Renovating your home – whether you’re just remodeling a bedroom or renovating your entire house – is a highly personal project. The old saying is true: “Home is where the heart is.” Most people have an emotional attachment to their home that can run deep, especially if they love where they live enough to invest in upgrading, remodeling, and completely renovating it. That’s why you shouldn’t invite just anyone in to work on it.
More than a phone call
Choosing the right contractor is really a process of selecting someone to trust with your personal space. To do that correctly, you need to spend some time learning about them, what their qualifications and experience are, and – very important -- how they work. This requires more than just a quick phone conversation. It’s an opportunity to sit face-to-face and determine if the chemistry is right; if the contractor in question is really interested in putting the time and effort into understanding what you’re trying to do and what you expect to achieve with your project. An in-person interview is also an opportunity to read visual signals to see how comfortable, or uncomfortable, they are answering your questions. A simple conversation will reveal the contractor who takes pride in their craftsmanship and the contractor who is only interested in making a quick buck.
Information leads to insight
Of course, qualifying your contractor requires more than getting answers to some questions. After all, once they’ve packed up their tools and left, you’re stuck with the results – unless you’re willing to spend more time and money paying someone else to fix their mistakes. Proper qualification includes asking third parties for input: past clients, your town’s building inspector, non-competing service providers who may have experience with them. Gathering all of this diverse information is a great way to gain insight into the person and business practices of any contractor you’re considering.
As a respected design/build firm with decades of construction experience, we’ve been involved in more than our share of client interviews, many of which came about because the previous contractor proved less-than-satisfactory, resulting in the homeowner hiring us to fix their problems. In the process, we’ve come to appreciate the breadth and depth of questions we’ve been asked and made note of the most valuable and appropriate ones that we believe everyone should ask.
Here is a list of the top 25 questions every constructor should answer before being hired. We encourage you to download this list to have handy when you’re interviewing contractors for your next project:
How long have you been in business under the same business name?
What is your project estimation process?
Is your project price based on time and materials or is it a fixed cost bid?
Do you have an accounting department and experts to ensure the project costs are accurate?
How detailed are your renovation agreements and what do they cover?
Can you describe your planning and permitting process and how it impacts the project timeline?
How large a deposit do you require up front before the project begins?
Do you or we need to hire outsourced design or do you have that talent and expertise in house?
Which professional qualifications does your design team hold?
How many designs that you have done are actually built and have any won awards?
How do you understand the needs, wants, and wishes of the homeowner and translate them into an ideal renovation project that meets all of their needs?
How will you help me visualize the outcome of my renovation project?
What percent of your projects are completed on time and how do you know they did?
What percentage of your project comes in on budget as set at the beginning of the project?
How do you define allowances for the purchase of materials in a renovation project and how do you know they are sufficient?
How do you guard against accidents on the jobsite?
What is your communication process throughout the course of the project?
How do you communicate the project schedule and the impact of any changes and unforeseen events?
How do you help set our expectations early on and realign those expectations as issues come up?
What is your change order process and how many change orders are typical during any given project?
Can you describe your planning process to minimize the number of change orders?
Do you hold yourself accountable for items you miss in your original bid and can you give me an example of one?
Do you schedule weekly meetings during production with the homeowner to discuss the project progress and planned activities?
Do you have a quality assurance process for workmanship throughout the project and beyond?
How do you gauge customer satisfaction throughout the project and once it is completed?
The answers to these questions can help homeowners reduce the risks associated with any renovation project and ensure they are working with a reliable, respectable, and predictable contractor.
We encourage you to review this list of questions and add your own based on your specific needs and what’s important to you to ensure that you get the answers you need to feel comfortable hiring a contractor. A comprehensive interview process such as this will enable you to find the right fit for your family and build a relationship with a company eager to work with you and help you succeed with your project.
Curious about how we would respond to these questions? Send us an email and we’ll reply with our set of answers.