To vet or not to vet, that is the first question that you as homeowner must decide when considering a contractor for any siding work. What you want to rule out, without any debate, are scammers. — These are so called contractors who may have a good sales pitch, but are interested only in your money. HouseLogic provides five scam scenarios to be on the look out for.
There are many siding contractors seeking an honest living. Here the top 22 qualifying questions to determine if the contractor in question is the right fit for you.
Questions about the Worker
1. Where is your office located? How long has your company been in business?
These are the first type of questions to ask, or information for you to find out. It gets the ball rolling in a few directions. An established contractor likely has an office in your area. That’s a positive sign you’re not dealing with a scammer. If you aren’t thoroughly convinced by everything that follows, then take a drive to that office to be sure it exists.
Knowing how long they’ve been in business opens the door to their experience (more on that later).
These are very reasonable questions to ask, though chances are you can find out this information before having any contact with the contractor.
2. What are examples of jobs you’ve completed? Do you have referrals and reviews I can look at?
Testimonials and examples of the completed work are invaluable while hunting for quality siding contractors.
Many professional contractors will provide this without you even asking, via their website or a portfolio they carry with them as part of their sales presentation. In the event that information is not made available to you, be sure to ask this question. Examples convey experience better than words can.
Referrals provide you with an option to investigate the contractor with other homeowners. Ideally, you’ll contact three of these people to get well rounded feedback, but that’s up to you. No need to contact more than three, and one or two is better than none.
3. What sort of warranties / guarantees does your work and/or product include? If repairs are needed, how is that handled by you?
The reasonable expectation is that the products they install will have a warranty that is provided to you upon completion of the job. Such warranties on products are usually at least a decade, and up to 50 years, but come with limitations.
Guarantees on their service, or workmanship, ought to be at least a half a year and up to 10 years. This provides you ample time with anything that was installed incorrectly. Poor installation could lead to issues of moisture leaking in or accelerated wear and tear occurring in that time frame.
4. Can you provide a certificate of insurance? Do you have liability and workers compensation insurance?
The answer to this better be yes. If not, it is a good reason to consider going with another contractor. If some unfortunate accident occurs with the contractor and/or their crew on your property, their insurance would cover such bills. If not, all that would fall on you, since it occurred on your property. Such insurance typically releases the property owner from all liability.
5. Are you licensed to do siding in my state?
This is similar, but quite distinct from the insurance question. Knowledge about local and state building codes is important for a project such as siding installation. Answering yes to this question suffices to let you know they are acutely aware of such codes. If they answer no, then any legal issues that may come up from your local zoning office before, during or after the job is completed, would fall entirely on you.
6. How big is your crew? Do you use sub-contractors?
Installing siding is not a one-person job. These two questions are actually covering two different points, and the answers to these questions should help you understand who actually will do the work, and who is responsible for what. A company that staffs a crew that covers all facets of the job from start to finish is in your best interest as homeowner. This way, you’ll have direct connection at any step with the people on site.
Sub-contracting workers is a way for the company to cut costs and, in their opinion, improve efficiency. Yet, sub-contractors will always answer to the company that hired them and that is not you.
7. What is your policy for solving customer grievances and complaints?
This is one to ask the contractor directly. It’s possible you could get such information from a referral that you contact (see question #2). That they handle customer issues is something you can find out via a check with local licensing departments and the Better Business Bureau.
Not asking this question assumes that you will be completely satisfied with their work regardless of what may occur. Since that is not reasonable, then you’ll either learn about the policy at a time when you are in desperation mode or ask upfront. A customer oriented contractor will handle complaints immediately, as they may arise.
8. What materials are you most experienced with? Which ones are you least experienced with? How many years experience do you have in siding installation? How long has the foreman of the siding crew been working in construction?
A good contractor could spend all day discussing their experience with you. What you’re interested in hearing is whether they truly know what the job entails and how to get it done. This, along with the remaining questions in this category help transition to the next category regarding materials.
If you already know (from question #7) about the crew, then asking about the foreman’s experience is pertinent at this point. If you are diligent about doing homework regarding siding materials, then it does help to understand a potential contractor’s experience with specific siding options.
Many contractors will specialize in certain materials, and think they can do any siding job as a result. But, this is why vetting is important as you’ll want to understand how truly qualified they are for the material you wish to go with.
9. Do you install James Hardie siding? Is your company credentialed?
These two questions are about material, but more so about the contractor. James Hardie siding is a well known brand name for fiber cement siding. — Some contractors only install vinyl siding, so this question is more appropriate for contractors who offer fiber-cement siding.
Being credentialed, here means that they are contractors who have gone through extra steps to be trained and well connected to established brands of whatever siding material you may be thinking about. You’ll get more mileage in terms of warranties and guarantees from credentialed contractors.
Some contractors will install whatever material you want on your house, but not be credentialed. From the siding materials manufacturers’ perspective, they want to be associated with top rated contractors who are keeping up with the latest designs and installation techniques, all of which matter significantly to a quality installation.
Questions about the Siding Materials
10. What are the pros and cons with the various siding materials?
Sure, you could research this on your own. But there is still reason to ask a contractor this. Their experience with different siding options will hopefully provide some much-needed insight into various siding options and their pros and cons. Plus, you’ll have an opportunity to gauge how knowledgeable the contractor is about various siding options.
