Hiring A Contractor

  • What to ask, check, expect and do correct.

    The key to any successful exterior trim and moulding renovation project is choosing the right dance partner. How will you know when that moment comes? Oh, you’ll know. You’ll see it in the enthusiastic head nod that says, “I get your ideas and tastes and can make them happen with roughly the amount of money you want to spend.” A head nod can say a lot.

    Of course to get to that extremely positive place, there are a few steps you should take before the first trimboard is mounted.

    Gather recommendations and check references.

    Neighbors, colleagues, friends and family who live in the area and are aware of a contractor’s reputation all make great sounding boards. Can’t stop looking at their trim and moulding and admiring how it feels so simpatico with their siding? Ask them about their experience. What turned out as promised? What gave them trim and moulding nightmares for months?

    You know who else makes great references? Other building pros who work with contractors. They include anyone from building supply distributors to real estate agents to bank lenders. Use the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) website as an industry resource and education tool. Considering remodeling professionals who are ethics code–following NARI members is always a good idea.

    Compile your questions and do phone interviews.

    Have your top three contractors yet? Of course not. You need to ask some questions first. Here are some basic but crucial questions with the desired answers:

    Q: Do you have an office in the area?

    A: Why yes—in order to better to serve you. We have fresh coffee!

    Q: Do you carry general liability and workers’ comp insurance?

    A: Yup. That way if I put a hole in your den wall or one of my workers fractures something you won’t be held responsible.

    Q: Do you have referrals or references you can show me?

    A: Everyone loves us. Will 10 names and phone numbers do?

    Q: You say you stand behind your work. How?

    A: In addition to a manufacturer’s material warranty, we’ll provide a workmanship warranty detailing how our work will comply with the manufacturer’s warranty requirements and installation specifications.

    Q: Do you use your own installers or subcontractors?

    A: Mostly our own installers, plus a few subcontractors we would stake our livelihoods on. We closely manage every aspect of every exterior trim and moulding job.

    Meet your finalists.

    You’ve considered recommendations and checked track records and customer and subcontractor complaint histories with your local Better Business Bureau chapter. You’re down to a scant few almost-winners, and it’s important to meet them in person. Body language, chemistry and similar ways of communicating are vital and are best confirmed face to face.

    If things go well you may form a final opinion after these meetings, but hold on. There are a few more things to cover, such as: 

    • Visiting a real live job site to see how the contractor works with clients and treats their property
    • Checking bids to make sure they’re all broken down the way you want: Think materials, labor, profit margins and specific overhead costs.
    • Comparing payment schedules: Look for evenly spaced payments; a contractor who demands half the bid up front may be inadvertently revealing financial instability.


    Make your decision and check the contract. Closely.

    While many siding and trim remodeling work contracts are relatively straightforward, the contract you sign should match what you’ve discussed and reflect the aspects of the project that are most important to you. Look for details like these: 

    • Proof of liability and workers’ comp insurance
    • Project start and completion dates
    • Payment schedule
    • List of project materials and products
    • Permit and zoning costs
    • Manufacturer and contractor workmanship warranty details
    • Jobsite maintenance and daily cleanup expectations
    • Pre- and post-project jobsite inspection