- How long have you been working in this industry?
- Answer You WANT to Hear: Long enough to accumulate at least ten to twenty references you can contact. br> Why You Want to Hear It: While more experience does not always mean better service, a contractor who has been around the block a time or two is more likely to have a proven track record.
- Are you licensed?
- Answer You WANT to Hear: Yes. br> Why You Want to Hear It: No matter what type of renovation is being performed for you. You what some piece of mind that you are dealing with a licensed contractor.
- Do you have insurance in case something in my home gets broken in the renovation and/or construction process?
- Answer You WANT to Hear: Yes. br> Why you Want to Hear It: While no company enters your home with the intention of breaking or damaging your property, you don’t want to be held financially responsible for repairing damage you didn’t cause. The company entering your home should ensure if they break something, they will fix it and cover all of the costs to do so.
- Do you belong to any professional organizations and, if so, which ones?
- Answer You Want to Hear It: Yes. br> Why You Want to Hear It: Joining an association for contractors is not a necessity, but it does show the commitment a potential contractor has to the job and the industry in general. Professional associations, which may be national, statewide, or even specific to the contractor’s specialty, offer added training, networking and research materials to members in an effort to keep them up to date with practices.
- Can you provide a list of references I can contact?
- Answer You WANT to Hear: Yes.
Why You Want to Hear It: If you ask for a list of references and a potential contractor sprints away like an Olympic marathoner, turn and run in the opposite direction. Checking references is one of the only methods for assuring the contractor you choose can get the job done.
- What is the projected timeline for this project?
- Answer You Want to Hear: A specific amount of time.
Why You Want to Hear it: While unexpected problems might arise as walls are removed or structures are built, an experienced contractor should be able to give you a projected time for completion of the project. There are times when a project can’t be properly estimated due to the suspicion of hidden damage or additional work behind existing walls or floors. In these cases, he adds, you should enter into a "time and materials" contract. So guess what your next question will be?
- Are you willing to sign a “time and materials” contract?
- Answer You Want to Hear: Yes.
Why You Want to Hear it: Imagine this renovation project nightmare: an unexpected find that results in extra time, materials and labor fees to fix; a contractor who wants to charge twice your monthly mortgage per hour to repair the damage; and you, stuck with a project half-finished and paying twice as much as you should to get it completed. This does happen, so it is imperative homeowners understand prior to the start of the project what the fees will be if a contractor runs into unexpected fixes. A "times and materials" document states the labor rate and material markup of anything that might arise unexpectedly.
- Will you be on site at all times to oversee progress of the job?
- Answer you WANT to hear: Yes.
Why You Want to Hear It: The contractor you hire is the project manager and, therefore, should be on site each day to oversee progress and ensure the work is being done according to the plan you agreed to in the beginning of the project.
- Who pulls required permits for the job, you or me?
- Answer You WANT to Hear: The contractor.
Why You Want to Hear It: The law regarding who pulls permits on a project vary by state and even by the city in which you live. However, the contractor should pull the permits. They are the professionals that know what needs to be done, and, this gives the inspecting authority the name of your contractor.
- Will you write out a contract specifying what you will do, the anticipated time frame, line items for materials needed to complete the job, cost, time needed, a ‘time and materials’ contract should a project become more involved than first thought, and a termination clause?
- Answer You WANT to Hear: Yes.
Why You Want to Hear It: A contractor (or any professional) can offer you the moon but deliver a pebble; and what can you do about it if you don’t have the agreement in writing? Not much. Request a written contract that includes the items listed above. Have the contractor sign and date the contract and keep a copy in your records. Beyond that, make sure you understand everything in the contract. Consumers have to understand and accept all of the terms of the contract so they have a clear outline of who is to do what and when – and what happens if the terms are violated.
- Will you offer a guarantee on your work, and, if so, what is the guarantee?
- Answer You WANT to Hear: Yes, with a specific amount of time (six months, one year, lifetime, etc).
Why You Want to Hear It: You wouldn’t purchase a car without some type of warranty against defects; you shouldn’t hire a contractor who can’t guarantee work, either. Contractors can guarantee against two types of problems, Defective Materials and Workmanship Problems.
- What is the payment schedule?
- Answer You WANT to Hear: Depends on the company, but you should never pay the entire amount up front.
Why You Want to Hear It: Different contractors may offer different options when it comes to payment and different options may work better for your situation. However, never pay for the work in its entirety prior to the job’s completion and inspection. A fair down payment is fine, but consumers should establish a payment plan tied to progress and should hold back the final payment until the job is completed to the consumer’s satisfaction.