Choosing the right remodeler for your home can be an intimidating quest. After all, you will likely be giving this company the keys to your home and trusting them to respect your property, your time, and your family. As ominous as that sounds, it does not have to end in disaster if you make the right choice, it can actually be very enjoyable. You don’t have to be an expert to hire the right contractor. What you do need to know is what to look for and how to ask for it.
The Little Things
When conducting the interview, pay attention to the little things. Did they show up on time? How did they dress? Did they listen to what you want, or did they just try to sell you their ideas? A good contractor knows that they’re building your project, not theirs. They not only want you to get to know them, but they want to get to know you as well. The relationship you’ll build is the foundation of your success while working together. Finding out if it’s a good fit is perhaps the most crucial goal of your interview process.
The Way We Do It Here
A professional contractor will have a systematic approach to ensuring that your project is designed and constructed in an organized way. Ask anyone you talk to what their process is, and if they cannot clearly explain the steps they’ll take to make your project a success, chances are they aren’t clear about it themselves.
Inquire about the history of the business. How long have they been around? Why did the company open in the first place? Companies tend to come and go a lot in the remodeling industry, so it’s essential to hire a company that has at least ten years of experience.
Ask about associations they are a part of. Organizations like NARI (National Association of the Remodeling Industry) are voluntary. A company willing to be a part of the community in their industry and is committed to continuing their education is a lot more likely to be a professional organization.
Now for the nitty-gritty. Ask about insurance, and don’t be shy about getting a copy of the certificate. Professional contractors are not offended by this question. They will gladly provide you with what you need to make sure you and your home are protected.
Permits & Licenses
Never hire a contractor who expects you to handle all the permits and licenses. Not only will you end up being responsible for their work, but these things are complicated and confusing! A contractor with the right experience in working with municipalities will be able to handle all licenses and permits and allow you to relax knowing it’s all taken care of.
Get it in Writing
Never hire a contractor without a written contract that includes a clear description of the work to be completed. Be sure to ask upfront about contracts and how everything will be documented, including changes that may occur. A professional contractor will want this clarity as much as you do. If a contractor beats around the bush about contracts, run the other way. If they have a clear and systematic method for documenting everything that will be done, you’re probably in good hands.
Fixed or Time & Materials Pricing
Will the pricing they give you be a fixed price or a time and materials price? Depending on the situation, one may be better than the other, but either can leave your wallet feeling open if executed incorrectly. Just be sure to get clear about which one the contractor is planning to use, so you both are on the same page and you know what to expect.
Previous Project Experience
Ask about past jobs they have completed that are similar to the one you’re planning. If they can pull up photos and explain the kinds of things they have done before, it can make you feel more at ease.
Points of Contact
Get clear about who your point of contact is. Construction is a lot of work that requires a lot of different people with different skills. At some point, your contractor will most likely have subcontractors on your job. If a question comes up, you’ll want to know who to ask. Having multiple points of contact can get confusing and overwhelming fast. Be sure to have one to two people you can call or email at any point during the project.
On top of who to contact, get clear about communication timing. How soon will they get back to an email, a phone call, a text? Knowing when to expect a response can alleviate unnecessary irritation or worry.
How will the contractor handle scheduling your project? How will they communicate to you who will be at your home? How much notice will they give you? What if something happens and they can’t come that day, will you be informed? A good contractor will understand that this isn’t just another job site; this is your home. Having people come and go unannounced is unacceptable, and they will understand that. However, if it seems like scheduling isn’t going to be transparent or in writing, that could be a big red flag.
How will the materials and finishes for your project be made? What is their plan for helping you make all of the right design choices to make your project beautiful? Remodeling a home is a big undertaking, and there are many parts and pieces to be considered. Working with a company that has a well-thought-out system for picking materials will save you from overwhelm and headaches. It will also make the construction process run much more smoothly.
Our recommendation: work with a Design/Build Firm. Not all design/build companies are created equal, but the good ones understand that design needs to come first. This may sound elementary, but choosing all the materials for your project before construction starts, could make or break your project experience and your wallet.
Ask for referrals. Hearing from the perspective of someone who has already worked with the company will give you a better understanding of what your experience will be like.
Support & Warranty
What does support after the project is finished look like? There are as many parts and pieces when remodeling a home, and there is a possibility that something could pop up after all the work has been finished. Understanding how the company will handle these items and what is and isn’t covered is essential.
Go with your gut. Ask these questions and conduct the interview, but if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Being comfortable and making a connection with the contractor is a crucial part of the hiring process.