8 Questions to Ask a General Contractor
1. Is your company insured?
To ensure that you won’t be held liable for any injuries or damages that occur during your project, it is essential that your contractor has worker’s compensation, personal liability, and property damage coverage. Make sure their certificates are current.
2. Will you handle all the required building permits?
If a contractor is not willing to handle the necessary permits, it may indicate that they are doing work outside of their licensing, which could seriously jeopardize your insurance coverage.
3. Are your company and employees EPA Certified?
If your renovation involves property built prior to 1978, there is a possibility that lead-based paint will be disturbed. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a very strict policy in place for dealing with lead and a contractor with EPA certification is trained to follow that policy. EPA fines for violations of their Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP) Rule reach $37,500.
4. Can I see some of your past projects?
A competent contractor will have a portfolio of previous jobs, some of which may be very similar to your project. Ask to see those jobs- it can give you an understanding of their level of expertise in the type of changes you’d like to make to your home.
5. May I have a list of references?
Contractors with good reputations will have a list of references you can contact, or a list of testimonials available on their website.
6. Is your company a member of any building associations or professional organizations?
Membership to professional building organizations indicates an established contractor with the right kinds of licensing and certifications. If they provide you with a list of associations they are members of, take the time to look them up to determine their relevance to your project.
7. Can you provide a schedule of work that will show an estimated completion date?
An experienced contractor will have a system in place to create a timeline, specific to your job, that provides a sequence of construction and a realistic, estimated completion date- before work begins.
8. What is your payment schedule? What is the procedure for dealing with change orders?
A trustworthy contractor will not ask for payment in full upfront, but will create a payment schedule aligned with the production schedule. They should also be willing to negotiate the details. They will also have no problem handling change orders, or changes to the original plan, and will communicate with you continuously throughout your project.