Questions to Ask a Contractor: A Detailed Guide with Checklist
Originally posted 4/16/20; updated 10/22/20.
When we researched the reality behind lifetime warranty of homes, we learned that they are often shorter than consumers expect them to be. In the article, we provided a list of questions to ask contractors about warranty practices. After some feedback from customers, we’ve decided to expand that list for anyone interested in hiring a contractor.
We don’t want anyone in our community to be cheated, or fall prey to a scammer imitating a legitimate contractor.
Founded in 1996, Acculevel repairs foundations and waterproof basements and crawl spaces in Indiana and the surrounding states. We pride ourselves on being honest, fair, and transparent with our customers; we treat each person’s home like our own, and place a strong emphasis on high-quality customer service.
In this article, we will review the questions you should ask before hiring a contractor to do any work around your home. We have divided these questions into subcategories, to make the information as accessible as possible. We’ve also added what we at Acculevel view as answers or best practices to help homeowners know what to look for.
If you would like to have a copy of these questions to use for yourself, we have a downloadable version available. For your convenience, this download contains only the questions, without the added explanations and details about our company.
Before We Begin
One thing that we feel very strongly about at Acculevel: we recommend that you verify the company is reputable, insured, and accredited by the Better Business Bureau. By taking this step before meeting with a contractor or their representative, you can save yourself time and stress. A little research can prevent a lot of frustration down the road; please take advantage of this valuable resource available to consumers.
Questions You Should Ask About the Company
- How long has your company been in business? As you’d expect, we suggest that you verify this information with the BBB. Some companies will use language like “combined years of experience” that can be misinterpreted. The age of a business is an important consideration because you want some reassurance that they will be available to enforce their warranties.
- According to the Small Business Association, 75% of all businesses fail within 15 years. The average homeowner lives in a home for 13 years.
- Acculevel has been in business for 20+ years.
- Are you part of a franchise? Or an independently owned business? There’s no one right answer here- it’s largely a matter of personal preference. A franchise owner usually has less leeway in terms of policies and practices.
- Acculevel is a family owned business, founded by Andy Beery.
- Does your company do all of its own work? Are any of your employees subcontractors? Again, this may come down to a personal preference. But if the contractor does not directly employ all of their workers, they may not have performed background checks, provide all of the equipment used, or be liable for mistakes or misconduct from the subcontractor.
- Every person who works on a job for Acculevel is a direct employee, has been vetted by our company, and is required to conduct themselves in a way that reflects positively on both themselves and our company.
Questions You Should Ask During the Estimate Appointment
When the contractor or company representative comes to your home, there are some things you need to evaluate.
- Did he/she clearly identify themselves, wait to be invited into your home, and treat you with respect?
- Most of the time, our project advisors will call or text you before the appointment, to confirm the day/time still works for you and learn a bit about you and your home.
- They all wear Acculevel branded clothing, carry materials to clearly identify themselves, and are to treat you with professional courtesy at all times.
- How long does the initial appointment take? At Acculevel, appointments take between 60-90 minutes. Our project advisors are very thorough, and we want to be confident that we are offering you a true, whole-home solution.
- Do they provide the quote for the work in writing? Be extremely suspicious of any contractor that will only provide verbal information.
- Our project advisors provide written quotes during the appointment if possible, or within 48 hours if it is not.
- Does the contractor use “hard sell” techniques? Watch for techniques like:
- The contractor speaks poorly of competitors: implies that a competitor is in financial trouble, going out of business, selling the business, etc. No ethical business will use slander or gossip to make a sale.
- You have to sign the contract “now,” during the initial appointment.
- The price is only good for today.
- Offering a discount over 10% for signing today. This is a strong indicator that their initial estimate for you is artificially high.
- Please Note: We are not trying to imply that any company that provides limited-time offers is trying to cheat you. Virtually every business offers sales of one kind or another, and Acculevel is no exception.
- But you need to be wary of anyone who will not give you a reasonable amount of time to consider their offer, or tries to prevent you from acquiring a second opinion.
Questions to Ask About Money: Deposits, Invoices, Etc.
