Contractors are the backbone of any construction project. A great client-contractor relationship consists of open communication and realistic expectations concerning project goals.
One of your first pre-construction tasks should be to scout for potential contractors that align with your project goals and timetable, then present them with questions to gauge if they are the right fit for your construction needs.
Asking the right questions is key to finding the perfect contractor team for your project. No need to compile your own queries, here are the top 25 questions to ask contractors in 2023.
1. How Many Years of Experience Do You Have?
Ideally, the candidate will possess years of experience working in the construction industry. Once you have their answer, follow up with questions that gauge their project management experience.
If you are hiring a contractor for a commercial building renovation, ask candidates to share their specific experience managing a commercial job site and communicating with several stakeholders.
2. Do You Have a Valid License To Complete This Kind of Work?
Operating heavy construction equipment can sometimes require contractors to possess a commercial driver’s license or CDL. Certain states, like California, require contractors to receive a state license before being able to construct or alter a structure.
In order to prevent legal bumps in the road later down the line, check that the candidate has all the necessary licenses and certifications to successfully complete your construction project.
3. What Insurance Covers You and Your Employees?
Maintaining a safe construction site does not always prevent accidents from happening. Understanding the kind of insurance a contractor carries for their team can help everyone stay on the same page regarding liability.
Once you have your answer, ask further questions about worker’s compensation and commercial general liability (CGL) insurance. Again, the necessary level of coverage can differ by state so check your local laws during the screening process.
4. Are You Part of an Association or Professional Organization?
When looking for a contractor, ask if the candidates are members of any construction associations or professional organizations. Their answer can give your team insight into their methodology and approach to project management.
For example, veteran-owned small businesses (VOSBs) have access to perks like government-funded contracts and tax benefits. These incentives could potentially alter the price of a project and indicate how busy the contractor’s schedule could be.
5. Can You Share a List of References From Previous Clients?
Just like any other job interview, a candidate should share a list of past references with potential clients. Once you obtain the contact information of previous clients, reach out to them regarding the performance of the contractor and if they completed the job at a satisfactory level.
Follow up with questions regarding how well the contractor applied their construction skills to the project and if they would recommend the contractor to prospective clients.
6. What Is Your Estimated Timeline for This Job?
It’s a good idea to create a realistic construction schedule when hiring a contractor. Asking potential contractors for their estimated project timeline can help you scope out how long it will take if you were to hire their team.
They can break construction schedules down into weekly and daily versions, so consider asking follow-up questions that pertain to how long each step will take.
For example, ask the contractor to break down the project into stages with respective timelines so that you have tangible milestones to present to stakeholders.
7. Can We Collaborate on a Joint Contract?
Anyone who has started a construction company should be familiar with the nuances of client contracts. Although some contractors might send you a generic contract during the hiring process, ask them if they are comfortable collaborating on a joint contract.
A joint contract allows both parties to clearly state what their limits and expectations are while the construction project is underway. If the contractor is hesitant to create a joint contract, ask if they can make amendments to their general contract instead.
8. Do You Normally Finish Projects Within a Given Timeframe?
This is one of the best questions to ask a home builder if you are budgeting for accommodations while your house is undergoing construction or renovation.
Listen carefully to this answer for insights into how the general home contractor handles project delays. Follow up with questions concerning the contractor’s timeline management skills.
Safety is the top priority at all construction sites. Although efficiency is key to staying on schedule and on budget, you don’t want to hire someone who moves at a hazardous speed either.
9. Will You Personally Oversee the Status of the Project?
Now is the time to find out if the person you are interviewing is going to personally be in charge of the project. Depending on the size of your project, multiple types of contractors can collaborate to get the job done.
If the contractor you are interviewing won’t oversee the status of the project, consider asking if you can interview the person who will be in charge of the project before making a hiring decision.
10. Is There a Project Manager?
Large scale construction projects might require a dedicated project manager. If this is the case for your project, consult with the contractor about their project manager’s construction management style.
A project manager will prioritize the budget, timeline and safety standards of construction projects and should be great communicators in order to streamline the project management process.
11. Will the Project Manager Be at the Construction Site Daily?
When hiring a contractor, ask if the project manager will be a daily presence at the construction site. It is possible that a construction foreman will be relaying project information to project managers and superintendents.
Every contractor and construction company operates differently so ask who your direct line of communication will be and if that person will be at the construction site daily, weekly or at specified times throughout the process.
12. How Often Will You Update Me on the Status of the Project?
This is one of the most important questions to ask a home builder or commercial construction company so you know how often you can relay status updates to stakeholders.
Let them know your communication expectations up front to hire a general contractor that can facilitate the updates you are looking for. If you don’t have an update quota in mind, consider asking how often the contractor updated client’s in past projects.
13. Do You Offer a Warranty or Guarantee on Your Work?
There are several common risks associated with construction projects, including fire hazards, water damage and theft. For legal reasons, it is important to understand what kind of guarantees and warranties prospective contractors provide in case of an accident or damage due to faulty craftsmanship.
This is one of the best questions to ask roofing contractors to understand who is legally responsible to repair roof damage or unsuspected leaks. Have the guarantee or warranty written into your contract if it is not yet present.
14. Are There Specific Permits That This Project Requires?
Permits may be necessary depending on the location of your construction site and the construction equipment required to complete the project. Local governments issue zoning permits on a case-by-case basis.
