15 Question to Ask When Looking for a Residential Contractor

Residential Construction

Finding a general contractor for your custom home or commercial project shouldn’t be stressful, but for a lot of people it is. The good news? It doesn’t have to be! If you know the right questions to ask, you can get a much clearer picture of how a contractor works, what your project will entail, and what you can expect from start to finish.

We’ve put together 15 questions we advocate people use when interviewing contractors for their residential projects.

15 Questions For Residential Contractors

Are you licensed/ what is your license number?

This is one of the first questions you should ask. Always be sure to work with licensed contractors. While the state of Texas does not license General contractors at the state level, several cities and counties do require licensure. Even if you are not in one of those counties, the benefits of working with a licensed contractor means you can more easily verify whether or not they’ve had any legal issues, claims, or judgements against them.

Have you ever operated under a different business name?

If you are able to check through their license information, you should be able to find out if they operate under a different business name but it’s a good thing to ask, as well, just to be sure they’re honest about the work they do and how they do it.

Do you have insurance?

This is important for a lot of reasons. Residential Contractors should be insured but the amount of coverage they have is also important. You’ll want a contractor that has enough coverage to not only cover your property but also to include worker’s compensation. If they do not have coverage, any damage to your property or injuries and accidents that occur on-site will be your responsibility to cover.

It’s absolutely ok to ask for a copy of the contractor’s insurance policy. The due diligence will fall on you to make sure you are safeguarded during the process.

Will you be using subcontractors on this project? How long have you worked with these subcontractors?

A lot of general contractors (GCs) use subcontractors so a yes answer is not a bad thing. It’s important that you know who will be working on your project as these are people you may interact with or have in your home every day.

How do you vet your subcontractors and employees? Do they go through background checks?

As mentioned in the question above, it’s important to know how your GC chooses their crew members and their subcontractors. Some additional questions to task may be:

  • Will the same team be working on the project for the duration?
  • Is there a project manager and how often will they be onsite?
  • How do you qualify your subcontractors?
  • Are they covered by your insurance or do they have their own?

What does a typical day look like?

It’s important to make sure the hours your residential contractor/team is working work with your own schedule. Knowing things like start/end times, noise levels, space needs, etc, will help you prepare yourself (and your neighbors) for what’s going to be happening on a daily basis for the duration of your project. Oftentimes your homeowners association will have restrictions on construction hours.

How many projects like mine have you done before?

You want to make sure that the GC you chose has a proven track record of success doing projects similar to yours. It’s ok to ask for information about previous projects, issues that have popped up and the solutions that were used to solve them.

How do you typically communicate with your clients?

Communication is key! The best GCs are those who value client relationships and work with you to create a communication cadence that makes everyone feel comfortable. It’s also important to establish how conflicts will be dissolved and how discussions around possible additional time and charges will occur.

Be sure to be honest and communicative with your GC. At the end of the day, they want to do a good job for you so if you feel unhappy with the way something is being done or how the project is progressing, address it as soon as possible.

What does your project estimate include?

This is a big one! There are a lot of horror stories you can find through your research of clients getting handed a much bigger bill than they were expecting because the original estimate didn’t actually cover everything that needed to be done. Don’t be afraid to go over estimates with a fine-toothed comb and ask a lot of detailed questions.

Will you get the permits and set up inspections?

City ordinances has a list of required inspections and the city will handle the actual inspection. The state of Texas requires inspections even if you are in the county. It’s important that your contractor knows which type of permits and inspections are required so you meet the building requirements in your area. It’s important to establish who will be doing what before the project begins.

How will additional charges be handled?

It’s inevitable that something will come up that just couldn’t be planned for in a project. With this in mind, it’s important to set up a way for your GC to communicate with you about extra costs or needs before the work is actually done. Ask the GC how they typically handle conversations around these extra charges. If they don’t seem to have a good answer, that’s a good indicator that they may not be a good fit for your project.

What does worksite clean up look like daily and at the end of the project?

This is a question that a lot of people don’t think to ask. Whether the work is being done inside or outside of your home, you want to make sure there’s a plan for how materials and tools are being stored at the end of the day. There’s nothing worse than having parts of your home inaccessible because materials are haphazardly piled. Be sure storage and clean-up are established prior to the project being completed. If you have a project manager, check in with them if you see a cluttered workspace at the end of the day or encounter any clean-up issues.

Do you provide a warranty for the materials you use and for your services?

It’s important to know that the work that is being done and the materials that are being used are covered by a warranty should something go wrong. If not, then replacement materials and needed fixes will be additional costs. You also want to ensure that your residential contractor is working with quality materials and takes pride in the work that they do. While some GCs will have no problem stopping in to fix something that’s broken, it’s important to have a more solidified plan so you are covered no matter what.

How much will this project cost?

Seems like a no-brainer but it’s an important question! Be sure that your GC gives you a detailed estimate with costs associated so you have a better idea of what your project will entail. It’s best to have the cost conversation as soon as possible so both you and the GC feel comfortable with proceeding with the work.

Do you have a list of references?

In some cases, being able to speak to other happy customers will give you a better idea of how a GC works with their clients. It’s always good to hear from other people who have been through the process so you can ask them questions about any challenges they had as well as get tips on how to best work with the contractor so you can build a solid relationship.

With these questions at the ready, you should feel more confident in speaking with potential contractors for your next project. Communication is key so be sure to ask as many detailed questions as you need to feel comfortable.

Interested in talking to one of our own residential experts? We’ve been building in Texas for over 50 years. Contact us today to see how we work with you to make your dream home become a reality.

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