Whether you’re remodeling your kitchen or retrofitting an electric fireplace, the hiring of a contractor deserves your full attention. You want a renovation that goes smoothly and a finished product that looks good and is well built. Here are the most important questions to ask a contractor to determine if it’s a good fit for you and your project.

1. Ask about licenses, insurance, experience, and warranties.

Contractors must be licensed and insured in the state in which they do business. They are required to provide proof of their license and insurance should you ask for it. A business license is different from a contractor’s license so be sure you’re looking at the right license.

If there’s any question, call the state licensing office to find out if the license is current and the contractor is in good standing. You can also check up on the insurance by contacting the providing company. Some contractors may also have memberships in associations like the National Association of Home Builders or the National Kitchen & Bath Association. These qualifications provide extra support to their competence.

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Don’t be afraid to ask about their years in business or the types of jobs they have the most experience with. This will help you narrow down your choice. Be sure to ask about any warranties or guarantees a contractor makes on his or her work—and get it in writing.

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2. Dig around for referrals, reviews, and ratings.

We live in a very connected world. You can easily dig up information about other people’s interactions with a contractor online. Ask your friends about their experiences, especially recent ones. Contact the Better Business Bureau and other community vetting agencies to find the best contractors in your area.

Two people shaking hands.

3. Get quotes.

Asking for a quote can help you learn a lot about a contractor and what it’s like to work with them. Not only will you get an idea of the cost of your project and compare it against other contractors, you’ll also find out how much information the contractor will give you to help you make decisions.

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A good contractor will have plenty of questions for you, so be prepared. They’ll want to know things like if you want to change your layout, where you want your appliances, which materials you want, what your timeline and budget look like, and more. Use this opportunity to learn about the contractor’s communication style and assess whether it’s a good fit for you.

4. Find out what your responsibility is.

Never make assumptions about what your contractor will do. Always ask if your contractor will arrange for permits and inspections. Find out what your payment terms will be. Will you need to provide parking, restrooms, power, plumbing, etc.?

Once you understand what’s your job and what’s your contractor’s job, you can avoid getting in each other’s way and keep the project moving along.

5. Ask about deadlines.

The timeline is more than a hopeful future completion date. It is a carefully orchestrated series of events that fit together like a puzzle. Your contractor and team will handle all scheduling and deadlines, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t be involved too.

When the contractor knows you are keeping track of the schedule, they’ll be more careful about sticking to it or communicating about delays. This will decrease the likelihood of being surprised by problems with the timeline.

6. Find out the best ways to contact your contractor.

Speaking of communication, find out how a contractor prefers to communicate and the best way to do that should questions or problems arise. It’s also a good idea to find out how often your contractor will be checking in onsite and when you can expect them.

7. Learn who will be working on your project and when.

One of the biggest difficulties between contractors and their clients is the work crew. These are the people who will be in your house, tearing down your walls, and taking (what seems to you) extra long lunch breaks.

When you know who and what to expect, you can better make your own plans and not worry about managing the crew in your home. While you’re at it, ask about what the crew might need, like storage of tools overnight, restrooms, etc.

A living room and fireplace under construction for a renovation.

8. Get info on how your property will be cared for during your project.

Another of the big issues between contractors and clients arises when the crew leaves muddy footprints in the house or drips paint on the rug. If the contractor doesn’t specify, ask if plastic will be placed on the floors, drop cloths on furniture, and whether you can expect the crew to clean up after themselves (and how often).

9. Ask about how disagreements, unforeseen issues, and additional charges will be handled.

Every legal contract should include information about what happens if the parties disagree or have grievances. It also helps to know ahead of time how it will be handled if there is an unforeseen issue with the project, especially if it means there will be a cost associated with it.

Nobody likes surprises. Though every project will have a bump or two in the road, planning for them and knowing how they will be handled takes some of the stress out of the situation when it does arise.

Hiring a contractor is a big deal. You want to ensure your time and money results in a finished product that you’ll love. Don’t skimp on the questions you ask a contractor and your confidence will get a boost.

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