What to Ask Before You Hire A Contractor

December 12, 2012

Remodeling your home can be an exciting venture, and if done well, the payoff can be enormous. Unfortunately, many homeowners find themselves smack dab in the middle of a project when they realize that they’ve hired THE CONTRACTOR FROM HELL!!! The guy or gal is unskilled, unmotivated, or just plain creepy, yet many people continue working with THE CONTRACTOR FROM HELL!!! because they think it will be easier than starting their home remodeling contractor search all over again. Luckily, avoiding THE CONTRACTOR FROM HELL!!! can be as simple as asking the right questions upfront. The following are six of the best questions you should ask a remodeling professional before you hire them. Good luck!


Contractor from HELL


How long have you been in business?

Like any craft, people generally get better at home remodeling projects the longer they do them. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t consider someone who’s fairly new to the game, but generally speaking, the longer the contractor has been working the more likely he or she is to be able to know exactly what kind of work needs to be done, give you a fair estimate of the cost of the work, and foresee any problems that might arise with the project. Longtime contractors can also be some of the most creative in the business – they’ve had a lot of opportunities to experiment and try new things.


Have you ever filed for bankruptcy?

A failed business isn’t a surefire indicator of a poor contractor. The whole reason for asking this question is to see how the person answers it, not what the answer is. You will be checking any potential contractor out beforehand anyway, so you already know the answer. The important thing is to see if the person lies about their bankruptcy, or tries to brush it off instead of giving you an honest, reasonable explanation for it.


Have you ever worked under a different business name?

This is possibly more important to know than if a contractor has filed for bankruptcy. Many shady contractors will give up on a project when they realize they’re in over their heads, pocket the deposit you’ve paid, and shut down their company before you have a chance to file a complaint or take legal action. They then open up shop under a new business name, making it hard to track them down or warn potential clients. Not all contractors change their business name for this reason – some simply want to rebrand – but it is something to look into.


Have you ever worked on houses in this neighborhood?

Not all neighborhoods are created equal, and an experienced contractor knows this. If he or she has worked on homes in and around your neighborhood, chances are he or she knows what to expect from the area. Is your neighborhood prone to flooding? Downed tree branches or power lines? Is it on a fault line? Knowing the answers to these questions can help a contractor modify your project to protect your home from problems common to where it’s located.


How many references can you give?

Notice the distinction between this question and “Can you give me references?”. Almost any contractor that has been in the business long enough can give you two or three good references. But if they’ve been doing work for 20 years and can only give you a handful of positive reviews, something’s fishy. Asking the actual number of positive reviews a contractor could give you can tell you a lot about his or her past customer relationships. And when the contractor gives you the exact number, ask for contact information for all of them – you want to hold ‘em accountable, after all!


Why are you in this line of work?

This answer will vary from contractor to contractor, but the answer should always run along the lines of, “Because it’s my passion!” Contractors that are motivated by a love for the industry and a desire to help people improve their standards of living are going to much more pleasant to work with than someone who is just following in the footsteps of his or her parents. If the contractor doesn’t seem excited or energized by the industry, you should probably look for someone who does.


There are other questions that are very important, too – Are you properly licensed? Are you properly insured? What do you charge? – but the aforementioned six will help you find a contractor that not only lives up to the legal requirements but is passionate, creative, and committed to your project.


Have you ever had a bad experience with a home improvement contractor? Leave us a comment and tell us your story!

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