what do we ask a contractor and how do we ask it?
February 25, 2008 8:53 PM   Subscribe

What kind of things do you need to ask a home remodeling contractor, like about liability insurance, bonding and all that? How do you approach this with them? Do you take their word for it or demand proof?

My roommate is planning to have some remodeling done on the house (which she owns). Until now, her dad has been able to do all the fixin' up here, but this is a total bathroom replacement and more than he'd be able to do. So we need to find a contractor.

I don't think we'll have any problems finding people through referrals (most of our friends have had work done on their houses and most have been happy with it). But what sort of questions do we need to ask to make sure things will go smoothly, and most importantly, to make sure she's (or we?) is/are covered against damages and lawsuits?

Any advice about
posted by amfea to Home & Garden (7 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
is his license in good standing?

has he posted a bond?

does he have a history of complaints?

is he a solvent?

does he have a history with his subs?

will his subs sign mechanic's lien release forms?

how will he pay the subs?

will he use an escrow?

is he on meth?

are his subs on meth?

does he carry worker's comp?
posted by Mr_Crazyhorse at 9:03 PM on February 25, 2008 [3 favorites]

My father has spent many years in this field. While he is the real expert on the subject, he has offered me one piece of advice.
"Always, Always, Always get EVERYTHING on paper."
Ask for his/her credentials, insurance, etc... And see them on paper. Don't be afraid to use your friends referrals, but understand that this is your home, and there are lots of contractors available to choose from.
Also, purely from my observations...Delays should be expected, and estimates are usually just that.... estimates
anywho, good luck with the remodeling!
posted by Texasjake987 at 9:09 PM on February 25, 2008

Never be embarassed about asking questions about money.
Never be embarassed about asking for references.
Ask them if they are going to pull permits.
If they have trouble giving you answers to your questions, thank them for their
time and call someone else.
Get at least 3 quotes for any job. Quotes, with expirations.
Get their state license number.
Look it up, and see if any complaints have been lodged against them.
Never pay them as much as 90 percent up front.
You need to owe them enough money to make them finish the job.
Many contractors can walk away from the last 10 percent of the pay.
Once you have set a price for the work, never change it. If they come back to you
and ask for more money, say no and look for someone else.
Try to work from word-of-mouth references.
Take notes when you talk to them, and date them.

Remain vigilant at all times.
posted by the Real Dan at 9:12 PM on February 25, 2008

In many states you can look up a contractor's license status and bond status on your state government web site. Most contractors put their license number on their business card but you may also be able to look it up by company name. Google up your state name and "contractor license" or bonding.
posted by JackFlash at 10:57 PM on February 25, 2008

From above,

Get at least 3 quotes for any job. Quotes, with expirations.

Once you have set a price for the work, never change it. If they come back to you
and ask for more money, say no and look for someone else.

Most often, these are not realistic policies. No contractor can give you a bulletproof price without having the scope of work defined in great detail, and nobody can anticipate everything that will need to be done. Even if you hired an architect to spec every detail of the work, problems are inevitably exposed, as rooms are gutted, that were not visible at the time the quote was written. Fixing those problems will be either sensible or legally mandatory, and they will inflate the cost.

Ask for references. Assure yourself that the scale and expected quality level of your project is in line with what the contractor does (and does well) all of the time. Look for someone who's neither desperate for the work nor so overbooked that they can afford to blow you off. This is as much partnership as purchase, so make sure that you, the contractor and the job fit together well.
posted by jon1270 at 4:51 AM on February 26, 2008

There are books on this topic; find a highly-rated one and buy it.

But for the love of all that's holy, make sure you get the lien waivers in writing.
posted by aramaic at 6:10 AM on February 26, 2008

Don't feel weird about asking these questions straight-out at any point: its a business transaction and you're the one doing the hiring. These are straightforward, routine questions.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 3:32 PM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

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