Print this page

What You Should Know About Hiring Home Improvement Contractors

Interview each contractor you’re considering. 

View a list of DC Licensed Home Improvement Contractors (PDF) 

View a list of DC Licensed General Contractors (PDF)

Here are some questions to ask:



How long have you been in business?

Look for a well-established company. Call the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) at (202) 442-4400 to see if the company has a current business license. Check the Office of the Attorney General’s website to see if there are unresolved consumer complaints for the contractor on file. No record of complaints against a particular contractor doesn’t necessarily mean that there have been no previous consumer problems. It may be that problems exist, but have not yet been reported, or that the contractor is doing business under several different names.


Are you licensed and registered with the District?

Ask to see the contractor’s license. Make sure it’s current.


How many projects like mine have you completed in the last year?

Ask for a list. This will help you determine how familiar the contractor is with your type of project.


Will my project require permits?

Licensed contractors should know whether or not your project will require permits. It is your responsibility to apply for all permits except water or sewer excavation permits, supplemental systems installation permits and raze permits. Only licensed contractors within the specific trade may apply for these permits. To find out if your project requires a permit and how to apply for one, visit DCRA’s Homeowners Center at 941 North Capitol Street, NE, or browse through DCRA's website.


May I have a list of references?

The contractor should be able to give you the names, addresses, and phone numbers of at least three clients who have projects similar to yours. Ask each how long ago the project was completed and if you can see it. Tell the contractor that you’d like to visit jobs in progress. You may want to ask the following:

  • Can I visit your home to see the completed job?
  • Were you satisfied with the project? Was it completed on time?
  • Did the contractor keep you informed about the status of the project and any problems along the way?
  • Were there unexpected costs? If so, what were they?
  • Did workers show up on time? Did they clean up after finishing the job?
  • Would you recommend the contractor?
  • Would you use the contractor again?



Will you use subcontractors on this project?

If the answer is yes, ask to meet them, and make sure they have current insurance coverage and licenses. Also, ask them if they were paid on time by this contractor. A mechanic’s lien could be placed on your home if your contractor fails to pay a subcontractor or supplier on your project. That means the subcontractors and suppliers could go to court to force you to sell your home to pay their unpaid bills from your project. Protect yourself by asking the contractor and every subcontractor and supplier for a lien release or lien waiver.


What types of insurance do you carry?

Contractors should have personal liability, worker’s compensation, and property damage coverage. Ask for copies of insurance certificates; make sure they’re current. Don’t do business with contractors who don’t carry appropriate insurance. Otherwise, you’ll be held liable for any injuries or damages during the project.