9 Questions to Ask a Contractor Before Remodeling

Evelyn Long

Feb 10, 2023


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Wondering what questions to ask a contractor? We’re here to help you. Renovating a house is exciting for any homeowner; however, it can also be highly stressful, from budgeting to design decisions to finding somewhere to live while the remodel is underway. That’s why hiring the right contractor is essential for ensuring the project’s done right.

Before selecting a contractor to work with, every homeowner should ask a few important questions. These nine questions to ask a contractor can help you decide whether a general contractor has the experience and reputation to take on your home improvement project.

1. Are You Licensed and Insured?

Every state maintains set licensing and insurance requirements for general contractors. Sometimes the rules vary between counties, as well. 

The first question to ask a contractor is whether they hold valid licensure and insurance. Many contractors also have liability and worker’s compensation for situations that lead to injury. 

Never entertain hiring a contractor without the essential paperwork. A licensed contractor demonstrates their qualifications to do the work you need and financially protects everyone in case of an accident. 

2. Do You Have Referrals?

A reputable contractor will be glad to share referrals with you. Previous customers can enlighten you about your contractor’s communication skills and quality of work. 

A good line of questioning may include whether customers wished they knew anything in particular before hiring them. Although their experiences may not be deal-breakers for you, it’s helpful to be aware of anything you need to look out for.

You might also ask family, friends and neighbors if they’ve worked with this contractor before. Your social circles should have experience with questions to ask a contractor.

3. May I See a Portfolio of Your Work?

Not every contractor has a website, especially if they work alone — however, those who do exude a level of professionalism and commitment to their craft. A website may contain photos of previous renovations for you to view. 

While specific projects may not align with your personal taste, look for the quality of work in assembling custom cabinetry or installing tile floors.  

If a contractor does not have a website, ask them for a portfolio of previous jobs instead.  

4. Will You Pull the Correct Permits for the Job?

One of the more frustrating aspects of remodeling is pulling the correct permits. Once you have a design drawn up, you need to submit the plan to your county for approval. 

The average cost of building permits is between $447 and $2,313; however, the price may vary depending on the location and type of remodel you have done. Homeowners may also expect permits to take weeks or months to be approved.

While permits may delay the start of construction, they’re essential for ensuring your renovation meets stringent safety standards, particularly when it comes to structural changes and electrical and plumbing upgrades. A knowledgeable contractor will typically pull the permits for you. 

5. What’s the Project Timeline for Completion?

Remaining flexible throughout any home improvement project is helpful. Unforeseen problems will always pop up when you least expect them. 

However, a skilled contractor should have completed enough projects to give you an idea of how long your renovation will take. 

Be sure to ask about holidays or other disruptions that could potentially affect the timeline, as well. For example, 90% of builders reported supply shortages in a May 2021 survey conducted by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and Wells Fargo. 

6. How Do You Handle Payments?

Home improvement projects are pricey. Understanding the amount and due date for payments is critical.

Ask your contractor what sort of contractual obligations exist if you’re unsatisfied with the project results, as well as paying when they finish the remodel.

Whatever you and your contractor agreed upon for the budget and payment plan should be approved in writing. Be sure your contract includes the estimated start and completion dates, total amount and payment dates. 

7. How Often Will You Update Me On Your Progress?

Communication skills are a necessity during remodeling. Find out how often your contractor intends to update you on your renovation’s progress and their preferred contact method.

Although you’ll want to ensure your project is moving forward according to the timeline, this question is important if you need to move out while your home is under construction. If that’s the case, your contractor should be in touch with you every day. 

8. May I Have a Detailed List of What Needs to Be Ordered, Delivered or Picked Up?

Everything on your renovation to-do list has a scheduled date and time for completion. It’s important to know what you as the homeowner are responsible for when ordering and picking up your finishes. 

There may be delays in ordering and receiving tiles, cabinets or custom design elements, similar to construction supply shortages. 

Be sure to place your orders early in the process and understand the rules of submitting change orders for design features. Too many change orders can hold up your entire project timeline and cost you more money.

9. What Is Your Daily Schedule?

Finally, if you’re staying home during construction, you should ask your contractor about their daily work hours. For example, what time can you expect them and when do they leave? 

Knowing their typical schedule can alleviate the stress and inconvenience of sharing space with them throughout the day, especially if you have kids come home after school or telecommute for work. 

For the Best Quality of Remodel, Know What Questions to Ask a Contractor

Finding the best contractor to work on your remodeling project doesn’t have to be challenging, but you do need to know what questions to ask a contractor. Do your homework, ask for referrals and conduct several interviews before making a final decision. Hiring the best contractor is critical for the highest-quality work.

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