Whenever hiring ahead of time. Here are some key home remodeling questions and answers you should ask a home contractor before hiring them.
WHAT ARE THE KEY HOME REMODELING QUESTIONS YOU SHOULD ASK WHEN COMPARING CONTRACTORS?
1. How long have you been in business? If less than 10 years……what did you do before that? If their company is young (5 years or less) and they have been in construction for much longer than that, you need to do your due diligence to make sure they did not have a company in another name, that went bankrupt or out of business and now they are doing business under another name.
2. Do you have an office outside of your home that I can go by?
3. Regarding the work in the field: Do you have only employees, only subcontractors or a combination of both? Whatever their answer, ask why? There are different business philosophies that companies base this decision. If they don’t have a reason, they don’t have lots of experience. For example, our company uses a combination of employees and subcontractors to do our projects. We adopted this business plan because it allows us to have more control over the bottom line. It also allows us to have multiple projects going at the same time (with proper supervision).
4. Verify their insurance coverage. Don’t just ask for a Certificate of Insurance- it is just a piece of paper. Call the Agent listed on the Certificate or ask for the contact information of their insurance agent. Confirm their coverage and that they are in ‘good standing’ (paid to date).
5. If applicable to your project- ask if they have a designer or design assistance on staff?
6. How are product selections made? This is a major point for many of our clients. We take our clients shopping for their material selections. There are occasions where our client(s) already know exactly what they want. However, it is more common that people want some guidance and suggestions. Not only are we showing them product, we are also helping them stay within budget (or warning them that they are exceeding their budget) and helping them with a color story.
7. Request a list of Referrals. There should be at least 20 projects or more on the list- and they should be related to the same kind of project you are considering. The referrals should represent clients over at least a 5 year period of time. You should absolutely call people on this list. Remember, the Contractor is providing the list. It is unlikely the Contractor would list clients that they knew were not satisfied with the work they completed. The purpose of calling should not only be to find out if they liked the Contractor. You should ask questions like the following:
– Did they start the job when they said they would?
– Were there any challenges faced on your project and how were they handled?
– How did the Contractor/ firm communicate with you during the project?
– Did the job finish on schedule?
– Have there been any warranty issues? If yes, how quickly and efficiently were the issues handled?
– Have you called them for additional work since? Why or Why not?
8. HOW RECENTLY SHOULD THE CONTRACTOR HAVE WORKED ON A PROJECT?
The Contractor should be actively working on projects when they come out to meet with you. If a contractor is slow and says he/she can start your job right away; that should be a RED FLAG to you. Contractors should be weeks or months away from being available on a remodel. If they are not busy, there is a reason. Quite frankly, I can’t think of any reasons that are good! DISCLAIMER- This does not apply to Roofing, Siding or even window projects. These exterior projects take far less time than a remodel. It is possible to schedule immediately. However, the Contractor should be able to provide current or recent project addresses so you can see their work.
By the way, this brings me to another issue. Go see the Contractor’s work! If you are about to spend $25,000.00 or more on your house- don’t you think you should see a similar project to see the finish quality? On large remodeling projects we always offer to bring our new clients by an ongoing project so they can see what to expect. If possible, the Contractor’s current client should be there to meet you. You can’t get a better testimonial then a client they are working with right now.
Also, if you are undertaking a kitchen remodel, for example, don’t hire a contractor that can only show you door replacement and siding work. Just because a handyman or even carpenter can do beautiful exterior work and doors, does not mean he can handle framing, scheduling (plumbers and electricians) and finish-out of a gutted and remodeled kitchen. I would also be leery of one many operations. While there are always exceptions, projects run by a one man show (doing the labor and all the scheduling, etc) tend to run over budget, over deadline and frustrating on the part of both parties.
9. HOW SHOULD YOU BROACH THE SUBJECT OF SUBCONTRACTORS?
The best way to ask any question is directly and with respect. Be frank about what information you are trying to ascertain. Your contractor should not have a problem answering general questions about subcontractors. I have had potential clients ask us if we used specific subcontractors/ vendors because they had a bad experience and want to make sure we don’t use the same vendor. As a general rule, I do not supply a list of my subcontractors/ vendors to my clients. They hire our firm to do the work, relying on our vendor relationships and experience to do a professional and quality job. We want to preserve those relationships, so we don’t offer up our vendors for the general public to call them directly.
10. HOW MANY JOBS SHOULD YOUR CONTRACTOR BE WORKING ON AT ONCE?
The answer is as many jobs as the Contractor or firm can handle while running them efficiently, professionally and with quality workmanship. The key to this is not the number of jobs, but how a contractor or firm runs their work. This is best researched through the list of referrals and going to check a current job. Like the phrase ‘a picture says a thousand words’, finding out how a Contractor/ Firm operates and if their clients respect and appreciate them will speak volumes.
11. HOW SHOULD YOU HANDLE CHECKING IN DURING THE PROJECT?
There are several ways your Contractor can communicate effectively during a project. The client should dictate which form of communication is best. Usually a combination of face-to-face meetings, telephone calls, emails and texts are most effective.