Essential Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Home Contractor for Construction or Restoration

Essential Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Home Contractor for Construction or Restoration

Choosing the right general contractor is the key ingredient when starting a new home project. Beyond doing all the hard work, they’ll oversee each step of the timeline to ensure everything is completed on time and according to your expected budget.

Does your home need some work? As top-to-bottom contractors, Drake’s Construction & Restoration can help with everything from HVAC maintenance to new construction. Contact a member of our team to learn more!

Questions to Ask Potential Home Renovation Contractors

Before you search for potential home renovation contractors, take some time to create a detailed list of your needs, wants, expectations and budget. The more you know about your project’s scope, the better prepared you’ll be to ask the right questions.

What Are Your Credentials?

Your first question should always be whether a potential contractor has experience with the specific project you’re undergoing. If it’s not within their scope or they seem hesitant about their capabilities, that’s a sign to keep searching. A contractor with experience will be familiar with possible obstacles and setbacks and can provide you with a more accurate estimate and timeline.

Once you find someone with similar experience, ask about their credentials, including if they:

  • Are bonded and insured: Insured contractors should have a certificate of insurance that details their policy limitations. Consider contacting their insurance provider directly to confirm that they are up-to-date. Avoid working with uninsured contractors, as this leaves you liable for damages and injuries that happen during the project.
  • Are licensed: Their license number and information should be available upon request, and you can typically verify it with the state through its government website.
  • Hold any special certifications: This could include being certified through the Construction Management Association of America or similar.

What Kind of Timeline Am I Looking At?

Once you’ve presented your needs and wants to a potential contractor, ask them to write up an estimated timeline of how long it will take from start to finish. Ask what types of things could cause a delay and how they plan to handle those delays, should they arise. Do they expect any issues sourcing all supplies? Does their timeline include any padding to account for weather or material shortages?

You should both agree to acceptable working hours. How early can the team start? When should they wrap up for the day?

How Much Do Services Cost, and What Payment Options Are Available?

The most important part of any home project is knowing and sticking to your budget. Ask if they offer a free estimate and what that estimate covers. What kind of payment options do they offer? Most require an initial deposit, and you should never work with a contractor who wants you to pay for the entire project upfront. Always save your final deposit for when everything is completed to your satisfaction.

You should also make sure they’re compatible with your insurance company if you plan to claim the costs.

Do You Have Any Warranties or Guarantees?

Ask about any warranties or guarantees the contractor offers, including how long they last and what types of situations fall under them. Note any limitations. Avoid signing a contract that doesn’t include some level of promise about the quality and timeliness of the project. Ask who will be responsible for fixing any defects and whether your contract includes a callback warranty period where the contractor can fix any errors before you hire a different one.

Remember, contracts work both ways — you should feel free to negotiate the terms you are comfortable with.

What Should I Expect During the Process?

Most home projects will mean part of your home is out of commission while your contractor is working on it. You want to know what to expect from the process, including:

  • How communication will work: How will you and your contractor keep in touch during the project? Phone, email or text? How long should you expect to wait between messages, and how frequently will you receive updates? Will you work with a single point of contact?
  • Who is responsible for securing permits: If your project requires permits, confirm whether you or your contractor are responsible for getting them in order and if those costs are included in your estimate.
  • What happens if the scope of work changes: If you change your mind about the project’s scope or your contractor runs into any issues that alter the timeline, how will that situation be handled? Make sure all changes are written into a new contractor — word-of-mouth promises aren’t legally binding.
  • Your boundaries and expectations: Your contractor may be sharing your space with you for the duration of the project, so it’s good to set some ground rules for parking, bathroom usage, smoking, noise and quiet hours, and other considerations that may arise with long-term working arrangements. Let them know what you are and aren’t comfortable with, and ask what they need from you to do their work safely and comfortably. Confirm that all subcontractors or employees have a background check.

What Should I Expect During the Process?

A reputable contractor will have no trouble outlining their expectations and promises before starting a project. At Drake’s Construction & Restoration, we visit each potential client in person to hand-deliver a printed rundown of what to expect. We can also email it to you for your convenience.

How Do You Handle Disputes?

While no one wants to think about possible mishaps happening during a home renovation, it’s always useful to have a process in place in case they do. Make sure your contract includes details for handling possible disputes. For example, some contracts contain arbitration clauses that prevent you from seeking legal action against the contractor. While there are benefits to such arrangements, it’s important you know what to expect and only agree to what you’re comfortable with.

What About Post-Project Cleanup?

Ask potential contractors if their estimate and timeline include post-project cleanup. Have them answer the following:

  • Who is responsible for disposing of debris?
  • Which parts of the cleanup will I need to handle on my own?
  • Will you be using any materials that are dangerous to handle?
  • Which materials can and can’t be disposed of?
  • How soon after project completion will the cleanup happen?
  • Will I be exposed to any hazardous dust or debris as you work?

Do You Work With Subcontractors?

