At Home: Handy Hints for Hiring Handymen

For many parents, the family home is their largest financial asset. So when you plan to invest in your home by remodeling it, adding to it or just plain fixing it with the help of a professional contractor, you want to be certain that the job will be done right.
For those looking to hire a contractor, here are 10 questions you must ask before hiring anyone.

1. Do you have experience doing the exact type of job I’m hiring you to do?
Contractors often advertise many different types of services, from new kitchen installation to roofing. While some might actually perform this wide range of services, others are really specialists. Make sure that the contractor you hire has plenty of experience successfully completing the exact type of job you’re asking him to do — don’t hire a kitchen installation specialist to put a new roof on your house.

2. Can you provide me with a list of references from jobs you’ve completed that are similar to the one I’m hiring you to do?
Any reputable contractor will be able to provide you with names, addresses and phone numbers of satisfied customers. And these references should be from recent jobs completed in the past year. Be sure to follow up on the references. Give a quick phone call or, for jobs like house painting or siding or chimney repair, drive by the referenced houses for a look.

3. Who will be in charge of the work at my home and is he/she accessible?
This is extremely important. Get a name and cell phone number and meet the job foreman as soon as possible. This person will be your primary contact and should be trustworthy, knowledgeable, accessible and forthcoming.

4. Do you have a license?
This is a basic requirement for contractors and subcontractors. Never hire an unlicensed contractor. You can check the current status of any contractor’s license (active, inactive, suspended, revoked or archived) at, the official Web site of the North Carolina Licensing Board for General Contractors.

5. Do you have proper insurance?
Contractors and subcontractors should be able to prove that they have both general liability insurance and workers’ compensation insurance. General liability insurance protects the homeowner in the event that the contractor damages your property. Insurance will cover the expense of fixing the damage. Workers’ comp insurance covers workers who may be injured on your property. If the contractor does not have this insurance, the homeowner might be held liable for medical bills.

6. What is your payment policy?
Before signing any written contracts, find out when payments are due — and get the payment schedule in writing. Full payment should not be due until the job is complete. If the contractor requires a deposit, find out what percentage of the full price that deposit is. This can often be negotiated.

7. Do you offer a written guarantee on your work?
Contractors should offer a written guarantee on their work and provide you with the manufacturer’s warranties on materials used. The contractor should guarantee their work for a minimum of one year after the completion of the job.

8. Will you be using subcontractors on my job? What will they be responsible for? Are they licensed? How long have you worked with them?
OK, that’s four questions. But, the point is that you need to be sure that the subcontractors are just as reliable and skilled as your primary contractor. If one part of the job falls through, it can affect the entire project.

9. Does my job need a building permit and, if so, will you coordinate pulling the required permits?
A reputable contractor is familiar with the permitting process and knows its importance. You are paying for that expertise and for the contractor to spend the time to handle the paperwork. In addition, when a contractor pulls the required permit, this ensures that his work will be inspected and will be up to current code. Another little known fact: if permits are required but are not pulled and something goes wrong, some homeowner’s insurance policies will not cover the damage.

10. How long do estimate my job will take and do you complete most jobs on time? How much time will you spend at my house each day? Again, there are a few questions here, but they are all related. As a general rule, understand that contractors underestimate how long a job will take. But, if a company has a track record of completing jobs one week behind schedule, that’s a lot better than a company that completes jobs two months behind. Also, find out when workers will be in your house each day and for how long.

Always remember, you are in charge when it comes to this job, not the contractor. The contractor works for you and your money is on the line. Knowing the answers to the questions above will go a long way toward ensuring a quality job you can live with as a homeowner.

Brian Kantz waited three months for the completion of a bathroom addition he was told would take three weeks. He learned the hard way what to look for in a contractor. Visit Kantz online at