The Top Ten Questions to Ask your New Contractor

Time and time again, homeowners are so excited about a new construction project, they go into the project blindly, forgetting to ask basic questions which can make or break their relationship with a contractor or architect. Before starting any type of construction project, it’s wise to ask these ten most-forgotten questions to ensure your construction project is timely, organized, and protected.

1: Who will obtain Building Permits and Licenses?

2: Are you well versed in this type of Construction / Scope of Work?

3: Will you meet our Discussed Timeline?

4: Will your Sub-Contractors be Licensed?

5: How long have you been in Business?

6: Will there be a Construction Contract?

7: What is your Payment Schedule and will we receive Payment Receipts and Paid in Full Invoices?

8: What are the Warranties on Supplies Used?

9: Do you have a Contractor’s License?

10: Do you have Liability and Workman’s Comp Insurance?


1) Building permits are approvals and authorizations given by a local government or township. This allows construction to legally take place. Building permits are usually supplied by the contracting company. However, on smaller projects, the homeowner can take responsibility for this task. You can easily go to your town hall or a local government building to file a construction permit. (Supply Links for Nassau, Suffolk, and NYC Building Departments)


2) Asking if your contractor is well versed in the project he will be completing is imperative for a successful construction remodel. If you are planning to build a 7,000 square foot Estate, but you find out your contractor is only familiar with remodeling small bathrooms, this may become a problem in the long run.


3) Timeline is important in construction! Sometimes timelines are on track, and sometimes they are delayed. This can be due to supply shortages, employee shortages, halted work due to unpaid invoices, or weather involvement.


4) Though your main contractor may be licensed, it’s always important to ask if their hired sub-contractors will be insured as well. Anything can happen on a job site, no matter the size of the project, so having all members involved in construction insured, is safe for all.

5) Asking how long the company has been in business is another important question to ask. You can find out how long the company has been in business by asking the company president or even looking up the contracting company’s legal business name through your state’s Division of Corporations. It is also important to look at reviews of the company. Sometimes, these reviews go back 10+ years, especially on Angie’s List, or YELP.


6) Asking if there will be a Construction Contract is one thing, demanding one is another. Construction contracts are essential for any type of construction. Construction Contracts typically include project schedules, payment terms, dispute resolution, insurances, timeframes, and legal requirements.


7) Please note – that some jurisdictions require a written construction contract to perform work, and the majority of those Construction Contracts include information on payment schedules and payment receipts. If there is no construction contract for your project, paying through traceable transactions such as credit cards or checks is your best option, depending on your financial situation. If there is ever a payment dispute, you can typically always cancel your check or dispute your credit card transaction. Never pay cash when it comes to contracting and renovations. This is not a traceable transaction, and monies can either be miscounted or go missing if given to the wrong set of hands. (Usury and Racketeering Article)


8) Typically, most suppliers have a warranty depending on the product. However, asking your contractor which product is under warranty and which is not may be the best decision-maker when debating between two needed supplies for your renovation.


9) A Contractor License is a license that legally allows a contractor to engage in construction and remodeling work. Given by the state or governed city, some requirements to obtain a license are to fill out the application, take any associated tests and exams, pay any associated fees and obtain worker’s compensation insurance upon approval for the license. (Link Nassau, Suffolk, and NYC Department of Building Requirements for License)


10) Finally, Liability Insurance typically covers any associated costs given any specific accident. Construction sites can be a very dangerous place, so making sure your contractor has Liability and Workman’s Comp Insurance can help protect against bodily injury and property damage.

The author, John Caravella Esq., is a construction attorney and formerly practicing project architect at The Law Office of John Caravella, P.C., representing architects, engineers, contractors, subcontractors, and owners in all phases of contract preparation, litigation, and arbitration across New York and Florida. He also serves as an arbitrator to the American Arbitration Association Construction Industry Panel. Mr. Caravella can be reached by email: [email protected] or (631) 608-1346.

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