A large home remodelling project is both a financial and an emotional investment.

And it’s important for your investment that you choose a competent and reputable general contractor for the job. It can mean the difference between total success and total disaster.

So how do you select the best general contractor before it’s too late to turn back? The answer lies in asking the right questions before you sign the contract.

Here are 10 essential questions to ask general contractors to help you make the best hiring decision.

1. How Many Years Have You Served the Local Area?

It’s a good idea to find a general contractor with an established business reputation in your town.

Find out if the general contractor you’re considering resides in the area? A contractor who lives 50 miles from your home can be difficult to reach if there’s an emergency.

Ask the contractor to talk about the remodelling jobs they’ve done in your neighbourhood.

There’s a good chance you can speak with a neighbour to get an account of the experience. Ask the contractor for a business card. Be wary if the address on the card is a P.O. Box.

2. Do You Have a Website With a Portfolio of Past Projects?

A professional contractor should have a website for their business. On the website, potential customers can learn about their experience, the services they provide and view past projects.

Many contractors have a special section on their website designated for photos of past projects.

It typically will be displayed on a portfolio page or in a photo gallery. Some contractors post before and after photos of client projects that can give you an idea of the quality of their work.

3. Can You Provide a Few Customer References That I Can Contact?

Don’t be timid about asking for customer references. A reputable general contractor is used to being asked to provide them.

Happy customers are often delighted to talk about their experiences. If the contractor you’re considering won’t provide this information, he could be hiding something.

Another way you can learn about your contractor’s reputation is to read review sites. There are professional service directories like ours where you can read unbiased reviews of general contractors.

4. Do You Have a Contractor’s License?

Different areas have certain requirements for contractor licenses. As a homeowner, you’ll want to make sure your contractor has a license in the area of specialization you are hiring them for.

You wouldn’t want a plumber to do your roofing. Make sure your contractor has more than just a business license, which legally permits one to do business. He or she should hold a certificate as a licensed contractor.

5. May I See Your Certificate of Insurance?

Find out exactly how your contractor is insured. He should have a liability and a worker’s compensation insurance policy.

Requesting to see the certificate of insurance can put your mind at ease about any worker accidents that may occur during the project.

6. Can I Meet the Foreman on His Current Job Site?

Many contractors don’t actually work on the job site. They are often similar to project managers and handle bids, hire subcontractors and oversee permits.

If your contractor will not be on site, it’s a good idea to ask them to meet with the foreman in charge. The foreman will be at your home overseeing the workers.

Arrange a meeting with a foreman on a current job site and notice how things are going on the site. Do things look organized?

Making this request can also motivate the contractor to choose their best team to work on your home since you’re apt to hire them after seeing one of their best teams at work.

7. Is Your Bid a Fixed Price or an Estimate?

Is your contractor’s bid a fixed price or an estimate? It’s important to know up front because contractors work both ways. An estimate can mean higher costs.

If your contractor provides an estimate, ask for a bid with a fixed price.

If the contractor states he can’t offer a fixed price because of unknown variables on the job, ask for a bid on the things he does know.

You can base the price on the work he or she expects to do. When changes arise, you can always make changes to the job order.

8. Do You Provide an Itemized Bid?

Many contractors prefer to provide a total project rate, but this can work against you when you want to make changes. It also limits your ability to compare prices to see if your contractor is giving you a good deal.

Having an itemized bid will keep you in the know as to how you will be credited if you eliminate part of the work.

If you decide to purchase and hang the light fixtures yourself or paint some of the rooms on your own, you’ll have a better idea of costs with an itemized bid.

In your itemized bid, be sure to include all the work to be performed such as electrical, plumbing, HVAC, tiling, drywall, painting, demolition and trash removal.

9. How Will Unanticipated Charges Be Communicated?

Sometimes it’s difficult to predict unanticipated charges until the professionals get deeper into the job such as a busted pipe or old wiring.

It’s important that your contractor alert you to problems that raise your costs and not just add it to the bill without your knowledge. Make sure to detail this in the contract to avoid problems in the future.

You always want to have the power to make a choice if the charge isn’t within the budget you agreed on.

10. Do You Foresee Any Circumstances That Could Affect My Timeline?

Sometimes contractors are working on other projects that could affect your timeline when something goes wrong. Ask the contractor if any of their current bids that haven’t been completed can impact your home remodelling project.

Establish a timeline that you’re happy with, but give a little extra time for unforeseen circumstances.

Final Words on General Contractor Questions

Asking these important questions to your next general contractors will give you a realistic picture of what to expect for your home remodelling project. It will also reduce stress and help you choose the right contractor for the job.

Have a specific question about home renovation? Ask a contractor! Our company connects homeowners with reliable contractors in Canada. Browse our website to find a home pro or read informative home improvement articles on our blog.