Contractors are the backbone of any construction project. A great client-contractor relationship involves 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 fit your construction needs.
Asking the right questions is key to finding the perfect contractor team for your project. No need to compile your 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 about their project management experience.
If you’re hiring a contractor for a commercial building renovation, ask candidates to share their experience managing a commercial job site and communicating with several stakeholders.
2. Do You Specialize in Residential or Commercial Construction Management?
Properties zoned in a commercial area might have to adhere to local accessibility guidelines. At the same time, a residential project is likely to follow a general home building checklist in addition to client requests. So, ask about their previous experiences in your construction project’s category.
Consider asking follow-up questions about how they will prepare the construction site to best serve the zoning laws that govern the project site.
3. 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) can access perks like government-funded contracts and tax benefits. These incentives could alter a project’s price and indicate how busy the contractor’s schedule could be.
4. Can You Share a List of References From Previous Clients?
Like any other job interview, a candidate should share a list of past references with potential clients. Once you obtain the previous client’s contact information, reach out to them regarding the contractor’s performance and inquire if they completed the job at a satisfactory level.
You should also ask their previous clients questions regarding how well the contractor applied their construction skills to the project and if they would recommend the contractor to prospective clients.
5. 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 hope to ethically source building materials for your residential or commercial construction project.
If the contractor plans to source building materials from a place that’s 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.
6. 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 their limits and expectations while the construction project is underway. If the contractor is hesitant to create a joint contract, ask if they can amend their general contract instead.
7. Do You Have a Valid License To Complete This Kind of Work?
Every state requires that contractors have a valid contractor license before they can professionally provide their services. Additionally, many states have different levels of contractor licenses, like general and residential. When you’re looking for a contractor, make sure they hold a current license in your state and the right license to safely and legally complete your project.
In addition to a contractor license, some states may require a commercial driver’s license (CDL) or another license to operate heavy construction equipment.
To prevent legal bumps in the road later down the line, check that the candidate has all the necessary licenses and certifications to complete your construction project successfully.
8. Do You Offer a Warranty or Guarantee on Your Work?
Several common risks are associated with construction projects, including fire hazards, water damage and theft. For legal reasons, it is important to understand the guarantees, surety bonds and warranties prospective contractors provide in case of an accident, faulty workmanship or inability to complete the project.
This is an especially important question for roofing contractors to understand who is legally responsible to repair roof damage or unsuspected leaks. Have the guarantee written into your contract if it is not yet present.
9. 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.
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 and what their plan would be for this project.
10. 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 ends abruptly.
Consider asking your candidate if they had 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 project stage if agreed-upon rules are broken.
11. 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 the contractor will handle the loss of materials.
Ask if the contractor has previously gone over their materials budget, and if so, how did they handle it?
12. What Is Your Expected Payment Schedule?
Ask your prospective contractor to share their expected payment schedule and how they prefer to receive payments. 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.
13. What Insurance Covers You and Your Employees?
Accidents can happen on any construction site — even if you practice site safety. 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.
14. What Safety Measures Do You Take To Protect the Property of Your Clients?
Renovations can accidentally damage property, while new constructions can incur damage from the elements. There are very specific safety measures that the contractor team must abide by to ensure the safety of the property, workers, the environment they’re working in and materials.
Since every construction site involves different parameters, the contractor must create a site-specific safety plan (SSSP) for your project.
Aside from protecting your property, tangible safety measures can help reduce construction accidents and keep the project on schedule.
15. What Is Your Strategy if Someone Is Injured at the Project Site?
The main priority of any general contractor is to avoid a situation that could lead to on-site injury. Discuss proactive methods of preventing injury with your contractor candidate and ask about their strategy if 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 a plan for how to professionally care for an injured worker while keeping the project on schedule.
16. Will You Personally Oversee the Status of the Project?
Now is the time to find out if the person you are interviewing will be in charge of the project. Depending on the size of your project, multiple types of contractors may collaborate to complete the job.
If the contractor you are interviewing won’t oversee the project’s status, consider asking if you can interview the person who will be before making a hiring decision.
