Finishing your basement can be a really exciting time!

You’ve probably dreamed of what you could do with the space and started looking at Pinterest or Houzz for design inspiration. But before you get going on the work, you need to find a trustworthy basement contractor who can do the job.

We have ALL had terrible experiences with contractors (including both Lindsay and I) so we want to help you avoid the headache if you can. Here are 5 important questions you should ask before hiring a basement finishing company:

1. Are you licensed, insured, and bonded?

Being bonded and insured is often a pre-requisite for a contractor to be licensed and being licensed means you’re able to pull permits. Insured is just as it sounds- a contractor has some sort of insurance against any potential liabilities. Bonded is more for the protection of the homeowner against incomplete work, failure to pay permits, or other financial obligations.

Sure, you can totally use an unlicensed basement contractor (such as your Uncle’s drinking buddy), but there is very little- legally speaking- you can do if the project goes awry.

2. Will you pull a permit?

We’ve all heard stories of contractors not pulling permits and getting away with it, but it helps to understand why we believe it’s important to pull a permit in the first place. The permit ensures that during inspections along the way (framing, plumbing, electrical, etc.) that your basement is up to code and meeting the safety standards governed by the city. This will help in the future if you ever plan to sell your home and get a home inspection and obviously, sets up future homeowners on the right path.

A basement contractor that refuses to pull a permit often does it to “save costs” (which it’s really not that expensive compared to overall finishing cost), but it will allow them to cut corners and for no one to hold them accountable. Want to understand more about permits? Check out this article we wrote.

3. How does payment work?

While our pricing and process model looks completely different than most Basement Contractors in Omaha (because we require very little upfront), we understand that other companies ask for more upfront.

We’re not saying that it’s necessarily wrong, however, we would caution you on someone who requires a very large sum upfront (say 50% or more of overall costs). That’s often a big check to be writing before any work has been done and unfortunately, some homeowners have been taken for a ride.

It helps to understand how payment works and if they do require a large amount (which can be totally legitimate), we encourage you to have them explain the need for so much.

4. Do you have a contract?

It’s important when you’re dealing with large sums of money and work to have legal contracts in place to protect both parties. Some basement contractors work off of oral agreements or their quote sheet as the legally binding factor. While acceptable, it really doesn’t divulge enough information to protect both parties.

In fact, a bid sheet often protects the interest of the basement company rather than the homeowner. We encourage that if you’re working with someone to ensure they have a contract in place, you’ve read the contract, and you understand all the terms.

5. Do you have references?

If everything else checks out, now it’s time to do the nitty gritty work of interviewing previous clients. Any basement company can show you finished work of a project they’ve worked on, but you never know the process it took to get there.

At Hawthorne, we believe that it’s important to not only build out a great basement but have a great process along the way. Check out references from social media (if they’ve tagged the homeowners) and ask specific questions such as:

  • Did you enjoy working with this company?
  • Did they stand by their work?
  • Did the timeline match your expectations?
  • Would you refer them and/or work with them again?

All of these questions will help you understand the type of company you’re working with before you even get started.

If you’ve gone through these questions and feel like Hawthorne Finished Basements would be a good fit, sent us an email at