NARI helpfully provides that list of questions, too:

  • Were they able to communicate well with the contractor?
  • Were they satisfied with the quality of work?
  • Were they satisfied with the contractor’s business practices?
  • Did the crew show up on time?
  • Were they comfortable with the tradespeople the contractor subcontracted to?
  • Was the job completed on schedule?
  • Did the contractor fulfill his or her contract?
  • Did the contractor stay in touch throughout the project?
  • Were the final details finished in a timely manner?
  • Would you use the contractor again without hesitation?

Excellent contractors are out there, but it takes time and shrewd judgment to separate the good from the bad. If you know the right questions to ask anyone you are considering hiring, you’ll be able to protect yourself from unscrupulous parties and pave the way for a successful (and much less stressful) remodeling project.

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