8 Questions to ask a contractor before you hire them

We have all heard the horror stories, what I am about to share with you is a list of 8 items you should be asking of every contractor that looks at any project you are thinking about. 

By following these steps, you significantly reduce the risk of a job going sideways and joining the ranks of those who have a horror story to share. 

And if you decide to work with All In Contracting, I expect that you ask me these questions as well. 

1, What is your process?  

You need to know what you can expect from your contractor. This will also help clarify where you are in the process. Most projects need significant preparation, and in today’s hectic world, these steps can take days and even weeks depending on the scope of the project. 

We always start with a consultation call. Why do we not come to your home right away? Honestly, we get multiple requests every single day for projects, if we jumped in our truck every time we got a call we would be doing our current clients a massive disservice. A site visit can take anywhere from 1-3 hours depending on travel.  So by doing a phone conversation, we are able to determine if it is a project we can help you with. We can ensure that we have an understanding of a general budget for the type of project you have in mind. And we can make sure that we are protecting both your time, ours and our active clients which might be you in the near future. 

If we can move forward with the project, we do a site visit. 

A site visit is our chance to give you a free consultation, to assess any challenges that we might face. Take photos, and let you know what is and isn’t possible within the proposed budget. It’s also a chance for us to offer you an educated estimate for your specific situation. 

At this point we discuss the design and consult portion of the job. 

This is where we work with you to design the project, to create a road map, get quotes from our service providers and plan your project. This portion has a cost, and it varies for every project. Why is there a fee for this? This phase can take days to even weeks to complete. We do site visits with our team, we take measurements, request information from the city and create blueprints. This process is the most important part of your entire project. If you don’t plan, you plan to fail, your project will be completely planned and a budget proposal created. And we take this very seriously, by charging, it enables us to put the effort this part of the process requires. And generally it is a small fraction of the cost of the overall project, and ultimately saves you money, and gets us in and out of your home much quicker.  

We apply for all permits required and get building. 

During this phase you know what to expect because we planned out your project. 

We will do walkthroughs with you during the construction phase. We do this because it is important as a homeowner you understand what is behind the drywall and what has gone into our project. This helps you if you ever choose to do any more alterations down the road. It also enables us to have clearer communication with our clients. 

Lastly we do a final walk through with our clients to ensure they are ecstatic with the final product. 

2. Do you have insurance?

For most of our clients their home is the most valuable asset they own. Allowing a contractor to work in your home without 3rd party liability insurance is an absolute recipe for disaster. One screw that creates a tiny pin hole in a water line, can result in tens of thousands of dollars in damages. And if the contractor is not adequately insured you may have no way to recover those losses.  Make sure that their insurance covers everyone and everything they bring on site. This is why All In Contacting carries millions in liability insurance. Having a copy of your contractor’s liability insurance also enables you to move through to their insurance company if the project is uncompleted, botched or the contractor leaves during the process. You now have an avenue to pursue if the contractor refuses to work with you to resolve issues. 

3. WCB coverage.

You can actually visit WCB’s website and search your contractor to ensure they are in good standing. You can also request a letter from your contractor.  As times change, liability is becoming a bigger and bigger issue. If a contractor falls down your stairs without proper coverage, they may try to sue you. Having WCB ensures that any workplace accident can be arbitrated and investigated by a governing body. This insurance also ensures that your contractor and their team are working in a safe manner and taking proper precautions. 


4. Do you have a contract?

Contracts are the glue of the entire industry. They are what keeps everything from falling apart and separates the tailgate contractors from the legitimate businesses. Never hand money over to a contractor without a signed contract explaining exactly what you can expect in return. 

Ask your contractor for a copy of their contract if you are considering doing business with them. This will outline what you can expect, what the expectations of you are, how your money will be handled and payment schedules. What happens if things go wrong, what happens in case of a conflict and what happens if your contractor fails to deliver. The contract should be designed to protect you, the client and the contractor and create a baseline for the project. 

5.  Will the contractor pull the appropriate permits and arrange inspections.

Your contractor can only do this if they are registered to work in your service area. This ensures that they are operating above board. 

City permits protect you. I constantly run into individuals who want to try and do renovations without permits. Pulling the proper permits protects the client. It ensures an impartial third party whose goal is to ensure everything is built to best building practices and inspects all the critical systems and construction elements of your project. Why would you not want this service when renovating your most valuable asset? 

Not all projects require a permit, many projects that do not involve any drywall, plumbing, electrical or structural elements do not require a permit. If you are feeling unsure, call your local city and ask them if your project requires a permit. They should be able to provide you a yes or no answer over the phone, and they are there to serve you. And most districts are eager to ensure you are protected. 

6. Reviews.

Do your research, we are becoming an ever increasingly savvy consumer culture. We have all sorts of ways to find out information about someone before we even meet them. Yes, creep their Facebook, yes, search them on google, yes, read their reviews, yes, ask them if you can speak with previous clients. You are going to entrust someone you have no prior relationship with, with your money. Trust your gut, if you have an off feeling walk away, work with someone you feel like you can trust. Our entire business is built on trust, and the only way the project can run smoothly, and everyone can feel comfortable through the process is by trusting each other. I must trust our clients will pay us; our clients need to trust that we are going to deliver the product they are paying for.  I can’t say this enough, do your research. 

7. What is the best way for us to communicate?

Our business uses several communication tools. We do our best to have all our important conversations over the phone, with a follow up email sent afterwards, this is the best way to communicate. It allows both sides to hear the emotions and intentions of the other person. However, in our ever-increasing text heavy world, we do use text for quick updates, and questions. We use email to send all our important documents, and we use a app called Trello to work with our clients during the design and quote phase. This platform enables us to keep track of all our communications without needing to sort through emails. It allows us to break the project into sections and address multiple aspects in an organized way. We use the platforms with our service providers as well. However, your contractor prefers to communicate, make sure you feel comfortable with it and make sure those lines of communication are open. There is nothing worse than feeling in the dark during your project 

8. If the project requires sub trades.

Ask your contractor if they have used their sub trades before? Do they  have a subcontractor contract? Ask for a copy of this contract. Your general contractor should have very clear boundaries and expectations of their sub trades. Regardless of if they have used them before or not, that contract protects you, it ensures the trades are delivering what they say they will, and it ensures that your contractor is paying them for the work completed. Construction is an ever-changing landscape, with new challenges on every job. Sometimes a Contractor needs to bring in a new sub, if they have done their research, and have that contract in place, you are protected. As a client your goal in this process is not to trust blindly, it is to protect you and your interests, and your home. 

Thanks for coming this far with me. I hope this helps you in your renovation journey. It can feel scary, but by asking these questions you can take a lot of the danger out of the experience.  You can ensure a reputable person is handling your project and if something should go wrong you are protected.