How to Find and Hire a Contractor – What Questions to Ask

Unfortunately, we building contractors don’t tend to be the most trusted professionals. Gallup runs periodic polls on honesty and ethics in different fields, and we don’t fare too well. In their last poll, just 26% of people rated building contractors as high or very high in honesty and ethical standards.

That puts us below auto mechanics and pretty much on par with bankers. And it brings us in WAY below the top ranking profession, nurses, at 80%.

Why is it that people don’t see building contractors as honest and ethical?

I think it comes down to a few things that are all too common in our industry.

Lots of companies:

  • Don’t have the proper insurances or do work in places they aren’t licensed.
  • Pay undocumented day laborers low rates to do work for them.
  • Cut corners when it comes to quality. They make sure it looks nice superficially, but it won’t last.
    • They buy low-quality materials at Home Depot that the client won’t see since they’ll be covered up.
    • They pour shallow footings for walls, steps and curbs that don’t go below the frost line, meaning they will deteriorate with each winter frost.
  • Quote a low price to win the job, knowing that they’ll tack on extra after it’s begun.
  • Rent out equipment and may experience delays due to not having the proper equipment on hand when needed.

Those are just a few of the issues. There are more. So as someone looking for a contractor, what can you do? Well, for one, make sure you know the company well that you decide to hire.

Make sure you ask them things like:

  • What licenses and insurance do you have? You can ask for proof that they are insured properly in the state where they’re doing work for you.
  • Can I have some references from your past clients?
  • Do you ever add costs later on top of the agreed-upon price?
  • What happens if something is done incorrectly, who pays for that?

And some potential questions regarding quality (you do need some level of industry expertise, or know someone who has that expertise, to properly ask these questions):

  • Where do you get your materials?
  • Specific Example: How will you build the steps? Will you dig below the frost line so you have deep footings that won’t be moved by the ice?

So how do we stack up when it comes to these problems that plague our industry?

Admittedly we’re biased, but here’s how we see it:

JCI Construction Corp is fully licensed and insured in New York and Connecticut. We have 4 teams with 4 foremen (team leaders). Each foreman has been with the company for more than 10 years. The majority of team members have been with the company for 10+ years. This is extremely rare in this industry, and allows for a consistently high-quality end result for our clients.

What if there are problems with the job?
If the unlikely case that any aspect of a job isn’t done right, the owner John Cabeca is the first one to say so, and will fix it at his own expense. He never leaves a job done incorrectly.

What about price changes?
We never intentionally low-ball estimates and later say “Oops, we underestimated.” The price will be what we estimate it to be, no more. Our estimates are extremely true to cost. As long as you don’t change what you want after the price is agreed to, there will be no price increases.

What about quality of work?
We do the job right, every time. If you need a footing for a curb, steps or walls, we’ll do it right. Below the frost line so our work lasts as long as it should, and doesn’t get ruined by a few harsh Northeast winters.

What about quality of materials?
We will never buy cheap materials. It doesn’t matter if it’s a part you’ll never see, like a flu or a smoke chamber. We buy quality every step of the way so our work stands the test of time.

Here are some reviews originally posted on by some of our past clients. Additionally, feel free to ask us for references if you’d like to speak to past clients about our work. Good luck finding the right contractor for your job!