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12 Things You Should Always Ask a Contractor Before Building a House

The idea of building a new home is exciting. However, if you don't ask your contractor the right questions prior to building, you could be left confused or disappointed with the process.

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Research the contractor’s experience

David Johnson of Signature Building & Design encourages those looking to build a house to ask the contractor if they have built something similar to the house they want to build. Also, ask them specific questions about their experience that you weren’t able to find online. Here are more tips to consider when hiring a contractor.

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Ask about lot restrictions


“It’s important to take into consideration that the lot that you want to build on may have its own restrictions that could change the size and style of home you wish to build,” Johnson says. “We normally design a house for the particular lot the owner wishes to build on.” Here are 13 places in the U.S. offering free land!

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Ask about possible additional excavation costs


Johnson notes that if you’re building on anything other than a standard lot, there can be additional excavation costs. Ask your contractor about this if your lot has lots of trees, is not flat, or has any other unusual characteristics. “Certain lots may have additional excavation or fill costs that may not be necessary in most new construction builds.” If you ever have drainage problems in your yard, here’s how to install a DIY in-ground drainage system.

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Ask about a payment schedule


Find out when you’ll owe your first payment and what the options are for making payments. Confusion in the payment process could lead to a delay in project completion. Also ask about inspections before final payment is due.

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Find out who is in charge of permits


Ask if your contractor is taking care of permits, or if this is something that you are expected to do. “Many builders leave these responsibilities up to the owner, which could add cost and frustration to the project.” notes Johnson. Here are 10 things your contractor wants you to know.

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Ask about your responsibilities


Make sure to ask your contractor clear questions about your responsibilities as part of the project. Will you need to be on site for any part of the project? Do you need to complete any additional paperwork? Essentially, find out exactly what your role is. Check out these tips to avoid a home improvement scam.

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Speak up if the contract is confusing


Before you build, read through your contract thoroughly and be sure to ask any questions for clarification if something doesn’t make sense or isn’t what you talked about before.

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Know who your supervisor is

Johnson explains that you should ask your contractor who the supervisor of the project is and who will be on site. Also, get phone numbers for those individuals and whoever you are to contact if there is a question.

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Ask about the timetable for completion


Be realistic and understand that your contractor likely has other projects they’re working on in addition to yous and, depending on the season you’re building, weather can be a hindrance to completing a project on time. Ask for an estimate of completion. If it seems too long, ask why.

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Ensure you understand “standard”


First, be sure you fully understand what is and is not included in the price. Is all hardware, such as towel bars and cabinet pulls included? Once you know what’s included, ask about what is considered “standard.” This refers to the specific flooring, fixtures, appliances, etc. that are included in the price a contractor quotes to you. Once you find out what the standard options are, you can usually choose to pay more to upgrade if the standard options are not to your liking.

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Ask about a warranty


A warranty is good for both you and your contractor. It protects you from defective or shoddy work and it protects the contractor from being liable for their work forever. Asking about this up front helps you avoid any misunderstanding in the future. Check out these 25 companies with excellent warranties.

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If something is a red flag, dig deeper and ask more questions


Does the contractor avoid answering a question or can’t provide the information you’re asking for? Dig deeper by asking more questions to ensure that this is a person and company you’re comfortable working with. Learn more about finding a contractor you can trust.

Julia K. Porter
Dr. Julia Porter has worked in Higher Education since 2008, following a career as a High School teacher in Brooklyn, NY. She holds a PhD in Global Leadership from Indiana Tech, an MA in English Literature from Brooklyn College, and a BS in English Education from Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis (IUPUI). She lives in Indiana with her husband, daughter, and rambunctious Australian Shepherd.