What to Ask a Prospective Contractor Before Remodeling
At DreamMaker Bath & Kitchen in Springfield, Illinois, we help people navigate the world of remodeling in a transparent and organized way. This resource on questions to ask a prospective contractor before remodeling outlines the very code of values that each of our team members follow. We believe every contractor should be held to these same guidelines. We, of course, hope that you would give us a call if you are considering a remodeling project, but if you are just starting to research options, feel free to use this as a guide to help you through the selection process.
It’s easy to get excited about a new remodeling project when watching HGTV or browsing on Pinterest. Just think how functional and beautiful your new space will be! But it’s also important to make sure you select the right professionals who will turn your dream into a reality – not a nightmare.
After you get recommendations from friends, family, and the Internet, you’ll want to meet with prospective contractors and ask them a few questions. This will help you decide which contractor is the best fit for your needs and will also outline a smooth process for once the work starts.
1. Have you completed jobs similar to what I’m looking for? Can I see examples?
It might seem obvious, but it’s worth stating: if you’re looking to remodel your kitchen, choose a contractor who has experience remodeling kitchens. Same goes for bathrooms, basements, or any other space in your home you’re looking to spruce up. Each project has its own nuances, and you want a contractor who’s familiar with those details. They’ll know the best materials to use and the best techniques to implement them.
An experienced contractor should be able to show you examples of projects they’ve successfully completed. They might have before and after photos on their website, physical displays in their showroom, or a flip-book of photos you can review during an in-person meeting.
You’ll also want proof that their previous clients were satisfied with their remodeling projects. A reputable contractor should be able to point you toward several sources of reviews, such as testimonials on their website, Google, Guild Quality, or Houzz.
2. Will you be handling any necessary permits?
Some construction projects require permits. You’ll want a contractor that not only knows if you need a permit, but can help you acquire the permit as well.
3. What is the timeline?
Once you’ve determined what work you’d like done, your contractor should be able to provide a timeline. Can they get you on their schedule right away or is there a wait time? If it’s a busy time of year or if this contractor is particularly popular, it could take longer to get your project started – but being busy is a good sign that people like their work so it’s probably worth the wait.
Your contractor should also be able to estimate how long the project will take. If they can’t commit, try to hone in on the parts they’re unclear about. Are they unsure if the materials will arrive on time? Maybe you can delay starting the project until everything arrives. Are you worried about what’s hiding behind the wood paneling in your basement? Have the contractor pull back a section and find out.
Turn as many “unknowns” into “knowns” as you can in order to have the most precise time estimate and contract price.
4. What payment options do you offer?
You may plan to pay cash or take out a loan at your bank. It’s also worth checking if the contractor has any financing options of their own. However, you should never be asked to pay the entire amount upfront for your project. Be sure you understand what the payment amounts are and when they are due. A good contract will have this spelled out clearly.
5. Who will be my point(s) of contact throughout the process? How will we communicate (phone, email, etc.)?
When remodeling your home, you’ll inevitably have questions. You will likely meet with various people throughout the remodeling process – the designer, the contractor, the foreman, etc. Because there are so many moving parts in a remodel project, it is best if you can have one point of contact (project manager) throughout the entire project. Most homeowners do not understand the timing of different phases of construction, and a project manager can make sure you know what to expect as the physical remodeling unfolds. Find out upfront who you should be talking to and when, as well as their contact information and the best way to reach them. Email might work well during the design process, but once a construction team is at your house every day, having the phone number of the lead contractor is more practical. Once the project is complete, you’ll want to know who to contact in case any issues or questions arise.
6. How do you handle change orders?
Ideally, the contract will be accurate and few-to-no changes will be needed once the project is underway. Realistically, you need to be prepared for changes. If it is determined that something new must be purchased or constructed, how does your contractor handle that change? Will they make minor decisions without you or will they run everything by you? Will each item be outlined in a separate change order? What is the payment process for those items?
7. How will you protect my property during construction?
All reputable contractors should have sufficient insurance and be willing to provide you a certificate of insurance directly from their insurance company. They should also be able to explain the physical measures they’ll have in place during construction (e.g. tarps over your furniture, equipment to relocate your appliances, etc.). Will they be installing a temporary trash receptacle, or will they be hauling trash off the premises every day? Do they clean up daily or only at the end of the project?
8. What will a typical day look like on-site?
What time will the crew arrive each day? Who will be on the premises (foreman, carpenters, etc.) and how many people at one time? If you will be off-premise, you’ll need to coordinate giving them a key. If you will be on-premise, you’ll need to know which rooms you’ll still have access to during the construction. Also consider children and pets, home offices, etc. – don’t be afraid to bring up any detail that might require special arrangement.
The right contractor will be happy to answer all these questions and more. The most successful projects are ones with clear communication and objectives (which are part of the DreamMaker Bath & Kitchen code of values), and both can be achieved by asking the right questions upfront. At DreamMaker Bath & Kitchen, our team of experienced designers and contractors is looking forward to answering any questions you might have about home remodeling!