How long have you been in business?
Look for a company with an established business history in your community. Surviving in any business in today's competitive marketplace is a difficult task. Most successful contractors are proud of their history in the industry.
What is your approach to a project of this scope?
This will give you an idea of how the contractor works and what to expect during the project. Listen carefully to the answer. This is one of the big indicators of the company's work ethic.
How do you operate?
In other words, how is your firm organized? Do you have employees or do you hire subcontractors? If you do have employees, what are their job descriptions? Do you use a project supervisor or lead carpenter to oversee the project? Other firms will have additional positions. You should know what parts of your project will be handled by staff, and which will be contracted out to independent contractors.
Do you have design services available?
If you are considering a large or involved project, you will need design services. If the contractor does not have design/build capabilities, you should consider hiring an architect. Depending on the size and scope of the project, you may need an architect or structural engineer.
Does your company carry workers compensation and liability insurance?
Ask for copies of the insurance certificates to verify coverage. In addition, some states require licensing and registration. If your state does have construction licensing laws, ask for your contractor's registration and license, then confirm the license number and expiration date with your local jurisdiction.
Are any of your company's employees certified?
Trade certifications are good indicators of dedication, professionalism and knowledge of the industry. Remodelers are required to meet certain industry criteria to maintain their certifications. NARI offers nine designations: Master Certified Remodeler (MCR), Certified Remodeler (CR), Certified Remodeler Specialist (CRS), Certified Remodeler Associate (CRA), Certified Remodeling Project Manager (CRPM), Certified Kitchen & Bath Remodeler (CKBR), Certified Lead Carpenter (CLC), Green Certified Professional (GCP), Universal Design Certified Professional (UDCP).
May I have a list of references for projects you have completed which are similar to mine?
The contractor should be able to supply you with a minimum of three references, including names, telephone numbers and addresses. As a follow up to this question, ask how long ago the project was completed and if the contractor can arrange a visit to see the finished job. You should also ask for professional references from suppliers, financial institutions, or subcontractors to verify sound business practices.
How many projects like mine have you completed in the past 12 months?
This will help you determine the contractor's familiarity with your type of project. You should confirm that a good portion of those completed projects were similar to the type of project you are proposing.
Will we need a permit for this project?
Most cities and towns require permits for building projects. Failure to obtain the necessary permits or to arrange obligatory inspections can be illegal. In some cases, if a project violates a zoning law or some other regulations, it may even have to be demolished if there is no way to comply with the law. A qualified remodeling contractor will be conscious of the permit process, and ensure that all permits have been obtained before initiating any work.
Of the many questions you can ask during an interview, the most important question is one you must ask yourself: "Do I trust and feel comfortable with the person I am about to hire?"
Your answer to that last question should make the hiring decision a little easier.