March 31,2022

Ten Questions to Ask When Hiring a Contractor

by David Stewart

After years of overseeing building and renovation projects for decorators such as Nate Berkus, Eric Cohler, Thom Filicia, and Gordon Kahn (not to mention celebrity clients like Beyoncé and Tina Fey), Queens, New York–born Stephen Fanuka has learned that finding the right contractor can be harder than actually executing the project.

“It’s like a blind date,” Fanuka says. “Sometimes it takes a few to find out who’s good for you.”

Architectural Digest asked Fanuka to describe what questions you should ask a contractor—and yourself—before selecting somebody for the job.

Are they quick to respond? I always give 48 hours. If you don’t get a call within that period, it may be a sign that the contractor doesn’t have enough time to take on your project.

Are they accommodating? Remember, this is a date. Are they on time? Are they in a rush to leave? Do you get along with them? Do you agree with their opinions? You want to know that your contractor is going to put what it takes into your job. These details can be valuable forecasters of how they will perform.

How big is your company? You ask this because you want to know who’s going to be on the job. If the owner or project manager can’t make it one day, will someone else come in his place?

Are you licensed? Contractors must be licensed to perform electrical and plumbing work.

Are you insured, and if so, can I be a certificate holder? Along with Workers’ Compensation to protect any laborer injured while working on your home, make sure your contractor has insurance to cover any accidental damages to your property. You want to be a certificate holder on both of these policies so that if the insurance ever expires, you will be notified and can hold off on further work until it is renewed.

Can we have weekly meetings? When I’m doing a job, I like to have a weekly meeting so we can update the client and get all their questions answered.

What are your payment terms? I like to use the American Institute of Architects contract —a basic agreement available for a small download fee that lays out a payment structure and other terms that protect the client, homeowner, and contractor. Keep in mind that if your project costs less than $500, you don’t usually need a contract.

Are you willing to put in writing how long the job is going to take? I usually include a one-week grace period.

Will you give a time frame for fixing any mistakes or imperfections I notice? Even the best contractors can miss things—a light-switch plate is off, a towel bar is loose. How long is it going to take them to come back and get these things up to standard?

Will you come back after the job is done? If I’m willing to pay you, can you service the job you did? If the light burns out, will you replace it? Hiring a contractor is like finding a good doctor. You want someone who can keep your project in good health after the job is done.

Related: See More Home Remodeling & Renovation ideas

  • David Stewart
  • March 31,2022

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