Before you hire a flooring contractor, be sure to ask these 7 questions
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I think it’s important to select a good flooring contractor, and one you can trust. Without this, you are doomed to fail. If you have a great flooring contractor that you or a friend or a trusted colleague knows, you are one step ahead. Or, feel free to check out our local flooring contractors in our local directory.
Most customers will get 3 estimates, and I think that’s a good practice – you get different perspective and learning from each, you will see different samples and you will get a range of prices.
Here are some other important questions to ask when you’re hiring a flooring contractor:
1. Is your contractor licensed and insured?
This is really important not only because it’s a signal of how trustworthy and legal your contractor is, but also, if something goes wrong, you want to know that they are covered. Sometimes unexpected things happen, not even directly related to the floor (e.g. what if somehow someone by accident bursts a pipe and you have a flood? Or, what if the equipment catches on fire?
Do you want to be liable for that, or do you want the contractor to take responsibility? In many states contractors are required to include their license #’s on their business cards. You can look up this # online or call your local consumer protection agency. Oh, and make sure the license is current. These days not everyone can afford to renew this, so that’s another watch out.
2. A corollary – are you licensed and insured for the work you are doing?
So, there’s a contractor license, but there is also a plumbing license and electrical license – all are different skills. So, if you are doing a floor, that is one thing. If you are working on a kitchen, be sure that whomever is taking care of disconnecting water and/or gas lines, is a licensed plumber. (imagine what a disaster it could be if you have an unlicensed plumber reconnect a gas line improperly). Now, imagine that it’s an apartment building and all of a sudden you are not only responsible for your apartment, but all the surrounding ones.
3. Do you have worker’s compensation?
The requirements for licensing vary by state. In New York, to get a contractor license, you need to have workman’s comp, but that isn’t true in all states, so ask your contractor just to make sure. If they don’t have this, and if one of the workers gets hurt, YOU are responsible for all of their medical bills and time taken off from work. This is a headache you want to avoid.
4. Ask for references AND check online reviews:
Ask for at least 3 references. And, call them. Now, I know it’s easy for someone to just give you the good references…and, this is why I like using this in conjunction w/ yelp, google reviews or angie’s list. Alternatively, you could search online to see if you can find any references (or complaints) about a contractor. I proactively give my customers a list of over 35 references at my first appointment. I show them the reviews we have online. Most are stellar, but there are a few that are just mediocre.
Bear in mind that most contractors will have one or two complaints. That is normal, and it’s not a reason to eliminate a contractor. (In fact, having one or two bad reviews shows that the collection of reviews are likely legitimate). The key is to see how the owner responded and addressed the complaints. Were the complaints valid? Did the owner solve (or try to solve) the issue? Did the owner respond professionally? The other thing is to look at the collection of reviews. If someone has 20-25+ reviews and only 1 or 2 negative ones, that is normal. But, if someone has 5 reviews and 2-3 are poor, that’s a bad sign.
5. Ask your contractor what could go wrong or what might cause the price to increase
I try to write my contracts carefully – so customers know what’s included, what isn’t and what they are expected to do (e.g. they need to move loose/breakable items prior to our arrival). But, I also include that it does not include unforeseen issues in sub-floor. That’s because often, we can’t see what is under there.
It’s one thing when you are ripping up carpet, and you can pull it back to see what’s underneath. It’s a completely different story if it’s tile and you can’t tell what’s below it. I try to be up front about what I’m assuming (I’ll ask my customer if they know what’s underneath), and, I try to tell them what might happen.
But, sometimes, no matter what, we can’t tell if something is unforeseen. We have had times where we lift the floor and it’s damaged underneath and needs to be replaced, or sometimes there’s mold or asbestos tile, and there’s no way we could have known or predicted that. So, please both be understanding with your contractor and recognize that he/she can’t always tell until after the floor is ripped up, and recognize that is possible that your previous installer (or previous owner’s installer) didn’t always do things properly. By the same token, ask your contractor, what could go wrong – that way, you are prepared. (Always make sure you have some contingency funds available).
6. Ask your contractor how long the job should take.
Not only will this help you understand the downtime for your place, but it’s likely to elicit some of those things that could go wrong as well as preparations you may need to make on your end.
Also ask the contractor about their availability to start. And, be sure to understand the lead times (e.g. for product to be ordered/delivered and acclimated). Also make sure you understand how the project will progress – will they be there each day, or will they skip days (note: some days may be needed for drying time and many contractors don’t work on Sundays).
7. Ask your contractor how they will contain dust and clean up
There are many ways to contain the dust and mess, and it’s best to ask up front and plan ahead. Make sure that your flooring contractor will add plastic around the areas not being done and protect drapery, chandeliers and appliances. Make sure they will clean up afterwards. I know sounds obvious, but I also know from experience that not all contractors do this.
If you are having your floors sanded and refinished, note that there is an option to use a dustless machine. This costs more, but it will definitely decrease the dust and will come in especially handy if your home has high ceilings or someone in your family is allergic to dust or has asthma. The higher quality flooring contractors have this equipment (and it isn’t cheap). It’s a good sign if a floor refinisher has this option, even if you don’t take advantage of it. It shows that they take pride in their business and invest in the best equipment. You can read more about dustless sanding here.
Also, be sure to ask them about your “stuff.” I’d recommend that you remove all loose/breakable items (and most contractors require this) and I’d recommend removing all paintings or other items you may have on the walls. Be sure to ask if the contractor will the furniture and appliances or if you plan to do this yourself (or hire someone to help). Some contractors do this, others don’t, so be sure to discuss this.
Conclusion – Hiring a flooring contractor – Important questions to ask
Hopefully these tips will not only help make sure that you’re hiring the right flooring contractor, but they will also help set expectations ahead of time so you can plan ahead.
Other useful flooring articles:
- 2017 Hardwood flooring trends
- Water vs oil based polyurethane – which is better?
- Recommended hardwood cleaning products and other items to maintain floors and reduce scratches.
- What are the best brands of polyurethane?
- Top 10 Flooring mistakes home owners make
Complementary products that will prolong the life of your hardwood floors
For more info, check out my Ebook – Discover the 6 Secrets of Refinishing hardwood floors.
Questions you should be asking your flooring contractor