Asking the right type of questions at the beginning of a home renovation project can save you a lot of confusion down the line. Below are a list of questions that you should ask any contractor, as well as general industry information. Included are also some handy checklists that can help you in your process.
Bathroom Remodel Checklist Kitchen Remodel Checklist
Questions to Get StartedHow much should my remodeling project cost? This really depends on the size and scope of your project. The materials chosen, the size of the room, and age of the infrastructure can all impact the project cost. Remember when you are comparing bids, that you are comparing the exact same scope from each contractor. If a price comes in that looks to good to be true, it probably is. How much value will my remodeling project add to my home? This also depends on the scope of your project, and you may be surprised which projects add the most value.
How much money down does a remodeler / contractor typically ask for to start a job?
There are many different scenarios that determine a payment schedule in the remodeling industry. Receiving some sort of down payment at signing is a good practice to ensure a customer’s sincere intent to do the project. A payment schedule should be part of the contract language. Typical down payments are 25% to 33%. Sometimes even higher, depending on the type of work being done. A down payment is highly recommended when products have to be ordered by the contractor immediately. Doors, windows, cabinets and specialty items are usually ordered well before the construction starts. The monies collected at the closing are insurance that the ordered products can be paid for by the contractor and not he /she is left with a pile of bills if the unforeseen should happen. Dividing a project into 3 or 4 equal payments allows the contractor to keep abreast of the project’s labor and material costs. Payments are most likely tied to a production schedule with predefined milestones.
These are only suggested down payments. Although these reflect a norm in our industry down payments and a payment schedule can be what ever is negotiated between the contractor and client. The important think to remember is that a business cannot survive without a cash flow.
How many estimates should I get for a remodeling project?
You can go about the process in different ways. Conventional wisdom dictates three estimates for any remodeling work you are going to have done. However, if a home improvement contractor comes highly recommended by a trusted source, and you have met and talked with the contractor and feel comfortable working with him or her, getting additional estimates may not be necessary.
I have three different estimates, and the prices vary greatly. Why?
There are a number of different factors that go into pricing a remodeling project. Be sure that every estimate has the same scope of work. If the estimates are vague and you cannot interpret that information, go back to the contractor for clarification in writing. If you are unable to get adequate written clarification, it may be wise to eliminate that remodeling contractor from the bidding process.
How important is it for my remodeling contractor to be licensed and insured?
It’s very important. If licensing is required in your state or town, ask for proof of licensing or call the issuing municipality to verify the license. For insurance, ask for a proof of insurance or call the insurance company with whom the contractor is insured to verify coverage.
What is NARI?
The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) is the only independent national association dedicated solely to the remodeling industry. NARI's goal is to help homeowners find the right professional partner to do their remodeling. NARI wants each homeowner to get the maximum value and enjoyment for the dollars they invest in their remodeling. Ask your remodeling contractor if their company is a member of NARI
Why should I choose a NARI member? NARI Members meet the association's stringent criteria for experience. NARI members also pledge a commitment to high standards of practice and NARI's Code of Ethics.
What can I expect to do while a remodeling project is being done in my home?
Most importantly, keep the lines of communication open between you and the remodeling contractor and the work crew. Ask questions. Let them know what your family schedule is and whether you have pets confined somewhere. It’s important to keep the work areas off limits to children and pets for their safety; however, you may have a little extra dust and dirt in your house, so keeping the work area off limits will avoid them tracking the dust to other parts of the house.
How do I select my remodeling contractor?
It’s best to employ a home improvement contractor with an established business in your area. Local firms can be checked through references from past customers in your community or through your local better business bureau. Local remodelers are compelled to perform quality work that satisfies their customers for their business to survive. Many states, but not all, require contractors to be licensed and or bonded. Contact your state or local licensing agencies to ensure the contractor meets all requirements. Ask the remodeling contractor for a current copy of their license. You can also check with the government Consumer Affairs Office and the Better Business Bureau to ensure there is no complaints on record for the contractor. Ask to see a copy of the remodeling contractor's certification of insurance for the name of his or her insurance agency to verify coverage. Most states require a contractor to carry worker's compensation, property damage and personal liability insurance. Make sure the contractor's insurance coverage meets all the minimum requirements.
