Especially for first-timers, the home remodeling process can be a scary proposition. Many folks have either heard or experienced “horror stories” of shoddy workmanship, cost overruns, delays, jobsite messes, etc. The home represents our most personal space as well as perhaps our most valuable asset. The idea of allowing strangers inside to demolish part or all of it and trust they will rebuild it better understandably terrifies some people.
Proper due diligence on remodeling contractors can alleviate those rational fears. In other words, do your homework before hiring a company to manage the project. Too often, homeowners simply take a “leap of faith”. They rush into a project because they’re just so eager to enjoy desired upgrades. And, they hire a contractor who tells them what they want to hear in terms of price and ability to get started quickly. Instead, you can avoid many problems and stressful moments through careful preparation. In this blog, we provide a list of useful questions that will help you identify a capable, trustworthy contractor.
Questions Related to the Remodeling Company
- How long has the company been in business? Has it operated previously under a different name? Who owns the company? What is his and/or her role in daily operations? Find a company with a proven track record over a long period of time as well as actively involved ownership.
- What is the company’s level of experience with this type of project? Can you execute the entire project or will it require the involvement of a third party? Importantly, make sure the company has successfully executed comparable projects. Ask to see examples from its project portfolio. If another company will be involved, learn about it as well.
- May I speak to other clients you have in my area? Address any negative online ratings or reviews. Truly experienced, quality companies should easily provide references from other satisfied homeowners in your area. Don’t believe everything you read online (positive or negative). However, feel free to ask the contractor to explain any negative reviews.
- What type of insurance coverage does the company carry? What warranty coverage does the company provide? Legitimate home remodelers should carry at least $1 million each of general liability coverage as well as worker’s compensation insurance. Additionally, they should offer a craftsmanship warranty of at least two years. Appliances, fixtures, and other materials will carry warranties from the respective manufacturers.
- Do you offer fixed price or cost-plus contracts? What are the payment terms? Depending on the price environment and your comfort level, you can decide on the preferred contract structure and find a contractor who offers it. Understand the expected payment terms and confirm fairness of payments in relation to the amount of work completed at each stage.
Questions Related to the Remodeling Professionals
- How many employees do you have? Describe their roles and professional experience. In most cases, avoid the “Chuck and a truck” companies. When “Chuck” gets pulled in another direction, your project may sit idly for a while. Sizable, well-delegated teams likely can execute more efficiently.
- Who will be primarily responsible for managing the preparation and execution of my project? Who will be my primary point of contact(s)? Know and trust the people who will manage the actual work over the coming months. A smooth-talking salesperson may disappear after the initial sale and payment.
- Are your independent contractors properly licensed and insured? How do you source these contractors and how familiar are they with one another? Nearly every residential general contractor uses independent subcontractors instead of employees for at least some trades. That’s not a bad thing. Just make sure subcontractors, particularly electricians and plumbers, carry proper licenses and insurance. Different crews accustomed to working together on job sites will function more productively and safely.
- Do you consider all of your craftsmen “masters” of their respective trades? Seek master craftsmen and avoid handymen and day laborers, particularly for larger and more complex projects.
- Do you perform background checks? You should feel better about partnering with companies that take seriously personal accountability and trustworthiness as well as your safety.
Questions Related to the Remodeling Process
- What are the key variables that could affect the ultimate cost and timing of this project? Understand what items are NOT included in the initially quoted price but could come into play. Account for these contingencies in your budget.
- What is a reasonable expectation for a timeline of preparation and execution? Make sure the contractor’s approach, including timing, aligns with your objectives. A good contractor should effectively explain what to expect, but understand things may need to change due to a large number of variables. Some of those variables, such as weather or material availability, may be beyond the contractor’s control.
- What type of formal plans do you provide? The contractor should develop and share well-conceived plans prior to demo. Stay away from contractors who propose starting construction quickly and figuring out the details along the way. For projects with major structural components, confirm a licensed architect and/or engineer will contribute to the planning.
- Does this project require permits and do you intend to obtain such permits? Determine if you live in an area that requires residential remodeling permits and subsequent inspections from city officials. Your chosen contractor should be very knowledgeable on, and not averse to, the permitting process. Furthermore, the contractor should provide important guidance to you if you live in a floodplain.
- How do you intend to protect my home during the construction phase? Ask the contractor to explain measures taken to contain dust and other construction debris as well as protect your property. Ask how frequently his or her team will clean up the jobsite. Will a dumpster remain onsite or will they remove trash on a regular basis? Workers’ lack of cleanliness and general respect for a home often represent two of the biggest complaints within the industry.
Home Remodeling Track Record and Fit
Most importantly, check the company’s track record through online resources, such as the Better Business Bureau and Google. Search for common complaints from other homeowners or cases of litigation. Make sure the contractor has developed a strong reputation over a period of years in your area. Be very weary of companies without a physical business address. Otherwise, they could disappear quickly during or after the remodeling project. If a contractor struggles to answer any of the questions above, he or she likely lacks knowledge, experience, and/or integrity.
At the end of the day, hire a company that fits well with your objectives, budget, working style, and personality. Among the key factors to consider, price certainly should be on the list. However, don’t place “lowest price” at the top of the list because you usually get what you pay for, particularly in remodeling…..Instead, you should evaluate the “fairest price” in terms of value of the services and craftsmanship quality delivered.
Like any relationship, your partnership with a contractor should be based on mutual respect and trust. Call TriFection at 281-548-2436 and see what we can do for you!