Do you find it intimidating to hire a contractor because you don’t know enough about construction to hire wisely? This is a valid fear, so let’s do something about it.
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.
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 on 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, and finding out if there’s a good fit is perhaps the most important goal of your interview process.
A professional contractor will have a systematic approach to making sure 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.
No remodeling story ends well when it begins without a plan in place.
You may also like: Trusting Your Contractor Can be Difficult: Here’s Our Guide to Help You With That
Inquire about the history of the business. How long have they been around? Why did the company open in the first place? In the remodeling industry, companies tend to come and go a lot, 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, and a company that is willing to be a part of the community in their industry and is committed to continuing education, are a lot more likely to be professional organizations.
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 at this question and will gladly provide you with what you need to make sure you and your home are protected.
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, 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.
Never, ever 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.
Looking for more in-depth help with the remodeling process
download our FREE Remodeling Roadmap here.
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.
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.
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 who 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. 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 a lot of parts and pieces to be considered and chosen. Working with a company that has a well thought out system for picking just the right 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.
Learn more about Design/Build and what it means in our blog: What Does Design/Build Mean for My Project?
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.
To be prepared to have a good conversation with referrals
download our 13 Questions to Ask and Remodelers References
What does support after the project is finished look like? With as many parts and pieces, there are 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 important.
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.
Our goal with these pieces is to help you get the information you need to make educated choices for your home and family. If you’ve found this helpful, share it with others. If you have questions or would like to request other topics to be covered, please use the comment section below and we’ll make sure you get you the answers you need.