It’s time to make changes to your home, and hiring a contractor can feel overwhelming. You are about to make an investment on your most important asset: your home. Who can you trust to come in and out of your home when it is most vulnerable? How can you narrow down the list and weed out those fly-by-night contractors?

Here are the 5 things you should ask your contractor before you hire them:

1. What work does your contracting license certify?

When it comes to special projects, it is extremely important for a contractor to be licensed in the job they are performing. Make sure to ask to see the license and ensure that it correlates with the job you are hiring for. For example, a Roofer who has a carpentry license is in fact licensed, but they do not have the proper licensing to do the job you are asking them to do. Even when you receive a definite “Yes”, do your research by checking public records, like the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office to verify the license is issued and up to date. This is extremely important as it ensures you have an expert team on your home as well as maintaining liability on the contractor should anything happen during the project.

2. What types of insurance do you carry?

We never expect accidents to happen, but it is very important to know what kind of protection you have should anything happen. You don’t want to find out what kind of coverage you have after you already have an incident, right? When a contractor says they are insured, there are two things you need to look out for: liability insurance and worker’s compensation. If something happens to any of your assets during the course of the project i.e. property damage or personal injury, the contractor will be responsible for taking care of the compensation for the damage. Now, if a job site incident occurs involving one of the workers during the project when a contractor is not properly insured, that responsibility will fall on you as the property owner.

3. Who is responsible for acquiring permits?

Not every job requires permits through your municipality, and laws can vary whether it is the responsibility of the homeowner or the contractor to acquire permits. Your contractor should be responsible for getting the proper paperwork in order for your township. They are the ones who are performing the professional work, and doing so will also verify that they are licensed to perform the work they are hired for.  It is important that the contractor is familiar with building codes and the permitting process in your community.

4. What certifications have you earned?

Awards and certifications can seem like flashy badges of honor, but they are very important to break down and understand how the contractor acquired them. Many certifications have strict requirements and qualifications such as proper insurance, good credit, and manufacturer’s craftsmanship requirements among other things, that verify a contractor’s credibility. For example, if the contractor you are hiring is a member of the National Association of the Remodelling Industry (NARI) you can be sure they have a brick and mortar location, a landline phone, and have been in business for over ten years under the same name. Each of these qualifications are to ensure you are hiring a contractor you can trust and get a hold of, not to run off on you.

5. What does your workmanship warranty cover?

The best way to ensure the longevity of the project is to understand the warranty coverage. Warranties are written by lawyers, so they are working in the best interest of the company, not you as the client. Many warranties use blanketed terms that explain the length of service but may not necessarily explain what that covers. When a warranty explains the performance of the product, that is the warranty of the manufacturer themselves. You must also find out what warranty the contractor themself offers for the workmanship they provide. A product may be top of the line, but it is useless if it is not installed correctly!

When it comes to the renovation process, there is nothing more personal than inviting someone to your home and entrusting them with your property and assets. Picking the right contractor can be the difference between a smooth sailing operation or a fixer-upper nightmare. By asking the right questions, you can save yourself from heartache and get peace of mind knowing that your investment is protected.