DIY, Real Estate


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After dealing with a variety of contractors on this house project I feel that I should share a few tips that I have learned along the way! I am by no means an expert, but I do feel that I am experienced enough in dealing with contractors to share Top Essential Questions you should consider when hiring and working with contractors!

Lots can be said for tackling a home improvement project or two each year and my hat is off to those who build a house from the ground to the roof! In my case, projects have always been something I have enjoyed and it came as no surprise to anyone in my family when I decided to tackle this historic fixer-upper of a farm house!

So without further a do here is the list of my Top Essential Questions for working with contractors!

How long have you been in the industry?  

This really is a key question because you are looking for a credible resource and someone with a successful track record! You certainly don’t want bubba and his buddies learning on your project no do you?

Can you provide resources that I can contact? 

Would you need resources for every job at your house? Well, come to think of it yes, you do! I really can’t think of a job that you are paying your hard earned money for that you wouldn’t need a reference check! Pest control – umm yes do you want to pay someone to spray for pests only to find out that the dilute the stuff they spray, NO! Painting – duh, of course you want to know that they will do a good job and that it will last! Plumbing – do you want to toilet backing up when you are sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner, I think not. Point made. Ask for resources.

Are you licensed, bonded and insured? 

You always want to make sure that at the very minimum that the contractor you are working with is licensed and carries liability insurance and workers comp insurance. This is as much for your protection as it is for the protection of those working at your house.

Do you guarantee your work? In writing?

Most people will tell you that they guarantee their work. That is great until you see them doing the job and realize that you might need a written guarantee to ensure that it lasts! Ask for it up front. Then you don’t feel foolish going back and asking for it later! Not that I have ever had to do that or anything!

Are you or your contractor pulling the required permits? 

This one is important. If you have ever had to deal with the city building and planning department then you know that it is sometimes a little more difficult than one would think. Fortunately for me, I have gotten to know my city B&P department quite well. Only because I have changed my mind about a zillion times on how I want to do my gate/fence for my driveway! Additionally, my city requires the homeowner to pull permits, but it has been helpful to know when I need one and when I don’t from my contractors.

What is the timeline for the project?

When a project begins you are so excited and you can’t wait for the finished product! But one of the most disappointing things is when your contractor cannot start your job for 3-4 weeks and then your project taking another 4-6 weeks! That is a long time to keep your excitement up and your patience calm! And then if there are delays…my oh my does everyone become grumpy!

Do you clean up the job site after work is completed?

This one I learned the very hard way! Imagine if you can…having say your foundation leveled and piers put in while you are on a relaxing beach vacation knowing that when you come home you can finally start work on the many many projects that await you on your historic house. Now imagine driving 15+ hours with two teenagers only to get home at midnight to dirt, dust and grime throughout your house from the floors to the counters to the trim boards! When the only thing on your mind is a shower and bed and you are on your hands and knees cleaning because you can’t walk anywhere without getting dirty! Know up front who will do the cleanup and if necessary hire a cleaning crew to take care of this for you! You will thank me later!

Do you need water or restroom facilities? 

This sounds like common sense and I know that I asked my painters about a million times in the August heat if they wanted water but never did I ever (that is a drinking game I think) ask if they needed restroom facilities! Talk about a terrible host! It really never occurred to me and I can only assume that they took bathroom breaks at lunch? I do feel terrible about this one and that is why I have included it!

Will you sign a contract for your work?

I am of the belief my word and a handshake is as good as a contract, but that is something I have learned is not good enough when you are dealing with contractors. Even if you have known them your whole life and they are good friends of your parents! Just get it in writing. Make sure to include what is to be done and when and at what price. Nothing, I repeat, nothing is more uncomfortable than calling a family friend and complaining that the work was not done correctly or finished or at the right price. Nothing.

As long as you have some patience, and I am here to tell you I don’t have much, you can really work through this list with your contractors you hire. You will, of course, have other specific questions related to your specific job but these should get you started and in the very least you can share a laugh or two with me on the funny things you have experienced with dealing with your own contractors. Have other questions that should be on this list? Comment and let me know! I would love to add to it even if it is for my own benefit!