While some contractors work alone, others may have a team to help complete your project quickly and efficiently. That team may be comprised of employees, subcontractors or a combination:

  • Employees: Employees are part of the contractor’s payroll and are subject to the contractor’s set working hours, hiring guidelines and standards. If you partner with a construction company, you’ll likely work with employees.
  • Subcontractors: A contractor might subcontract part of your project to a professional with specialized expertise, like an electrician or plumber. Subcontractors work for themselves and can generally set their own schedules, but part of their contract may mean they’re also held to the contractor’s decision for working hours. Whether or not your contractor runs a background check on their subcontractors is up to them, so be sure to ask during your consultation.

As a homeowner, you should notice no difference in quality between an employee and a subcontractor. A professional contractor will ensure all team members have the same goal in mind — finishing your project well and on time.

What Kind of Materials Do You Use?

Ask about your contractor’s material suppliers, noting the following:

  • Are they local? Using local suppliers does more than empower your community — it means shorter lead times for securing materials and having them delivered. It also eliminates the extra costs, environmental impact and guesswork associated with outsourced materials.
  • Are they high quality? Make sure your contractor plans to use high-quality materials for your project, including lumber, fasteners, hardware, writing and any other crucial components. You want to know that each part will last a long time and withstand frequent use. If your project is outdoors, confirm that all wood is treated and sealed.
  • Is any customization available? See if you can customize any part of your project, like choosing a specific wood stain or fastener finish. Note that customization may mean the materials take longer to finish.
  • Do your suppliers keep a stocked inventory? A stocked inventory means it will take less time for your contractor to replenish their supplies if they run out earlier than expected.
  • Are there sustainable options? If eco-friendliness is important to you, ask your contractor what sustainable options are available. Options may include using reclaimed wood, bamboo, recycled metals and ethically sourced stone and earth blocks.

How to Choose the Right General Contractor

Now that you know everything to ask, how do you make the final decision? The right contractor will meet the following guidelines:

  • They won’t pressure you to make a fast decision. Your contractor shouldn’t pressure you into signing a contract before you’re ready. They should let you take as long as you need to ask questions, negotiate terms and make your final decision.
  • Customer service is prompt and professional. Your customer service with the contractor or company can be very indicative of the type of professionalism you receive during your project. Are communications prompt and friendly? Are you receiving answers to your questions? Are there multiple ways to contact the contractor if needed, like email and a work line?
  • They are forthcoming with their experience. Your contractor should never dissuade you from seeking out reviews from former clients or asking to see a portfolio of past projects. They should be forthcoming with their experience and whether they’ve worked on similar projects before.
  • They are honest about their timeline and expectations. A good contractor will be honest and upfront about their expectations for the project, including a completion timeline and the likelihood of meeting or exceeding budget.
  • The contract is thorough and easy to understand. Don’t sign a contract until you’ve read it thoroughly and agree with the terms therein. If any of the legal language is confusing or doesn’t match what you’re being told, consider consulting an expert.
  • Everything is put into writing. Avoid working with a contractor who wants to do things by word-of-mouth alone. Every agreement should be put into writing and agreed upon by both parties. This includes any changes that may come up during the project.
  • Payment options are fair. Make sure you’re informed about all payment expectations and options, including how much is due for the first deposit and when you need to pay it. If you’re paying on a schedule, confirm those dates with your contractor before beginning.

Why Choose Drake’s Construction & Restoration

Drake’s Construction & Restoration takes a comprehensive approach to project management that puts you first. We want you to feel comfortable and in control during every step of your home construction project. Here are just a few benefits of working with us:

  • We have the necessary credentials: We are licensed, fully insured contractors. This includes full workers’ compensation coverage for our employees.
  • You’ll have a single point of contact: You’ll get a designated person to communicate with before signing your contract — they’re there to answer all your questions and will provide a line-by-line project estimate before we begin work. They will also keep you up-to-date on progress during the duration of your project.
  • We support local: We’re passionate about supporting local communities. That’s why we source materials from both major chains and independent suppliers across the Mid-Ohio Valley area.
  • We’ve got decades of experience: We’ve been in business for more than 20 years, and in that time, we’ve handled just about everything. We’ve got the experience and expertise to complete your project on time and within budget. We’re happy to provide a list of names and contact information for previous clients as referrals. You can also review our portfolio of past projects to see for yourself.
  • We’re with you every step of the way: We’re here to help with each stage of your project, including working with professional designers who will help bring your vision to life. Once we’ve nailed the perfect plan for your budget and goals, our team will get to work on the rest.

Request a Project Estimate Today

Based out of Parkersburg, West Virginia, we’ve been serving residential and commercial property owners in the Mid-Ohio Valley region for more than two decades. Our services include:

  • General construction for new builds or room additions
  • Water and damage restoration
  • 24/7 emergency repair services
  • Remodeling
  • Roofing repair and replacement
  • HVAC installation, maintenance and repair

Contact us today to request your free, no-obligation project estimate!

Request a Project Estimate Today