Questions to Ask Contractors
While I'm interviewing remodeling contractors, what questions should I ask?How long have you been in business? Look for a company with an established business history in your community. Surviving in any business in today's competitive marketplace is a difficult task. Most successful contractors are proud of their history in the industry.
Who will be assigned as project supervisor for the job? Also ask whom you should contact if the supervisor is not available. Get exact names and contact phone numbers for all persons who will be involved in the project.
What is the time frame for starting the project? Now is the time to ask questions about work schedules. You should ask: What is your estimate for completion? How early will your crew normally begin work? When will they normally quit for the day? Will I be contacted about delays or changes in the schedule? By whom?
What is your approach to a project of this scope? This will give you an idea of how the contractor works and what to expect during the project. Listen carefully to the answer. This is one of the big indicators of the company's work ethic.
How do you operate? In other words, how is your firm organized? Do you have employees or do you hire subcontractors? If you do have employees, what are their job descriptions? Do you use a project supervisor or lead carpenter to oversee the project? Other firms will have additional positions. You should know what parts of your project will be handled by staff, and which will be contracted out to independent contractors.
Is your company a full service or specialty firm? If you are planning a small project, say replacing the bathroom plumbing, you may be better off hiring a specialty plumbing firm or a bathroom remodeler. However, if your project involves multiple changes, entire rooms or additions, you should consult a full service or design-build firm.
Do you have design services available? If you are considering a large or involved project, you will need design services. If the contractor does not have design-build capabilities, you should consider hiring an architect. Depending on the size and scope of the project, you may need an architect or structural engineer.
Does your company carry workers compensation and liability insurance? Ask for copies of the insurance certificates to verify coverage. In addition, some states require licensing and registration. If your state does have construction licensing laws, ask for your contractor's registration and license, then confirm the license number and expiration date with your local jurisdiction.
Are any of your company's employees certified? Trade certifications are good indicators of dedication, professionalism and knowledge of the industry. Remodelers are required to meet certain industry criteria to maintain their certifications. NARI offers six designations: Certified Remodeler (CR), Certified Remodeler Specialist (CRS), Certified Remodeler Associate (CRA), Certified Kitchen & Bath Remodeler (CKBR), Certified Lead Carpenter (CLC), and Certified Remodeling Carpenter (CRC).
May I have a list of references for projects you have completed which are similar to mine? The contractor should be able to supply you with a minimum of three references, including names, telephone numbers and addresses. As a follow up to this question, ask how long ago the project was completed and if the contractor can arrange a visit to see the finished job. You should also ask for professional references from suppliers, financial institutions, or subcontractors to verify sound business practices.
What percentage of your business is repeat or referral business? This will give you a good indication about the company's customer satisfaction. According to research conducted by NARI, most remodeling businesses attribute over 50 percent of their annual volume to customer referrals; some even claim up to 90 percent or more of their total annual sales.
How many projects like mine have you completed in the past 12 months? This will help you determine the contractor's familiarity with your type of project. You should confirm that a good portion of those completed projects were similar to the type of project you are proposing.
Will we need a permit for this project? Most cities and towns require permits for building projects. Failure to obtain the necessary permits or to arrange obligatory inspections can be illegal. In some cases, if a project violates a zoning law or some other regulations, it may even have to be demolished if there is no way to comply with the law. A qualified remodeling contractor will be conscious of the permit process, and ensure that all permits have been obtained before initiating any work.
May I have a list of your suppliers? You may want to add calling the contractor's suppliers to your list of follow up actions. This will help protect you from mechanics liens for nonpayment by the contractor. Suppliers also can be a source to establish credit history for the company.
Of the many questions you can ask during an interview, the most important question is one you must ask yourself: "Do I feel comfortable with and trust the person I am about to hire?"
Your answer to that last question should make the hiring decision a little easier.