7 Questions to ask when hiring a remodeling contractor

Hiring a home remodeling contractor can be very stressful.  After all, it's about the house you're going to live in for possibly the next decade.  Whether you are just looking to upgrade your bathrooms or a whole-house remodel, it is a big decision to make.

Before paying a contractor thousands upon thousands of dollars to build or remodel your home, you definitely want to be 100% sure they are the right choice for your home remodeling project.  In this article, we will help you with figuring out the right questions to ask, and find the perfect fit for your home remodeling project.

1. Are you licensed?

The first thing to make sure is that your contractor is licensed and that the license is current.  Never work with any contractors who are not licensed, even if they have glowing 5 star reviews.  As a homeowner, you don't want someone who doesn't obtain a proper license or alternative credentials that cities, states or even counties require.  Hiring a contractor without a license can not only create legal consequences, but also endanger your home and your family.  It's very unwise and could even be life-threatening to hire people who do not have the correct skill set or education to do the proper home renovation work.

Additionally, if they break something structurally in your house or the work is substandard and shoddy, you may have to deal with the aftermath on the insurance; if you ever need to take it to court, you will be in a bad position.  But all this is nothing compared to the fact that hiring an unprofessional contractor might cost you a lot more money and time down the road.

2. How many projects like mine have you completed?

Besides legal issues, this is probably the most important question to ask when hiring a home remodeling contractor.  Why?  Because experience is key, especially in this industry.  Contractors with years of experience usually have established systems and controls to ensure their work is on the highest quality, yet on budget and on time.  If they have not done remodeling work, or have not done it many times (< 10 times) then you should definitely consider hiring other contractors.  Don't forget to ask them for their portfolio to see if they are as good and experienced as they claim.

Another thing you should keep in mind is whether or not they have started and closed several businesses over the years?  Even if they have been in business for a while, this could be a red flag, indicating the contractors might be avoiding their previous customers for some reason.

3. Will you obtain the permits and set up the inspections?

If a permit is required for your project, your home remodeling contractor should be willing to pull them for you.  They should not only know what kind of permits you need and how to get them, but also make sure that your home remodeling project gets all the permits it needs.  A permit ensures that the home remodeling project is reviewed and approved by a building inspector, meaning the work of your project is performed correctly and up to code.

Here's why your home remodeling contractor should pull the permit for you - the person who named on the permit is responsible for making sure all the work during the remodeling project meets the building code.  If your contractor encourages you, the homeowner, to pull the permits by yourself, it's definitely a big warning sign.  A contractor who wants you to pull permits by yourself might be trying to avoid licensing requirements or legal responsibility for your home remodeling project, or even both.

4. Are you bonded and insured?

For the homeowner, being bonded is important if the contractor doesn't finish their job.  A surety bond provides liability protection for the homeowner if the home remodeling contractor fails to complete the project.  It protects the homeowner from any illegal or unethical actions on the part of the contractor.  Not all of the states require contractors to be bonded so don't forget to ask about it.  

Also remember to take a look at their certificates of insurance which should cover personal liability, property damage, and worker's compensation for both the general contractor and for their subcontractors.  Keep in mind that if they don’t have any insurance, you could be sued if anyone get injured on your property while working on your home remodeling project.  If you don't want to be held liable for any injuries or damages that occur during the construction, make sure they’re insured and that the insurance is current.  You should also ask your contractor for a copy of the insurance certificates just in case.

5. What is the timeline for my project?

While being aware of any circumstances that might delay the schedule and expecting a little wiggle room in terms, you will still be less restless if the home remodeling contractors can give you an idea of when they will start and complete a project.  If there's no realistic dates, the anxiety and stress of not knowing the dates will continue to grow.

It's also important for homeowners to have an approximate finish date so that you have goals to push the contractors to meet.  As a professional home remodeling contractor should be capable of fully planning everything out before the project starts and determine the scope of work, you shouldn't be afraid to hire someone else if they can't complete the project months after the date they estimated.

6. How do I pay and what is the payment schedule?

There are many different payment schedules depending on what kind of project you want to do.  It's very important to discuss payment terms with your contractor before your home remodeling project begins.  You absolutely don't want any misunderstanding here so it's better to talk about it and make sure everyone is on the same page.  

Before signing the contract, if you have any questions about the price or anything you don't understand, don't be shy to ask your contractor.  Once you are ready to sign the contract, ask your contractor to put everything in writing, such as payment schedule, scope of work, etc, as it helps to clarify both of the parties' expectations in the beginning.

Do not make assumptions about work that should be done.  If it's not explicit and hasn't been discussed, chances are that it may not be planned.

7. Do you have references?

If the contractor has a reference list, one the best way to find out if the contractor is professional and trustworthy is talking to their previous clients.  Ask them what they thought about the contractor during the construction and how did their home remodeling project turn out.  Details during the project sometimes indicate a lot.  

You can also ask their previous clients questions about smaller issues, such as:

- "Did they keep the house secure during the project?"

- "How did you resolve disagreements?"

- "Did they clean it up at the end of the day?"

- "Was it easy to get in touch with them?"

Put together a list of your questions before you call, and call at least 2 or 3 people on their reference list.  If you got several contractor bids, this will help you to have a better and clearer comparison.

Communication is critical

Good communication between the homeowner and the contractor is half the battle.  You should also be prepared to answer questions from the contractors.  In fact, a good home remodeling contractor can help you to clarify what you want and what you need by asking the right questions, instead of just nodding along with everything you say.  

It's undeniably tricky to select a home remodeling contractor who is the best fit for your project, but it doesn't mean it's impossible.  We hope the questions listed above will help you to make sure they are the right choice for your home remodeling project.

If you would like to discuss your project or have any questions about residential homes, renovation or home remodeling, please email us or give us a ring at (770) 777 0100.  Our committed team is always happy to help!