1. What is the full name and address of the company?
Getting the complete address of the company can be an important factor in determining a company’s time in business. If a post office box is given, ask for a full street address as well. Try to hire a contractor that has an office nearby. The likelihood of better service and quicker response time is greater if the company is based near your home.
2. Does the company carry insurance?
A contractor should carry comprehensive liability insurance and workers’ compensation insurance* to protect you in the event of an accident. This can be verified by asking to see the contractor’s certificates of insurance (workers’ compensation and general liability). Let the contractor know you want current certificates sent to you by the insurer before the job is started.
Contractors may also carry other kinds of insurance including health, life and auto insurance. Bland assurances of insurance coverage may refer to these. Don’t be confused. Ask for proof of general liability and workers’ compensation* coverage for window projects.
Contractors who carry insurance and follow safety guidelines on fall prevention endure higher job overhead costs. These expenses could be the cause of price variations between contractors who follow the standards versus those who ignore them. Beware of uninsured contractors. Contractors who do not carry insurance will most likely be cheaper to hire as they do not have the large insurance premiums to pay. Workers’ compensation premiums can increase wage costs from about 20% to as much as 100%, depending on the state.
There are a variety of reasons why full insurance may not be carried by a contractor, such as:
- Not a full-time contractor
- Operates as a partnership or self-employed without employees
- New in the business
- Can’t afford insurance premiums
- Doesn’t stand behind work
It is up to you to determine if it is worth the risk to hire a contractor who does not carry insurance.
3. Is the company a licensed or credentialed contractor?
When you pose this question, you are, in effect, asking if the contractor is licensed by your state and/or city. Not all states require contractors to be licensed. If your state does license contractors, then he might have had to pass a written examination in his specialty, although few licenses make this a requirement. A number of cities also require professional licensing. Check with your local licensing authority for details.
A contractor may also answer this question by telling you he has a business license. However, a business license is a tax requirement only and is not directly relevant to the contractor’s competence. Several window manufacturers offer a variety of programs to professional contractors that establish their credentials as a knowledgeable window company. Homeowners can view a contractor’s credentials as another indicator of their degree of knowledge, professionalism, and dedication to the construction trade.
4. How long has the company been in business?
Needless to say, longer is usually better. Under three years may signal an unstable business or one low on the learning curve. On the other hand, everybody has to start somewhere. References will be helpful to double check any business, and especially important when dealing with a new business. A newer business may have a great future but it is only reasonable to be more careful when considering its referrals. The failure rate of small businesses in the first three years is very high.
5. Will the company provide referrals or references from previous jobs?
Ask for photos of completed work, if available. Keep in mind, however, that many contractors will not have photos. Request a list of 10 names and phone numbers of recent customers, over the last 12 months. It is not necessary to check all 10, but you will be able to pick randomly from the list those that you do call.
6. What is the company’s workmanship warranty?
Typically, contractor workmanship warranties are for one year or more. Longer warranties are not necessarily more valuable than shorter warranties. The length of the warranty is less important than the intent and ability of the company to stand behind his warranty. That is best evaluated using customer referrals. Ask his customers specifically for information about these four things:
- Did he perform his work on a timely basis?
- Was he responsive when asked for information and changes?
- Did he act as if he cared about the customers interests?
- And finally, would you call the company trustworthy?
The company should warrant their workmanship. The manufacturer, on the other hand, warranties the windows against defects in manufacturing. Thus, two warranties will cover the new window system. Understand them both. Ask for a copy of the manufacturer’s warranty pertaining to the specific window products you are considering.
Usually, problems of either workmanship or material show up very quickly. Therefore, the near-term warranty given by the contractor or manufacturer is more important than the warranty coverage during the later years of the warranty. Even if problems of workmanship arise after the workmanship warranty has lapsed, a reliable contractor usually will want to stand behind his work.
7. What is the company’s track record for solving customer complaints?
Try to find out how your contractor handles problems when they do arise. Request a referral from a job that involved a complaint.
- Ask the contractor if he has ever lost a job related court case.
- Ask if his contractor’s license has ever been suspended, and why.
Also, in talking to the appropriate authorities, such as the Better Business Bureau and licensing departments, find out if any complaints have been filed against the contractors whom you have interviewed. Many contractors in business for any length of time have been involved in a dispute. Ask how the dispute was resolved, to test your contractor’s reputation.
8. Does your field staff use tablets or smart phones?
Yes, indicates keeping up with technology. Instant access to data such as customer history, notes on past service calls, maintenance schedules for critical equipment, access to technical data from a service library, and the ability to query technical experts offsite can speed up repair time and enhance accountability on service calls.
At large data centers, a service provider might even have access to an electronic map showing locations of equipment along with history of service of that equipment. Furthermore, inputting data such as arrival time, length of service call, and/or invoicing on the spot is a lot more accurate than relying on hand-written (often illegible) service tickets and notes.
9. Do you do background checks on your service people?
Don’t let anyone into your home who has not had a thorough background check for criminal and sex offenses.
We’ve got all of these bases covered. In fact, every one of our technicians is thoroughly vetted and undergoes extensive training. That’s what makes us a company that has been a trusted service provider for three generations.