Top 5 questions to ask before hiring a contractor

Whether you’re starting a new project or hiring a contractor for repairs, here are five key questions to ask before signing a contract.

1.    Are you licensed?
Licensing helps ensure your contractor will meet area building standards, and proof of licensure is usually required before a contractor can pull permits for your job. Be aware: hiring an unlicensed contractor could void your homeowners insurance, if a claim arises as a result of their work.

2.    Are you insured?
Ask for proof of liability and workers’ compensation insurance. These policies protect you in case the contractor damages your home or a job-related injury occurs. Your homeowners insurance may be able to help if your contractor isn’t insured, but a claim like that could impact your rates or make it more difficult to obtain insurance in the future.

3.    Can you provide a list of references?
Past performance is a good indicator of future success. Angie’s List offers suggestions on what to ask when talking to a contractor’s previous clients. Also search other online ratings, including social media.

4.    How often will you be on site to oversee the job?
If your contractor is not actually doing the work, you want someone who will be checking in daily. A contractor should serve as a project manager, watching for mistakes, addressing complications, and keeping the job on track.

5.    Have you been involved in any legal disputes regarding a job?

Check with the Better Business Bureau or search local court records. In a perfect world, your contractor won’t have past legal disputes, but construction is a difficult business and things do go wrong. See if your contractor gives you an honest answer and then weigh his or her good referrals against any prior troubles.

Do your homework before you commit. Hiring a qualified, properly insured professional could save you a lot of stress in the long run.