Monday August 06, 2018

Tips for Selecting a Contractor

by Joann Whetstine

1. First, find a contractor that has experience doing the job. Find professional contractors, ideally with Installation Masters™ training, through a variety or resources including American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA), the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI). Get a recommendation. Word of mouth is still the most powerful recommendation.

2. Get recommendations from family, friends and neighbors. You can also research online reviews from trusted databases such as Angie’s List and the Better Business Bureau.

3. Finally, interview your potential contractors to narrow your selection. You want to feel comfortable with the professional working in your home. 

1. How long have you been in business?

A contractor who has been in business a long time isn’t necessarily better than one who’s been in business just a year, but it does show they’ve been able to make a living at it.

2. Who will be assigned as project supervisor for the job?

This is a good question to ask, because often the person who works with you on the bid for the project is not the person you work with once the project begins. You might ask to meet the project supervisor.

3. Who will be working on the window and door installation project? Are they employees or subcontractors?

It’s good to get an idea of how big of a crew will be doing the job. Contractors work in different ways. Some have full-time employees, which is an indication they like the workers well enough that they hire them and that they have enough business to keep their employees busy. On the other hand, some contractors like to work lean and depend on subcontractors. If so, find out if they have long-term relationships with their subcontractors. The best contractors have dependable subcontractors they call on, job after job. 

4. Does your company carry workers compensation and liability insurance? Is your company licensed?

If licensing is required in your state, also ask if the contractor is licensed and call to verify compliance. Not all states offer or require licensing.

5. What is your approach to a project such as this?

This is a good question to ask a contractor, because it’s somewhat open-ended and gives them a chance to explain their working process.

6. How many projects like mine have you completed in the past year?

Everyone likes to hire experience. After all, we all learn from experience. The more you have, the more competent a person or firm is. So be upfront and ask.

7. May I have a list of references from those projects?

It’s a good idea to check recent references. After all, any contractor is only as good as the last project he or she has completed.

8. What percentage of your business is repeat or referral business?

This is a good question to ask a contractor who specializes in replacement windows. Often people have a portion of their windows replaced and then more at a later date. Hiring the same contractor for the second half of the work indicates they were satisfied with the initial work.

9. Are you a member of a national trade association?

This is not a make or break question, but it does show commitment to the craft to be a member of a national trade association or other trade organization.

10. Have you or your employees been certified in remodeling? Have you had any special training such as Installation Masters™ training?

Certification can be an important indication that a person takes pride in their work and wants to be recognized for their capabilities. It’s an indication of true professional caliber and concern for excelling in their field.

1. When can you start the installation? When will you be finished?

Don’t be shy about asking for a start and finish date. In fact, you might want to ask for extra assurance on both and what type of things might prevent the contractor from starting and finishing on the specified dates. If you’re hoping to have the windows installed and the project finished before a family event or vacation, be very clear with the contractor why this date is important to you.

2. What time will you knock on my door each morning? What time will you quit for the day?

Most people like a regular schedule they can plan on. See if your contractor has a particular start and finish time each day. It will help you adjust your daily routine. 

3. Will you be working consecutive days until the job is done?

This can be an important question. Sometimes contractors work on several jobs at once, returning to one when the materials are ready, while the other one is in a waiting mode for their materials or a particular subcontractor. Some contractors, however, are very focused and get a job done 1, 2, 3. Find out how a particular contractor likes to work and decide if that will work for you.

4. Do you clean up daily?

If you’re going to be living through the project, you don’t want to deal with a messy work site—after all, it’s your home. So let your expectations be known in terms of keeping the work areas tidy and contained.

5. Do you take care of everything? Or will I have to do some touching up or painting?

This is an important question to ask with a window replacement project. At a minimum, a contractor should remove the existing windows, install the new ones, clean up and dispose of the old windows and wash the new windows. Be forewarned, though, that replacing windows can require removing and reinstalling trim and can sometimes even impact the wall paint around the window opening. Don’t assume a contractor is going to leavtor. Even better is having some of the original paint on hand.

6. How much will it cost?

Obviously, you want a bid. Be careful to make itemby-item decisions based on value and quality, not just price. Be sure to ask if there are any contingencies in the bid and what type of things might result in cost overruns. Contractors installing windows can’t anticipate everything they might run into but you can ask for a ballpark estimate should they find dry rot when removing old windows.

The Contract

A well-written contract is essential to preventing costly mistakes or additions to the scope of your project. It is also a critical step in maintaining your budget. Many contractors require a signed contract before starting work. Be sure the contract covers everything you have talked about with your contractor. Pay careful attention to how unexpected circumstances, such as dry rot, will be handled and priced.


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Leave a comment


Always ask the contractor

Knowing the size of the crew beforehand is a good idea, and knowing if they are full time or part-time. I know a lot of really great part-time window installers, but I personally prefer to have full-time professionals do my windows when I can. It's always good to ask your contractor questions whenever you have preferences for either type of installer; they like to know!

start and finish dates

I do like that you pointed out that it's necessary to ask the contractor that you're interested in about the start and finish date for your project because they might be things that can prevent them from starting and finishing on the specified dates. My husband and I are planning to hire a masonry contractor. We want to know if it's possible for us to complete our masonry project before our wedding anniversary party at home, so I'll consider all your tips.

read reviews

I found it helpful when you said that you can go online to read reviews on review sites about the contractor that you're interested in. My parents want to find a general contractor that's has a good reputation when it comes to quality services because they want to be satisfied with how their property will look. Thanks!

good idea to check the references

I found it helpful when you said that it's a good idea to check the references of the contractor that you're interested in to see how good they are based on their last project. My husband and I are interested in hiring an asphalt paving contractor that can work on our driveways. We absolutely want a quality result because we wanted our potential home buyers to be impressed with how our driveways look, so I will consider all your tips.

Licensed contractor

You should ask if the contractor is licensed as well as his or her workers to ensure liability. You should also check their previous work experience to get feedback and make sure they are insured. My brother suggested replacing our old windows with vinyl-type ones to make our living room look more comfortable to sit in and we are planning to do that.

Replace patio door

My husband noticed that our door frame got rotted, and he wants to replace it immediately. It is said here that getting references from friends and relatives who recently had a repair is a good consideration. Moreover, it is highly recommended to hire a professional for a door replacement project.

Tips for choosing a contractor

I'm really glad I stumbled upon your article regarding contractors. A window near our living room got damaged by the rain, and we have been looking for someone to replace it. I do agree that asking them a few questions like how they approach issues and if they have references are big factors in choosing a contractor, and I will keep these in mind once I ask around for residential glass services within my area.

Contractor for our window

I didn't think about it before, so I appreciate the the tip to check the references of a contractor before we would choose to hire them. My wife and I have been talking about finding a contractor to help us with replacing our window, and it will be important for us to know that we could find one who we could trust will be good. To make sure of that, I am going to check their references before we hire them.

Contractor tips

Thank you for telling me that I should always verify the start and finish date with my chosen contractor in order to see how long the project will take. We're looking to replace our old wooden windows that have evident damage. I'll keep your tips in mind and look for licensed contractors.

You made a lot of great

You made a lot of great points on how to choose the right contractor and the best questions to ask. I agree that it would be smart to ask for and check recent references to get a better idea of how good they are. I think it would also be smart to look into the training a contractor has to make sure they are properly trained in the area of expertise you need.


Discover just how affordable Milgard Windows & Doors can be.

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