- Do you require a deposit, and if so, how much? Virtually all contractors want a deposit. This is normal business practice, as the contractor needs some indication that you do truly intend to have the work done. It also allows them to hold your spot on the schedule. Some contractors require up to 50%.
- Be wary of any contractor that insists on being paid in full before work is done- this is highly suspicious.
- Acculevel requires a 50% deposit on any work that costs $2000 or more, but your balance is not due until our work is completed.
- Do you offer any financing options? If you have any concerns about the risk of paying a deposit, or hesitate to dig into your savings, consider this as an alternative. Financing allows you to meet the contractor’s need for a deposit, while incurring minimal financial risk to yourself.
- If the contractor does not offer an option themselves, check with your financial institution. Home loans for repairs (or for home improvements) may be available and often come with good interest rates and terms.
- Acculevel partners with GreenSky and Hearth to provide payment plans.
Questions About the Work to Be Done
- Is your company fully insured? The insurance needs to cover the contractor, the work being done, and workers’ compensation. If they do not, and a worker is injured while working on the property, then the homeowner is liable.
- When will the work be done? To be fair, this may be a variable that the contractor can’t immediately or decisively answer while providing a quote.
- At Acculevel, our operations director provides regular updates to the project advisors, but this can be a bit vague. Depending on the time of year, the crews may be scheduled out for a few days or a few weeks. The director typically schedules your installation as soon as your deposit is received.
- How long will the work take? Of course, this depends on the type of work. But the contractor should be able to provide a close approximation.
- At Acculevel, sump pumps and dehumidifiers can be installed in a matter of hours. Piers or perimeter water drainage can take multiple days, depending on the quantity of piers or the footage of water drainage.
Questions You Should Ask About Warranty Information
If you’ve read the previous article about lifetime warranties, this next section should be familiar to you.
- How long is the warranty valid?
- If the answer is ‘lifetime,’ how does that company define lifetime? Make sure you ask this second question- one company’s ‘lifetime’ may be for less time than the 25 year warranty offered by another.
- Acculevel offers warranties of 5 years on slabjacking, 25 years on encapsulation, and life-of-structure warranties on piers, anchors, straps, and water drainage.
- Is the warranty conditional- do I have to do anything to keep this warranty active and in effect?
- Are these covered or additional expenses? Add any additional costs to the quote amount, as it will come out of your pocket sooner or later.
- Acculevel does not require regular maintenance agreements, and does not charge fees for repairs to warrantied areas.
- Is there anything not covered by the warranty?
- What are the exceptions or exclusions?
- Like most companies, Acculevel does have limits- damage done by tornadoes, floods, etc.
- (If the business is a franchise) What happens if you sell your branch of the business?
- Does the national chain assume responsibility for the warranty? Or is my warranty void, when the franchise changes owners?
- How long has the current owner been in charge of the franchise?
- If I need service, who will do the warrantied work?
- Do you outsource any of this work?
- At Acculevel, we do all of our own service.
- If I sell my home, will the warranty transfer to the buyer?
- Are there any costs to make the transfer valid?
- Acculevel warranties are tied to the home, not to the homeowner. This means all warranties are transferable, free of charge.
Additional Questions or Concerns
These are not the only questions you should ask- depending on your home and situation, you may have others. We encourage you to jot those down, preferably on your copy of this checklist. It’s important that you feel comfortable with the contractor you choose, and that you are confident that any concerns you have will be addressed promptly.
Do You Need Foundation Repairs or Waterproofing?
If you live in Indiana or the surrounding states, contact Acculevel. We specialize in foundation repairs and waterproofing, and provide free estimates to all our customers. Contact our office, and one of our friendly office staff will schedule an appointment for you with one of our experienced project advisors. He or she will evaluate your house and its symptoms, then recommend the best course of action for you, to keep your home strong and healthy for years to come.
Acculevel’s goal is to do the best and most thorough repair possible, to protect and maintain your home. We treat every customer’s home as if it is our own. Allowing our employees into your home demonstrates trust, and we intend to repay that trust with the absolute best in customer service. We are accredited by the BBB, have an A+ rating, and average 5 stars on customer reviews.