10 Questions to Ask Your Contractor

Hiring the right person to handle your remodeling needs is crucial for a successful process.  Be sure to take your time when speaking to potential contractors.  You want to be sure they’re a good fit for you and your project.  When interviewing contractors there are some important questions that often go overlooked and asking them could make all the difference!

  1. Are you licensed and insured? 

Being licensed and insured is a requirement unless the homeowner decides to take on this responsibility for a smaller project.  It protects you as a homeowner in your remodeling investment.  Be sure to understand your local permitting requirements as well and if the contractor will be obtaining permits if necessary.

2. What is the cost of the project?

This one seems like a no brainer but not all estimates are not the same!  Sometimes it’s difficult comparing apples to apples when reviewing multiple construction estimates.  Ask your contractor to itemize the costs so you can understand where your costs lie and how they compare to another contractor’s bid.

3. What is our timeline for completion?

During the interview process this might be difficult to answer without a commitment for a start date. However, understanding realistic timelines is very important factor when starting a project.  A seasoned contractor should be able to give you a fair estimate on a completion date.  After securing the contractor, it’s important to have a written construction schedule.  Keep in mind schedules often get delayed whether it’s waiting for permits, conflictions with trades, or unexpected change orders, etc. but the written construction schedule will be helpful for your expectations and holding the contractor accountable.

4. What is your payment schedule? 

Most contractors require a deposit to hold your start date and begin construction.  Be sure to understand how deposits are scheduled and when they are due.  

5.  Who is my project manager, and will there be a dedicated team on my project? 

Sometimes the person that comes out to your home to provide you an estimate is not necessarily the person you will see day to day overseeing your project.  It’s important to know who your point of contact is and the times they will start and end each day.  Will the project manager be on site daily and how will they check in?

6. How will we communicate, and will you provide me with updates to my project?

Communication is key!  We’ve all heard that a million times, but remodeling is stressful enough and understanding what is going on, if you’re proceeding on schedule, if any problems have arisen, etc., can make all the difference in your project.  Will your contractor be providing daily or weekly updates?  Will you have regularly scheduled meetings, or updates via email, phone?  Having a clear plan on communication will make the process run smoothly.

7. Do you provide a warranty for your work?

What happens after the contractor finishes, you sign off on the punch list and he goes home?  If an issue arises 1 month later, 6 months later will they be available/return to address the problem?  A contractor should be able to guarantee any issues in workmanship or material defects.  Ask them to provide a written guarantee for a specified length of time (1 year is common).

8. What happens if there are change orders?

A change order is anything that was not defined in the scope of the project in the contract.  This may be the addition of work or something that is omitted.  Unforeseen circumstances can force the need to change the scope but how it is handled can be detrimental to your overall costs and project schedule.  Typically change orders are notified in writing with cost and signed off between homeowner and contractor before they can begin.  Be sure to discuss this with your contractor and have a plan in place to document any changes that happen along the way.

9. How will you let me know that I need to make a decision?

One of the biggest complaints I’ve heard from homeowners that went through a project alone was that they were not properly notified that the contractor needed something from them.  If the contractor doesn’t communicate when they need material then the project could be held up or even halted altogether causing lengthy delays.  It’s best to iron out these details before work begins!

10.  How many projects do you have right now?

A seasoned contractor will know their capabilities and limitations when it comes to how much work they can handle.  This may depend on how many crews they run, if the project manager is on site every day, what phase each project is in.  You want to be sure your GC is attentive and responsive to you and doesn’t put your project on the back-burner or have himself spread too thin to make you a priority.

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