What Questions Should I Ask Before Hiring a Contractor?

Matt Marandola
Written by Matt Marandola
Reviewed by Robert Tschudi
Updated January 27, 2022
Contractor shaking hands with customer
Photo: ljubaphoto/ E+ / Getty Images

Be sure to ask your contractor about their qualifications, the types of projects they tackle, and what to expect from their quotes

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Whether it’s repairing a wall, putting in a new roof, or starting a home from scratch, everyone tends to need a contractor at one point or another. You’ll want to check their licenses, qualifications, and previous work they’ve completed for other clients. Ideally, the contractor should have at least three years of experience in the project they’re tackling.

How to Find a Contractor

There are several ways to go about hiring a local contractor. The first is here through Angi.com, where we put together a list of general contractors for you and their reviews.

The second best way is through word of mouth. If your neighbors or family knows someone, this is a positive for you. Chances are that you can see the work the contractor completed in person and get a fair idea of what to expect without the contractor upselling.

Before Hiring a Contractor

Don’t just jump at the first contractor you see with a lot of five-star reviews. You need to consider the project you’re looking to complete, if they have the right qualifications and licenses, and what their prices are ahead of time.

Plan Your Type of Project for Accurate Quotes

Save yourself (and your potential contractors) a headache by understanding the type and scope of the project ahead of time. Putting up a simple piece of drywall won’t cost nearly as much as adding on an additional bedroom.

By letting them know ahead of time, they know the type of subcontractors they’ll need to hire and be able to quote you accurately. You’ll want to contact at least three contractors before you make a decision. You should also probably be upfront with telling contractors your budget, as it gives them an idea of where they can make cuts.

Check Your Contractors Qualifications and References

When hiring potential contractors, make sure they’re qualified and licensed to get the project done. If possible, ask for references. Having someone recommend a contractor means you should be able to go and see the work in person, or at least see personal pictures.

“Be wary of a contractor who asks for a large upfront fee, or asks for payment before a task is completed,” says Bob Tschudi, Angi Expert Review Board member and general contractor in Raleigh, NC. “We often only invoice at the end of the job. If someone asks for money to ‘hold your place’ in a schedule, run from that contractor.”

Questions to Ask Your Contractor

Beyond the necessities, there are a few other questions that you should consider when hiring a contractor. These include:

  • How many years of experience do you have?

  • How long have you worked with your subcontractors?

  • Will the same team be in and out of the house every day?

  • How does garbage and waste disposal work?

  • Does your work come with warranties and insurance?

  • What is the timeline for completion?

  • What hours will you and the team operate in?

  • How do you handle disputes?

  • How do you handle additional work requests (change orders)?

Contractor painting room
Photo: FOTOGRAFIA INC./ E+ / Getty Images

Hiring Your Contractor

Now that the questions have been asked and you’re comfortable with your quotes, it’s time to seal the deal and pick a contractor. Remember, this is a team that’s going to be in and out of your home for quite some time, so it’s best you pick someone you like. There are now a few steps you’ll need to take to ensure the contract work runs smoothly.

Get a Contract and Arrange Payments With Your Contractor

The first step to hiring a contractor is to establish a contract. This lays out what the two parties agreed upon for work and what the payment terms should be. If they ask you to sign a liability release form, you should not sign the contract.

Keep Track of Your Contractor’s Work

While the work is happening, keep track of hours and where progress stands. While things do come up and pushbacks may happen, make sure that the contractor is relaying this information to you ahead of time. Lack of communication can lead to frustration.

Know Your Rights and Avoid Contractor Scams

Be careful of scams and be aware of the warning signs. One of them is asking for more than one-third of the initial cost, as there hasn’t been any work done yet to justify more than that. Another is when they say a license isn’t needed for a project when local codes and laws say otherwise.

After Your Contractor Has Finished

Once the contractor has finished up work, it’s time to finalize payments. If you’ve hired a reputable contractor, they should have told you about any additional charges. They should ensure the area is cleaned up appropriately and all waste disposed of.

On your end, they may ask to use your work as a reference and for you to leave a review. If the work was what you paid for, then you should oblige them. Take their card and if someone asks, you’ll have it handy.

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