Both building and zoning permits must respect current land use policies and uphold the safety of both current and future occupiers of the project site. Consider asking the contractor if they have experience obtaining permits prior to construction.
15. What Is Your Anticipated Daily Schedule for This Project?
Knowing what time contractors and subcontractors will be at the job site is essential for a smooth construction process. If the team is expecting to work on the project after the sun goes down, work lights will facilitate a safe working environment.
If there are specific tasks you would like the contractors to complete on a daily basis, now is the time to present those requests. An example of this could be requesting contractors to clean up around the dumpster site or porta-potty before leaving.
16. Do You Specialize in Residential or Commercial Construction Management?
Determine what sectors the contractor specializes in. Ask about their previous experiences in the category your construct project falls into. Consider asking follow-up questions about how they will prepare the construction site to best serve the zoning laws that govern the project site.
Properties zoned in a commercial area might have to adhere to local accessibility guidelines while a residential project is likely to follow a general home building checklist in addition to client requests.
17. What Is Your Expected Payment Schedule?
Ask your prospective contractor to share their expected payment schedule and how they prefer to receive payments. This is also a good time to address and file any paperwork so the contractor can receive payments.
What should you request from a contractor every time you make a payment? Consider collaborating on a time log or construction estimate template so that both parties can keep track of the expected payments due at the agreed-upon time.
18. In Our Joint Contract Will You Accept a Termination Clause?
If the contractor agrees to collaborate on a joint contract, ask if they would be willing to accept a termination clause. Discuss possible causes for termination and draft a strategy that both parties can take if the contract were to end abruptly.
Consider asking your candidate if they have signed contracts with termination clauses before and if any of their projects resulted in early termination. Reiterate in your clause that termination is possible at any stage of the project if agreed-upon rules are broken.
19. Will You Accept a Materials Budget in Our Joint Contract?
Building materials can comprise a large portion of the project budget and replacing materials lost through construction mistakes can be expensive.
Within your joint contract, create a maximum materials budget clause containing stipulations concerning how you will handle the loss of materials.
Asking if the contractor went over their materials budget before and how they paid for excess materials.
20. What Is an Average Day Like While Working on a Project?
Get to know your potential contractor’s planned routine for the construction period. The daily actions of the contractor’s team are what can lead to a successful project closeout. Follow up with questions related to what time workers plan to arrive at the site, when upper management schedules breaks and when the site will be locked up for the night.
If the contractor has not already done so, you can also ask to review a mockup of the general schedule they propose to work by and make necessary changes if the schedule falls short of your expectations.
21. How Long Will Cleaning up the Project Site Take?
Leaving a construction site free of leftover material and trash is the mark of a contractor who cares about their client’s property and reputation. Asking this question will help you gauge if the contractor already has a post-project clean-up strategy or prioritizes a clean construction site.
Illegally dumping hazardous materials from construction debris can generate legal issues. If your contractor candidate does not have a clean-up plan in place, collaborate on a post-construction clean-up strategy immediately.
22. What Safety Measures Do You Take To Protect the Property of Your Clients?
Renovations can accidentally lead to property damage and new constructions must be weatherproof in order to prevent materials from rotting.
Since every construction site involves different parameters, it is imperative that the contractor creates a site-specific safety plan (SSSP) for your construction project.
Aside from protecting your property, tangible safety measures can also help reduce construction accidents and keep the project on schedule.
23. What Is Your Strategy When Bad Weather Halts the Completion of a Project?
If your construction project is in a region prone to heavy rain or snow, bad weather can inevitably lead to project slowdowns. Account for these delays in the project schedule in advance by incorporating bad weather buffer days.
Ask the contractor if they have experience with projects during bad weather. Also ask what extra safety precautions they took to ensure the well-being of their team and the project site.
24. What Is Your Strategy If Someone Is Injured at the Project Site?
The goal of any general contractor should be to avoid situations that lead to injured personnel at all costs. Discuss proactive methods of preventing injury with your contractor candidate and ask what their strategy is when someone gets injured at a project site.
There are a variety of possible answers and you generally want to hear that a contractor will take injuries seriously and already has strategies for how to professionally care for an injured worker while keeping the project on schedule.
25. Where Do You Normally Source Your Materials From?
The price of building materials can change depending on their source. This is also a great question to ask a contractor if you are hoping to ethically source building materials for your residential or commercial construction project.
If the contractor plans to source building materials from a place that is out of your budget, provide them with other resources that will help them find materials at a lower price.
After you find the perfect contractor candidate for your construction project, it’s time to source high-quality construction site equipment that will help facilitate a smooth construction process.
Questions to Ask Contractors FAQ
Find the answers to the most asked contractor related questions below.
What Are Good Questions To Ask a Contractor?
Ask contractors about their work history, scheduling practices and project management experience. It’s also important to gauge how a contractor will react when an accident happens or they are falling behind schedule.
What Should You Not Ask a Contractor?
Few questions should be off-limits since both parties want to make sure that they are the right fit for the job. You should not let a contractor know if they are the only ones bidding for a job.
What Questions Should I Ask a Contractor Before Remodeling?
Ask a contractor if they have experienced remodeling homes before and what challenges have they overcome while remodeling in the past. You should also ask questions about how they plan to keep the construction site safe from the elements during the remodeling process.
What To Know Before Talking to a Contractor?
Before talking to a contractor, have a firm grasp on when you need the project completed, what materials you plan to use and how often you would like to receive project status updates.