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Whether you are planning to build a new home or need a professional to help with a weekend project, hiring a contractor for the first time is serious business. You are trusting your space and your money with someone you’ve never met before. They may look great on paper, but there are certain things you should ask before you seal the deal and give this person access to your property, and your funds.

The smartest place to start when hiring a contractor is with friends and family. If you don’t have a professional contractor in your social circle, chances are your friends and family have worked with one before. Get their advice, reviews, experiences, and recommendations about people they’ve worked with in the past.

Once you have a short list of contractors, here are the questions to ask them to vet their experience and expertise:

1. How long have you been working as a contractor?

When you’re on the hunt for a contractor, their experience in the field is very important. With years of experience under their belt, contractors who are established in the field will have answers to most of your questions, because chances are they’ve seen it and done it all before.

Established contractors who have been around for years have had time to work out the kinks and know how to complete a successful and professional job. Make sure they’ve done this type of work, on this particular type of property, before. If they’ve only done routine maintenance on apartment buildings, asking them to complete an upgraded kitchen remodel in your luxury home may be little risky.

2. Can I see your contracting license and certificate of insurance?

Professional contractors are required to meet a list of standards and are required to obtain certain licenses and certificates in order for them to work, and these requirements vary by state. Making sure they are covered for the job they are going to perform is important—and be sure to double check about worker’s comp and liability insurance.  Professional contractors will be happy to show you their up-to-date documents to give you peace of mind.

3. Are you taking care of the permits for this job?

Even small changes to the structure of your home may require certain permits and inspections. An experience contractor should not only know what permits are required, but should also be willing to get them and set up necessary inspections as well.

4. What is the timeline for completion and payment?

Communication is key when it comes to hiring a contractor. Asking questions like “what is the timeline?” and “how does payment work?” upfront ensure everyone is on the same page. Come up with a clear deadline for the project’s completion, and ask if there are any issues that could conflict with this deadline. Remember that things happen and sometimes deadlines aren’t met because of unforeseen circumstances. Talk about how these issues will be addressed before they happen.

In regards to payment, make sure everyone is on the same page for not only the total price, but for when things are due and if you will be paying on specific dates or after each stage of the job is completed.

5. Who will you be working with?

It’s your space, and your project, so it makes sense to be curious about who exactly is going to be working on your home.  Ask if the same people will be on site every day, if there are subcontractors, and who the project manager is. A highly dedicated team is key to a successful contracting job, and as the client, you have every right to know who is doing what.

6. What can I expect each day?

Whether you’re planning a complete kitchen remodel or just updating a bathroom, knowing what to expect day to day can help make the temporary “chaos” a little more bearable. Asking questions like “What can I expect each day?”  allow the contractors to give you insight on things like start and end times, noise level expectations, if they need you home at any point, or if you need to move items that are in work areas. The more you know about what to expect, the smoother the project will go for everyone involved.

Whether you’re hiring an individual contractor that you know or a well-known company in the area, being informed and asking the right questions is the best way to avoid costly and time-consuming mistakes during your next home remodel project. A professional contractor will not only welcome these questions but encourage an open line of communication and have the answers (or know how to get them) to make you feel at ease.

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