5 Questions to Ask Prospective General Home Contractors
Finding the right provider for construction or renovation work can be a daunting task. Construction/Renovation requires technical skills, skills you aren’t likely to have, and it makes finding help difficult. There isn’t a contractor alive that won’t claim they do a good job for fair pay, so it’s the homeowners responsibility to assess the truth of that claim. Without having technical construction skills yourself, knowing how to separate the good from the bad can feel like a roll of the dice, but with the right insight it can be made easier. Consider this advice from Windmill Construction:
1) Are You Insured?
This is a simple consideration that homeowners all-too-often forget to think about. Hiring a contractor means you are hiring a person, or team, to come into your house on a regular basis to perform work that can be easily damaging to your home and things, not to mention dangerous. Without an insured contractor, you are putting yourself in a position of tremendous risk. There is little sense in paying, for example, for new granite counter-tops, only to have one crack in half from a dropped tool or fixture. Without an insured contractor, you run the risk of eating the cost of damage, not to mention potential legal liabilities in the case of injury.
As a general rule, if a contractor is not established enough to afford insurance, they are not established enough to be working on your project. Lower prices may be initially tantalizing to the budget-conscious homeowner, but they come at the cost of inordinate risk, one that could have legal and financial consequences long into the future.
2) What Work Do You Specialize In?
General contractors perform general work, but everyone in trades and construction has an area or niche that they specialize in. Our company, Windmill Construction, is a general contractor/construction service, but we also have specialized skills in ICF and slab-on-grade that differentiates us from the competition. Every contractor gets their start working in a particular niche, and that experience carries over as a specialization. Finding out what your contractor specializes in is an opportunity to determine if they have skills that can contribute extra value to the project you’re looking to have performed!
3) Can I Speak With Former Clients?
We don’t think twice about providing references when we apply for a job, and yet often homeowners feel rude asking for references from their contractor. Getting an impression of a contractors skill and work, straight from the mouth of a former client, is one of the best ways to find out what you’re likely to get before you get it. While contractors, like anyone, are likely only going to be providing you references likely to provide a positive review, by calibrating the questions you ask former clients, you can probe for the information you need. Consider asking:
- What was the best/worst part of working with this contractor?
- What troubles did you run into during renovation/construction, and how did your contractor deal with them?
- Did your contractor hire any outside skilled trades, and if so did they perform to a high standard?
- What measures did your contractor take to protect your property?
- Did the finish on schedule, and on budget? If not, why?
Of course, the questions you ask will be specific to your needs, but these should serve to give you an impression of how you should be proceeding. All it takes is determining what you want to know, and crafting calibrated questions to extract that information from previous clients.
4) How are Your Reviews?
A quick Google search is generally all it takes to find reviews for any kind of service provider, but when it comes to contractors specifically, it isn’t always that simple. With so many platforms available for a person to leave a review, it isn’t always the case that a google search will expose the information you’re looking for. You may only find one or two reviews initially on Google, but speaking with a contractor is liable to expose you to many more! Yelp and Houzz do not always show up in search results, so asking a contractor where you can find reviews is a great way to learn what Google can’t tell you about a possible contractor.
5) What Kind of Documentation Will I Receive?
If your contractor can answer this questions quickly and confidently, consider it a good sign of their professionalism and business sense. Contractors that run successful businesses rely on lawyers to draft contracts, protecting their business and your project. A contractor who has taken the time, energy, and money to invest in providing legal documentation is one who is serious about running a reputable business; and as such these contracts serve as an indication of their trustworthiness.
Are you looking to hire a general contractor for a renovation or construction project in the Ottawa or Cornwall area? We invite you to take a look at Windmill Construction! A Tarion Registered home builder since 1997 with over 20 years of experience in trades, you can get an impression of our work by visiting our completed projects or facebook page. There you will find many examples of our historical work, as well as considerable discussion concerning our skills and reputation!
No matter who you hire for your construction/renovation project, assessing the quality of your service provider isn’t as difficult as it may initially appear. With these 5 questions above, you can penetrate the surface impression of a contractor to establish a more substantial impression of their skills and abilities! If you’re looking for a contractor you know you can trust, we invite you to get in touch with Windmill!