When it comes to working with a new or prospective contractor, it’s easy to focus solely on the bid, losing sight of other important information that may help you avoid conflict and confusion down the line. Open and clear communications at the onset of a working relationship can help set expectations and mitigate concerns for clients and contractors alike. Here are 5 questions you don’t want to forget to ask.

1. Who will be running my job?
If you’re expecting to see the general contractor (GC) you hired on the job site every morning, think again. Depending on the size of the company you’re working with (and the scale of your project), you may or may not have regular contact with your GC once work begins. Large and small companies frequently assign a construction foreman, job superintendent, or lead carpenter to run their jobs for them. Make sure to ask your contractor how often they’ll be visiting the jobsite, who your primary contact will be for the duration of construction, and how often you should expect to receive communications from them (daily check-ins or weekly meetings, for example). Lastly, make sure you have the right contact info (and a preferred contact method) to reach all relevant parties.

2. Will you obtain all necessary permits and coordinate inspections?
Depending on your local municipality and the scope of your project, pulling permits and setting up building inspections is an essential part of most remodel projects. Some homeowners might want to handle this themselves, while others would be happiest having the GC or other project manager deal with it. Either way, be sure to discuss this at the onset of the relationship so nothing slips through the cracks.

3. Do you use subcontractors?
In addition to assigning a foreman to run a jobsite, it’s commonplace for GC’s to use subcontractors to perform certain parts of a larger job. Subs are commonly used for electrical, plumbing, and mechanical trades as well as specialty work like foundations, masonry, or drywall. Depending on the GC you’ve hired and the expertise of their team, subcontractors could be performing the bulk of the labor on your job. Be sure to ask about which parts of your job they expect to subcontract out, what their working relationships are like with those subs, and if they’re covered by the GC’s liability and worker’s compensation insurance.

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4. How do you resolve unforeseen expenses?
Estimates are often just that estimates. Ask your GC how they handle additional charges or scope changes that weren’t specified in the original bid or contract. For example, do they issue change orders and require client sign-off before moving forward with an unexpected expense? Make sure you’re comfortable with their process and get on the same page before work begins.

5. How will you keep the jobsite safe and secure?
Communicate with your GC about how the jobsite will be made secure (especially critical if you and your possessions will remain in the house during any part of remodeling). This includes where tools, materials, and other equipment will be kept (many GC’s will store tools on site in a locked job box), how your property will be protected during construction (everything from floors, to landscaping, to large furniture), and how the jobsite will be secured every night.

Good communication and a little research goes a long way when it comes to successfully completing a home improvement project. And when you’re ready, make sure you’re doing everything you can to protect your abode with homeowners insurance you can trust.

Safe and smart | Home safety

about Rebecca

Rebecca is a freelance copywriter and editor living in the SF Bay Area with her husband and two kids. She enjoys productively channeling her anxiety into safety-minded articles for home and garden, running with her robot trainer, and advocating on behalf of the Oxford comma.