11. What color options are available? What if I choose to go with a customized color?
Pretty much all siding materials today have many color options available. And pretty much all siding contractors are somewhat limited in the color options they will offer you. If not liking the color options that the contract provides, you do have some options.
You could contact manufacturer(s) of the material and ask them about the price for custom ordering the color you want. Or you could ask the contractor about ability to paint the material during installation and/or down the road. Or another contractor you contact may have additional color options. Finally, you could consider another material that has the color(s) you want.
12. Do you have any visualizer tools to help me decide before installation on designs?
Several manufacturers have such resources, and contractors are usually aware of these. These tools help with seeing how color schemes work on a house, taking into account color of your roof, windows, and other trim options.
While this is not a top consideration for vetting, the color scheme is a choice you are going to live with for well after the work is completed. Besides, some of your questions can be on the creative side of finding the right person for the job.
13. How do I go about cleaning/maintaining the siding? How often do I need to do this?
Your contractor will know about this best. They’ll have an interest in providing such info, as proper maintenance relates to product warranty. How much maintenance a material requires after installed, and what that costs in terms of time and money would reasonably impact your decision. It may have little to do with the contractor or person doing the work, but is a viable question to ask.
14. How much insulation will the proposed material provide my house with? Are there options to increase insulation / R-value if sticking with that material? Would you be able to add extra insulation as you install my siding?
This is about material as well as cost, which is what the next category gets into. All siding has an R-value, or ability to provide insulation to your home. And many siding materials provide option to increase insulation properties by material selection, such as foam-back vinyl siding vs. the version without this, called hollow back.
A contractor ought to be able to readily tell you about such options and even provide that as part of the estimate they give you. Plus there is option that your home’s exterior walls could have foam insulation pumped into them and a siding job is perhaps the best time to consider this.
Questions regarding Payment
15. When is payment expected and what is the schedule?
There’s more than one way to ask this question. The only wrong thing would be to not ask this question.
Established contractors typically ask for some money up front and then remainder of money when the job is completed. While others may have stepping stones and payments that are made along the way.
What you’ll want to be on guard with is contractors that insist on all or majority of the money upfront. That’s unreasonable, if not a scam tactic. Asking for a timeline for the work and steps along the way is reasonable.
16. In your quote/estimate, will you itemize each cost? Will you separate material costs from labor charges?
This type of inquiry is for when you are considering additional options relating to material or specifics about the job (see the next category below). The more the estimate separates costs out and presents optional considerations, the better for making the decisions you need to make.
Not asking such a question will routinely result in a quote that is perhaps three or four line items dealing with material (with assumption that labor is included in that line item) and disposal charges or related fees. If the contractor’s rates are in fact negotiable, it would be based on your knowing what they are charging for exactly during the many steps it takes to complete a siding installation.
Questions specific to the Job
17. How long will the project take from start to finish?
This is a reasonable question to ask and one you’ll want to know about as your home environment will be topsy turvy until the job is done. Yet, it is challenging for anyone, any contractor, to be 100% accurate on this for various reasons such as weather, or possible unforeseen repairs along the way.
Asking for a typed up / graphical representation of a timeline is what you are ideally seeking from this inquiry. Some contractors will just verbalize it, and hope that is enough for you. But because labor is a significant factor in the overall charges, this question ought to be asked and answered in way that truly satisfies you.
18. How are repairs to the walls handled?
This is a tricky line of questioning, but a professional can help to reassure you that they wish to provide quality and minimize additional charges to you. If repairs are needed, then it is clearly in your best interest to have those addressed before any underlayment material or new siding is installed.
This question gets to their policy and what type of additional charges you might expect. Plus it relates to how long the job will take.
19. Besides siding material, what else will you be replacing? i.e. trim, soffit, eaves
This follows directly from question #16 on itemized costs for the project. Chances are you’ll want to update trim, soffit and eaves during a siding installation. Not asking this question could lead to an assumption that you want these replaced and are therefore included in the overall price, which is why some quotes may be higher than others.
This also provides you opportunity to ask questions relating to design oriented items. A good quality trim can greatly enhance curb appeal.
20. Items removed from the house, are you responsible for putting them back up? Can they be new items that I buy?
Even if the siding job you are looking to have done isn’t going to remove old siding, the workers will need to remove all current obstructions from your home, such as light fixtures, shutters, etc. Reasonable expectation is they will tell you they are responsible for putting back what they removed.
Many contractors will have no problem putting up newer/updated fixtures if you have them on site before the job is completed.
21. Who is responsible for any waste leftover from the job? What if I find nails in my lawn after you leave?
The answer to this ought to be that they are responsible for all leftover waste or items that were not on your property prior to the signing of the original contract. A good contractor will go over your entire lawn with a rolling magnet to get up all nails.
Since this type of scenario could reasonably lead you to complain, then asking about how they handle such issues (question #7) will help on this matter.
Also, don’t let contractors put large disposal bins on your driveway or lawn as their weight can lead to damage. On the street is proper place for that.
22. Who handles the building permit for the job? Do I need to obtain this or will you share that with me once you’ve obtained it?
Legally, it is your responsibility to obtain a permit for any work performed by a contractor. A licensed contractor will be able to address this inquiry in a way that ought to leave you with no further questions.
Not having a permit can spell trouble for you during the job, or worse down the road when you sell the home.