15 Things You Need to Know Before Hiring a Contractor
In this segment we will cover 15 questions that are a must-know before hiring any contractor. For your convenience, we've also included our answers to every question!
1. Is the company licensed? What is the license number?
If your "contractor" is not licensed and something goes wrong, you may have very little recourse. Professional contractors are licensed by the State of California Contractor's Licensing Bureau. If something goes wrong on your job, you can file a complaint with the Licensing Bureau. Complaints are verified and inspected. Complaints found to be valid can result in fines, suspensions or loss of license to the offending contractor. If your "guy" doesn't have a license, he or she has nothing to lose.
Our Answer: Cecil Construction Inc.'s, (CCI) license number is 810498.
2. How long did it take the company to respond after your first call requesting information?
If you didn't get a response the same day or certainly within 24 hours, cross them off your list. If they are not responsive before they start the job, they won't be once they have your money.
Our Answer: Cecil Construction, Inc. (CCI) standards require that all calls, questions and inquires get a response the same day, time permitting, but in all cases within 24 hours.
3. Is the company insured for liability and workers compensation?
Law requires workers compensation insurance. If a company does not have Workers Compensation or cannot prove they do, cross them off your list. They are violating the law, which brings their honesty and integrity into question. Additionally, if a worker gets hurt on your job and there is no workers compensation in place, you may be held liable.
All contractors should have a minimum $1,000,000 general liability policy in place. If they don't and something happens on the job, guess what, you may be held liable.
Our Answer: CCI is fully insured for workers compensation and is covered for $2 million in general liability.
4. How long has the company been in business?
You want to know that if the workmanship doesn't hold up, the contractor will still be around to make it right. It doesn't take much to start a repair or contracting company. Companies that have been in business for 5 years or longer are more likely to be around next year. That is one of the reasons that insurers like AAA only work with contractors who have been in business 5 years or more.
Our Answer: Robert Cecil, President of CCI, has been a licensed general contractor since 1984.
5. Specifically, what kind of experience does the company have? Everybody says they have experience in "all phases of construction." Have they done your kind of job before?
"All phases of construction" is just a phrase. If your repair or remodel has several phases, i.e., construction, plumbing, electrical, painting, dry wall, etc. you not only want to know that the contractor has done all of this work before, but how often. If the company you are interviewing says they've done 1 or 2 or none, you might want to keep looking at other companies.
Our Answer: With over 300 jobs completed just last year CCI really does have experience in all phases of construction. We are happy to give you the specifics you need along with references.
6. Ask how they go about setting the price for jobs. What kind of standards do they use for pricing jobs? Do they use specific costing standards?
If you can't get a specific answer to this question, including specifically what standards they use, be leery.
Our Answer: CCI uses the same software estimating system that Farmers, State Farm, AAA and USAA homeowner's insurance companies require contractors to use for insurance repairs. The system helps the contractor look at each facet of your job and complete an accurate estimate based on pricing standards developed by insurance companies.
7. "Will I get an itemized quote?"
Without an itemized quote, you don't really know what the contractor plans to do. Without an itemized quote, it is easier to "underestimate" the job, resulting in unexpected expenses in order to get your work done. Additionally, itemized quotes make it much more difficult for unscrupulous companies to "pad" the quote.
Our Answer: CCI gives you an itemized quote, generated from the system, based on insurance industry standards, no matter what size the job is.
8. "When will I get the quote?"
Generally speaking, you should be able to get a quote in 5 days of the estimator's initial survey. Of course more complex projects, like building an entire house, will take longer. But you want the job completed and completed on time. If the company claims to be professional and experienced, but can't turn an itemized quote within a few days, how long will it take them to do the actual work?
Our Answer: The CCI standard is 5 days or less for a complete quote.
9. "When will you start the job?"
The company may meet all of your other requirements, but lots of good companies are very busy. If you don't ask, you won't know.
Our Answer: CCI starts most jobs within 48 hours of your signed authorization to do the work.
10. "When will you finish the job?"
This question is even more important than #9. After all, what you really want is to get the work completed so you can get your life back to normal and start enjoying your new room or project. Of course, certain things arise that can delay work. Your builder should review these contingencies with you before you sign the contract. That will help to minimize unpleasant surprises.
Our Answer: CCI has a project manager assigned to each job. His job is to get your job finished on time. The Project Manager communicates with you at the beginning of your project, at the end of your project and as often as appropriate during the project. If we are behind for any reason, we will discuss what we might do to get back on track.
11. "Do you guarantee the work?"
Most ethical contractors will guarantee the workmanship for 1 year. But if the company is not licensed, or if the company goes out of business, your guarantee is not worth anything.
Our Answer: By the way, CCI guarantees the workmanship for 2 years.
12. "Will I get a specific time schedule?"
You want the time schedule to be as specific as possible on large or small projects. Ask the builder what they plan to do and when they plan to finish each piece of the puzzle. Then ask yourself if the description of what will be done makes sense compared to the time estimate they gave you.
Our Answer: CCI provides a time estimate on every project with the quote for the job.
13. "Will you explain the types of materials you are using and why?"
Sometimes less expensive but perfectly functional materials can be used to reduce your expense. Sometimes they can be used to simply increase the contractor's profit. You want to know that you are getting what you are paying for and that you are not paying any more than you have to. In other situations, room additions and remodels in particular, you simply may not be aware of all of the options. Contractors have options that may allow you to get more for your money just by asking the right questions.
Our Answer: New building materials are coming to market all of the time. Frequently, we are aware of materials that might be more durable, lower in cost or more appealing than the same old stuff. We will review materials and options whenever it seems appropriate.
14. "What size is the company?"
You want to know that the company is stable and has enough employees and resources to finish your job once they start it. You want to know that they have the breadth of experience to do your specific kind of job. You want to know that they are not so big that you're just another number.
Our Answer: CCI is a medium size company, growing rapidly based on word-of-mouth. We employ a full range of experienced craftsmen (and women) and hire only CCI qualified subcontractors for special work. Due to our growth, we are constantly recruiting for additional crafts persons who meet our qualifications.
15. Ask for references.
You should be able to get references, and it would be nice to get references for the same type of work you need to have done. If the company is hesitant or if they can't produce references, be suspicious.
Our Answer: CCI will give you from 5 to 50 references on just about any job you have in mind.