6 Questions to Ask Any Contractor

Landscape

Protect yourself from fraud, and protect your investment with these simple questions.

You’re not only inviting someone you don’t know into your life when you hire a contractor, but also paying that person and their employees to be there. Hiring the right contractor is a huge decision for any project and one that should never be done lightly.

You better have questions, and lots of them!

Any contractor who’s been in the business for more than a few years is going to be used to questions. Not only will they be used to questions, they expect them. And to be completely honest, the really amazing contractors out there should answer most of your questions before you even ask! They’re not psychic or anything, they’re professional. They’ve come to know what to expect because they’ve done it before…many times.

Some of the really obvious questions like “how long have you been in business” and “how much will this cost” have been omitted from this list. One job can have multiple price points that vary greatly based on the materials used. Pricing and a payment structure should be discussed at some point before any work starts. Be cautious of any contractor who asks for a full payment up front, but any contractor should be able to give you a rough estimate. While I would never hire a new contractor for a large project, everyone has to start somewhere and being new isn’t something to be punished for.

That being said, here are some of the best questions to ask ANY contractor, a brief explanation on why these questions are important, and what to look out for.

 How much of this job will be subcontracted?

Your contractor should be able to tell you exactly which parts of the job their team will be doing and which parts will require a more specialized tradesman. You’ll want to know who your contact point or foreman is for any larger job. If something goes wrong or no workers show up, you’ll want to know who to call.

It’s common for any contractor to subcontract parts of a job out to specialists or to subcontract complimentary services out to other companies – and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, your main contractor should have a plan for dealing with those subcontractors and be able to communicate those plans to you. It shows professionalism and an understanding for you, the client.

 How long will this project take?

Any construction or landscaping job has multiple phases, from design, ordering materials, pulling permits for the work, construction, and cleanup. These phases all take time and any good contractor will be able to give a fairly accurate time frame based on experience, time of year, and expected delays like weather or holidays.

If your contractor gives you a timeframe that seems too fast, ask more questions! Make sure your contractor is pulling the appropriate permits and that they don’t expect you to have done that work already. Ask about their job success rate. If it seems low, chances are there’s a history of problems and you should interview another contractor.

 What kind of mess should I expect?

Any job site has some level of mess associated with it and most contractors will tell you that they treat every job site like it’s their own home. Get specific and find out what steps your contractor takes to ensure your home looks great once the job is done. Find out if cleanup is  standard phase of their work, if it isn’t, it should be.

Large construction jobs often require heavy equipment, transfering that equipment can sometimes damage driveways and walkways. Find out if any special equipment will be used or if anything will be modified. Yards can be sprayed to help prevent excessive dust, walkways and patios can easily be protected or kept clean with cardboard or plywood sheeting. Any contractor that has cleanliness in mind also has the safety of the job site in mind as well as the safety of your home and family.

If you or a neighbor or family member has a yard that was damaged by another company, give us a call and we’ll be happy to come out and fix your yard.

 Will this increase my home’s value?

It should go without saying that not every upgrade will fit the needs or likes of every home buyer. Normal and functional upgrades are always a safe bet and usually ends up paying off when it comes to home resale. Any project that adds to curb appeal or the “wow factor” of your backyard, will add to your overall home value.
The main thing to avoid in any home improvement project is being talked into costly upgrades by a contractor. It’s important to talk with your contractor about the needs of any project and how it’s going to be used. This information is used when choosing materials, and it’s common for contractors to make material recommendations based on your needs.

 What’s your warranty?

Warranties in the lawncare and landscaping industry can be a tricky subject. Not all products carry the same manufacturers warranty. And some products have different warranties for their materials based on who installed them. If your contractor is a certified installer (which Total Lawn Care is) they tend to carry longer product warranties. Some products also come with the option of additional warranties, ask your contractor or installer about material and workmanship warranties.

Ask your contractor for any material warranty information, if they can’t provide the information for you, think about interviewing another contractor.

Total Lawn Care always offers free assessments on any work that’s been done. We also routinely call our clients around the 1 year mark to make sure everything is performing the way it’s supposed to. If it isn’t, expect us to schedule an inspection to find out what went wrong and how to correct the issue.

 Can I see your references?

Unless you are hiring a brand new company to do work for you, they should be able to provide you with references of past clients as well as before and after photos of some of their projects. Look for work that is similar in scope to your project so you can have a better idea of what to expect. Ask your contractor how they get most of their clients. Believe it or not, there are still more than a few contractors out there that get most or all of their work through word of mouth referrals.

 

At Total Lawn Care, we’ve even taken new clients to old job sites, with the approval of our past clients of course!

 

Once you have a reference list, now what? Here are a few questions that I’d recommend asking a contractor’s references.

Questions to Ask References

  • How was the process?
  • Was it explained well to you or were there lots of surprises?
  • Was the work completed on time and on budget?
  • Are you happy with the work/results?
  • If so, how were the problems/issues dealt with?Were there any unexpected problems or workmanship issues?
  • Would you use or recommend this contractor in the future?