The Five Magic Questions To Ask Every Contractor From the retired homeowner, to the newly-wed first time home buyers, finding the right professional for your home improvement project can be a daunting task. Reading the local newspapers, or using an internet search engine, can often times produce numerous and vague results. Many times, homeowners will rely on the advice and referrals of friends and family, but all too often, the homeowner still needs a starting point. Purchasing services from a “big-box” store may give you some assurance, but many times, these services are performed by, and sold to, the lowest bidder. Who should I call? Where do I begin? How do I successfully interview and hire the appropriate company? What questions should I ask ?

Follow and learn The Five Magic Questions To Ask Every Contractor: Begin by asking your friends and relatives if they know of a reputable contractor. This is a great starting point, and more than likely you’ll get a response. Although they may recommend someone, you still should follow these steps and ask the these pertinent questions. Look at the local newspapers. Almost always you will find a service directory in the classified section. From there you should select a few service providers that meet your specific needs. Follow the same technique for all interviews. The local church bulletin is another great place to find local service providers. Visit the building department and talk to the inspectors. The local building department or municipal building is a great place to get a lot of your answers. Legally, government agencies are not allowed to recommend any particular service providers, but they can guide you in the process.

And lastly, you can use an internet search engine, however your results will be overwhelming and vary greatly. Be aware of websites and contractor matching services. These are usually : get 3 free estimates today” or we’ll match you to “3 prescreened contractors” at no charge to you. Most of these contractor matching services do not charge you anything, however, they do have a paying network of contractors that pay a premium just to get your name and contact information. These contractor matching services want nothing to do with you after they have sold your name and contact information to their contractor clients. While there is no formula or special blueprint for a successful choice, following these simple steps and learning The Five Magic Questions To Ask Every Contractor, will help you make an educated decision. Do not hesitate to ask any of these questions. An honest and reliable contractor will welcome any inquiries you may have, and in fact, he will be pleased to know that you are serious about the project, and not just wasting his time for a “free estimate”  

1) Is the contractor licensed?

Does the contractor have the appropriate license needed for the work to be performed? There are many different types of licenses issued by various state and local government agencies. For residential renovations the most common are; plumbers, electricians, HVAC technicians, roofers and carpenters. Some of these may be issued by the state, and others by city where work is to be performed. In any of these cases, ask to see the license, and make sure that it is still effective. Reject any bids and proposals from unlicensed contractors. If you have any doubts, visit the local building and zoning department in your town,

2 Does the contractor provide a detailed written proposal for the work?

Too many homeowners are often handed an invoice at the end of the job, for services they didn’t agree to. Be sure that all criteria are covered; labor, materials, services, installation, supplies, insurance, equipment, permits, tools and other facilities required for the prompt and efficient execution of the work described. Be sure to get a typed, signed, and dated proposal for the work to be performed by the contractor that includes (what you may think are insignificant) details . A reputable contractor will be happy to include all the project details in writing. You will not regret taking this time to prepare before he starts any work. Many times during renovations, obstacles do arise. In that case, both you and your contractor should sign a “Change Work Order” with all details and pricing outlined before he continues with any work. Payment. Do not hire anyone that asks for money upfront. Get a detailed payment schedule. An outlined payment schedule should be one that you’re comfortable with. Typically in stages, as the work progresses. A small retainer in the form of a check is common for the contractor to expect. However, this deposit should not be greater than 5% of the total contract amount. If he asks for a big down-payment , BEWARE, this contractor is under capitalized, and most likely in it for the short term. Any dependable contractor should be well established and financially committed enough to finance the project in its entirety. Do not make the last payment, until you have completed a thorough walk through that meets your satisfaction. Furthermore, check the building permits if a city inspection is required, most times it is, and it must pass.

3) Does the contractor provide a warranty?

Typically, contractors offer a 1-5 year warranty on labor and installations, that is separate from product warranties. If you purchase any products that will be installed, be sure to retain all the paperwork and warranty information that came with them. In turn, ask the contractor for all documentation pertaining to the products being installed. In general, a contractor that offers a 1-5 year warranty, is most likely to stand behind it. DO NOT hire any contractor that offers an unbelievably long warranty- over 5 years, this often times is used as a sales gimmick. Be sure to get a written comprehensive warranty. Most reputable contractors will make repairs even after their written warranty has expired.

4) Is the contractor insured?

Typically, contractors are required to carry a "general liability" coverage that protects your home in the event of damage due to contractor negligence, or work related damages. You should ask the contractor to provide you with a “ Certificate of Insurance” with your name and address as the policy holder. Also, be aware of false documents. Feel free to call and confirm this contractors insurance with the agent or broker, which is listed as the issuer of the certificate. Make sure that the coverage dates fall in your project time frame. Depending on the project type, certain towns require a “Surety Bond” This will provide the town insurance in case the contractor damages public property.

5) How long has the contractor been in business?

"Well, I’ve been doin’ this for 35 years". That is not the answer to your question. Ask the contractor how long he’s had the company. Ask him when he legally registered his company with the state. Ask for 3 references, and don’t accept his buddies as a valid source. Find out how many of these projects he has done in the last year and don‘t count the ones for his relatives. A professional contractor will have no issues providing references of satisfied customers. Another sign of a scrupulous contractor is when he offers to start the next day. This is the type of person that is here today, gone tomorrow. A respectable, and honest contractor usually has a busy schedule that fills up quickly. Don’t be discouraged when he can’t start your project for a few weeks. This is a sign that his quality and workmanship are in demand, therefore he must be doing something right to stay busy. Remember, an attractive low price is not worth taking the risk, A low-ball estimate usually means the contractor is cutting corners somewhere. Weather it’s on materials, or cutting corners on work quality, you DO NOT want to hire this contractor with the low price, it simply is not worth the hassle in the long run. The contractor must display his physical place of business. A permanently established business is key to know that he will be there tomorrow. His mailing address should be present on all business cards, stationary, contracts, etc. DO NOT hire anyone who cannot provide you this critical information. If you make this mistake, you may have difficulty getting a hold of him, should any problems arise in the future.

There are many things that go into consideration when hiring a contractor. Do your homework, research your project, and learn The Five Magic Questions To Ask Every Contractor. And remember, hiring and working with a professional contractor should be a pleasant, and enjoyable experience, and here at Heritage Roofing that is our primary goal !!!

The Five Magic Questions To Ask Every Contractor were contributed by the Heritage Roofing team members, who are dedicated to providing the best possible experience for our clients.