How to Choose the Right Contractor

Home improvement project

posted May 14, 2021 in Blogs

Spring is in full swing and the sound of power tools can be heard on almost every street all weekend long. Whether you are an avid DIYer or have never picked up your hammer, there are some projects that warrant bringing in the big guns...A.K.A. a contractor.

Finding the right contractor can be quite the task, as there are typically many options for whatever type of project you need assistance with. While we’d like to believe the majority are responsive, honest and have safety in mind, you will certainly want to do your research and ask the pertinent questions before you shell out the funds to bring them on board. Home improvement must be done by the book and follow all applicable code requirements of your city's building department. We’ve put together 8 questions that can easily lead you to finding the most qualified professional in your area with right experience to fit your needs, rather than taking a gamble and ending up disappointed!

Some of the following questions may feel forced and out of character, but rest assured if your potential contractor is reputable, they will be able to offer answers quickly and respectfully.

1. Are you insured?

This should definitely be a monumental deal-breaker question, given the potentially risks that come along with home improvement work. Contractors should always carry liability and workers' compensation insurance. If they don’t have insurance, you may become liable for any costs associated with any accidents occurring on your property during the time work is being done.

2. Are you licensed?

No matter the how large or small your project is, most states and municipalities require home improvement contractors to be licensed. It will always be in your home and future’s best interest to rule out any contractors who are not properly licensed. It comes down to a matter of protecting yourself, your family, the contractor and their workers too. Ensuring that they are equipped with all up-to-date licenses and insurance requirements required by local law will set you up for success should any issues arise.

3. What scope of work do you do most for your clients?

Many contractors often specialize in one or two specific areas of home improvement. For example, if your contractor advertises that they offer roofing, siding, windows, painting and landscaping, they likely are more skilled in a few of those areas and complete projects in that field more often than others. Knowing this during the planning process will help aide your final decision greatly. Another example is that if your project involves work in finished spaces of your home, you would want to look for someone who specializes in remodel work as opposed to new construction. You should also feel welcome to ask for information regarding the training or certification they received in order to complete the work.

4. What does the estimate all include?

This is an area where you never want to assume anything. For example, even though you may think it makes sense for all tree trimming companies to haul away debris, not all do! If it isn’t explicitly outlined in the estimate, be sure to ask if there are any additional services offered that are not listed on the estimate/quote for work. If there are ‘extras’ included, request they be included in the formal estimate so they are now an expectation on both parties’ sides, and not only said during a verbal conversation. This holds contractor accountable when the job is complete if all items are not taken care of.

Also, in addition to the basic pricing structure, be sure to discuss incidentals with the contractor, as chances are, you will be responsible for them. 

5. Will you provide references (for past similar jobs)?

References are a great resource when hiring contractors – since it can be hard to judge their quality of work when you’re not able to see most of it and may not know what to look for exactly.

Using your family, friends and co-workers as a first set of references about work they have had done on their homes is also a fantastic way to gauge the true quality of a contractor, since you can trust their opinions. Were they happy with the end result? Was the price reasonable? Did the contractor stick to the initial schedule and budget? Were they easy to communicate with? Would you use them again? What did they do that didn’t work well? Compile feedback and use it to your advantage!

When in doubt, Google can also be a tried and true resource. What you're looking for are contractors with generally positive reviews from sources such as Google, Yelp, Facebook, etc. - not just from the contractor's individual website. You can also check how long they've been in business for and whether there have been any customer complaints filed with the Better Business Bureau.

6. Do I need a permit? Who will apply and receive it?

By obtaining a permit, it ensures the work will be professionally approved by a city inspector – a vital safeguard for all homeowners. It is typically a standard practice for contractors (not homeowners) to pull permits before work begins, and pass over to you to keep in a safe place during and after the job.

7. What will be guaranteed and/or under warranty?

Asking this question, will tell you how confident the contractor is in their team’s work. Depending on the scope of work, asking questions like the following will help prepare you for what could potentially happen down the road.

What if the problem persists after your work is complete?
Is there a manufacturer’s warranty on the product used? If so, I’d like a copy of that paperwork.
If you run into issues, will I be billed for additional hours of labor or trip charges?
If items of mine are damaged as a result of the work completed, will I be reimbursed?

8. Who will actually be performing the work?

If you would feel more comfortable about the "boss" being on site for your project, discuss this up front. A mistake would be to assume the person you talk to will be the one doing all the work.


Get everything in writing.

As a general rule of thumb, communicate any formal agreements, pricing, specifications, change orders, etc. in writing to hold the contractor accountable for their work. What you may think is something they won’t forget or is a given, may be accidentally or intentionally tossed by the wayside once the project is in full swing. Things such as the color of hardware, dimensions of items, brand of materials, product numbers and quantities needed.  

Cheaper doesn’t always mean better.

Remember the lowest bid isn’t necessarily the most desirable. You may want to save money, but this is your home and in the end, you want excellent-quality work that will last through the years. Lower than average bids are usually a warning signal to watch out for. They can potentially mean unreliability, no guarantee of the work, substandard materials used and so on. If ending up with good quality work is important to you, be willing to pay for quality.

Ask for progress updates/walk-thrus along the way.

Periodically throughout your project, whether it’s anticipated to take a few hours or a few months, the contractor should keep you apprised of any issues and changes, as well as progress. This way, you are able to catch things in real time rather than after the fact causing time, money and resources to fix.

If you’re ready to hire a contractor, consider also applying for a home equity loan or line of credit with GICU! We’re offering low rates and no closing costs for those who apply before June 30, 2021 and close prior to August 31, 2021. Reach out to us today to learn more and get started!

  1. budget
  2. hel
  3. heloc
  4. home
  5. home equity line of credit
  6. home equity loan
  7. home improvement
  8. home loan
  9. homeowner
  10. no closing costs
  11. remodel
  12. security