We are about to undertake a fairly large remodeling project (2nd story room addition). You hear about so many horror stories involving contractors. We have a list of contractors we like to talk to. We'd like to avoid being one of these stories! What are some red flags to watch out for? What are some of the key questions to ask a prospective contractor?
Morgan O. ~ Chicago, Illinois
Hi Morgan, I know there are horror stories about contractors, but there are also very many outstanding contractors out there, I'm sure Chicago has quite a few. If I was hiring a contractor to work on my house, there are four aspects I would want to consider.
I would want to check references from past customers. I would want to know about the quality of work the contractor did, whether the project proceeded in a timely fashion, and if the jobsite was kept clean. I would want to talk to at least 3 or 4 past customers.
I would want to compare pricing from the various contractors. I would want a good price, but keep in mind the lowest price is not always the best price. If three contractors are somewhat close together in price, and one is considerably lower, chances are they left something out of their bid. But it is also possible that they are looking for work, and the other three have enough work, so it is important to compare the bids. If all four are bidding the same scope of work, you may get a very good deal from the low contractor.
Make sure the contractor you choose has all of their licenses, liability insurance, and workers compensation insurance, if their own employees will be working on the project.
Lastly, I would want to make sure I thought I could get along with the contractor I hired. I wouldn't care if I thought we would be friends, although we might be after the project was finished. I would just want to know that I was comfortable dealing with this person, who I might be seeing on a daily basis for 1-2 months.