17. Is There a Project Manager?
Large-scale projects, like commercial construction, require a dedicated project manager. If this is the case for your project, consult the contractor about their project manager’s construction management style.
A project manager will prioritize the budget, timeline and safety standards of construction projects. They should be a great communicator to streamline the project management process.
18. 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. A construction foreman will relay project information to project managers and superintendents.
Every contractor and construction company operates differently so you must know who your direct line of communication will be and when that person will be at the site.
19. 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. A contractor should already have a post-project clean-up strategy in place to show that they prioritize 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, offer to collaborate on a post-construction clean-up strategy immediately.
20. 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. Ask the contractor if they have experience with projects during bad weather. Also, ask what extra safety precautions they will take to ensure the well-being of their team and the project site.
21. 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.
Ask them to break construction schedules down into weekly and daily versions, so you can ask follow-up questions about how long each phase will take.
For example, you might ask the contractor to break down the project into stages with respective timelines so that you have tangible milestones to present to stakeholders.
22. Do You Normally Finish Projects Within a Given Timeframe?
This is one of the best questions for home builders, especially since you might require other accommodations while your house is undergoing construction or renovation.
However, this question isn’t for residential contractors only. Sticking to a deadline is essential for any construction project as it helps the job move along efficiently and allows other teams to complete their work on time. 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.
As always, safety is the top priority at all construction sites. Although efficiency is key to staying on schedule and on budget, you also don’t want to hire someone who moves at a hazardous speed.
23. How Often Will You Update Me on the Status of the Project?
This is essential information to know ahead of time so you know how often you can relay status updates to stakeholders.
Make your communication expectations clear from the start so you can be confident that your general contractor will facilitate frequent and thorough updates. If you don’t have an update quota in mind, consider asking how often the contractor updated their clients in the past.
24. What Is Your Anticipated Daily Schedule for This Project?
Knowing when contractors and subcontractors will be at the job site is essential for a smooth construction process. If the team expects to work on the project after the sun goes down, you may need to arrange specific equipment, like work lights, to facilitate a safe working environment.
If there are specific tasks you would like the contractors to complete daily, now is the time to present those requests. For example, you could tell prospective contractors to clean up around the dumpster site or porta-potty before leaving.
25. 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 contractor’s team’s daily actions can lead to a successful project closeout. Follow up with questions about when workers plan to arrive at the site, scheduled breaks and when they’ll lock up for the night.
If the contractor has not already done so, review a mockup of the general schedule and make necessary changes if it falls short of your expectations.
Additional Questions to Ask Contractors Before Hiring
When interviewing a contractor, you may need more than a list of questions to have an effective discussion. Below are some of the most asked contractor-related questions.
What Are Good Questions To Ask a Contractor?
When hiring a contractor, you should cover four main areas of concern: work history, legal, project management and timeline questions. Asking a few questions within these categories will help you gauge the contractor’s management styles and trustworthiness.
What Should You Not Say to a Contractor?
During the interview, both parties need to determine if they’re the right fit for the job. This means that the interview will likely go both ways, with the contractor having a few questions for the project owner. It’s important to have a few tips on what topics and phrases you should avoid during the interview to ensure you provide them with the right information.
Here are a few general guidelines:
- Don’t tell the contractor if they’re the only one bidding for the project. Giving the contractor this information upfront could lead the contractor to think they do not have to submit a competitive bid.
- Don’t tell the contractor your schedule is flexible. Even if you’re not in a hurry, a construction project needs a timeline to ensure your job is their priority. Contractors often have more than one job at a time, so if you say you’re flexible, you may become a lower-level concern.
- Don’t tell your contractor your budget upfront. All contractors should submit a bid that has a thorough cost breakdown.
What Questions Should I Ask a Contractor Before Remodeling?
Ask the contractor if they experienced remodeling homes before and what challenges they overcame in the past while remodeling. Most of the questions you’d ask a remodeling contractor are not all that different from those you’d ask for another type of project. You mostly want to ensure safety, efficiency and effective communication.
What Should I Know Before Talking to a Contractor?
Before talking to a contractor, grasp the timeline, materials and how often you will require status updates. Presenting this information upfront will give the contractor the facts they need to decide whether they are a good fit for the project.
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