The 8 questions you need to interview your home remodeler
When remodeling, you are going to hire a contractor and that's the moment when it hits you - you'll have to face the issue of choosing the right one. It's not just about the investment, really. You are going to let him into your house and you will spend some time dealing with him, so you can’t take things lightly. How can you make sure you're making the right choice? Fortunately, there are some things you can do, like asking your potential home remodelers this questionnaire. Depending on their answers, you'll be able to find the perfect one for you.
1 - How long have you been in business? And before that?
A new business is not necessarily bad news, but you must make sure that there is not a history of legal or financial problems that force them to change company names. If a contractor or a company stays in business for more than 15 years in the same area of your house you will have plenty of information about them. Researching the contractor's history is key to making a good decision.
2 - Do you have an office?
Sounds like a funny question to ask but trust us, you'll want to know the answer. Will you trust your investment to someone whose business is just a pick-up truck and a cell phone? Hope not. In fact, ask for the address and drop by to check it by yourself.
3 - Do you have an insurance, license and permits?
This is one of the biggest mistakes people make - neglecting the contractor's papers. Doing that can cost you dearly and can ruin the whole experience for you. Ask and check for all the paperwork, specially insurance and permits for the company, employees and/or sub-contractor. Call the insurer and licensors to check that is everything up to date. Remember that you, as owner of the building, are liable for the people working for you.
4 - How do you choose your materials? Do you work with any specific brands?
Check the quality of your contractor suppliers and check the brands of special materials like insulation, windows, solar panels, tiling and fixtures beyond aesthetics. You don’t want your remodel to start cracking due to poor quality materials even if they are guaranteed. Besides, that's a good time to ask about how sustainable the contractor's practices really are.
5 - Can you give me a list of referrals? Can I visit one of your ongoing projects?
Don’t be shy, ask for real life referrals and call them to check. Your contractor will refer you the most satisfied customers, so their opinion will set the roof of your expectations. Ask them if you have any specific concern. Also ask to visit on of their ongoing projects so you could see what you can expect regarding tidiness and finishing quality. Of course, complete your research with some online browsing to learn about the potential ugly side.
6 - Do you have employees, sub-contractors or a combination of both? Why?
There is no wrong answer to this question if the main contractor you are interviewing can give you sound reasons. At this moment you need to express if you have had a problem with a previous contractor so he can avoid call him as sub-contractor to your project. Also ask them how they choose them and set the level of trust you should expect.
7 - How recently have you worked in a project similar to ours?
This question can give you an accurate reference of how up-to-date is your contractor with the new techniques and materials for your specific project. Having a lot of recent experience in building additions doesn’t quite qualified them to update a solar installation, p.e. This will obviously depend on your type of project, but hiring a contractor that regularly does what you want to do will be essential for having a smoother experience.
8 - How will be the communication during the project?
You won’t like a contractor that disappears during weekends even if there are no workers in your house. Make sure you have 24/7 customer service because you might find that 2 hours after the last worker leaves your house some plumbing burst in the middle of the remodel and you must wait till Monday to have it patched. Ask for a landline, a mobile phone and a personal email address. Also ask how they will manage delays and how climate may affect the schedule to avoid future disagreements.
Always ask all the extra questions you have in mind BEFORE hiring a remodeler and interview as many as you need to feel safe. Ask your friends and family about their experience and create a blacklist with the unsatisfying ones.
And remember: a house remodel could be a nice experience, make it so ;)