While I’m interviewing remodeling contractors, what questions should I ask?
Of the many questions you can ask during an interview, the most important question is one you must ask and answer yourself:
“Do I feel comfortable with and trust the person I am about to do business with?”
Your answer to that question should make the hiring decision a little easier.
Other questions that are worth considering when interviewing a potential remodeler:
How long have you been in business?
Look for a company with an established business history in your community. During the last recession, many remodeling businesses did not survive. Most successful contractors are proud of their history in the industry. Be wary of the person who just received their license and ask them these questions
- How did you gain your experience to become a contractor?
- Have you ever been licensed under a different business name?
- Have you ever declared bankruptcy under another business name?
As an Oregon resident, you are able to 'search a license record' on the Oregon Construction Contractors Board. Do not just search their business name, search for the contractors first and last name.
Please also check the contractor on the Better Business Bureau. We always recommend doing as much research as possible.
Does your company carry liability insurance?
Their answer should be 'yes!' Ask for copies of the insurance certificates to verify coverage. If the company has employees, make sure that the employees are covered by Worker's Compensation insurance as well. Most contractors will not carry this information with them, but they should be able to provide it to you in a reasonable amount of time.
Who will be assigned as project supervisor for the job?
This could be a loaded question for many companies, but it will give you some insight as to how their company runs. You want a point of contact during your project.
- Who should I contact if the supervisor is not available?
- Who will be my project manager?
- Will the project manager be here every day or does someone else oversee the day-to-day work?
- Can I have a list of names and contact phone numbers for those who will be involved in the project?
- Who did I call if there is an emergency? (roof starts leaking, water pipe bursts, etc.)
- Will subcontractors be on my job site?
- Will the subcontractors on my job site be insured?
What is the time frame for starting and finishing the project?
Now is the time to ask questions about production and work schedules. Questions should include:
Who should I contact if the supervisor is not available?
- What time will workers normally begin and end a work day?
- Will work be performed on the weekends?
- If the schedule changes, when and how will I be notified?
- What is your approach to a project of this scope?
This will give you an idea of how the contractor works and what to expect during the project. Listen carefully to their answer, this is one of the big indicators of the company's work ethic.
- Will you be working on other projects during our project?
- What happens if we make a small or large change to our scope of work?
We address this question a little later in more detail.
Ask some logistical questions here also:
- Will you need to park any specialty equipment here?
- Will you be using my bathroom/kitchen/sink/hose?
- What will the noise level be like?
- Do I, or someone else, need to be in the home all the time?
- Where do you employees park?
- Do you clean up everything before you leave each day? This is incredibly important if you have small children or pets. How will they secure power tools and/or dangerous items? What does a 'clean job site' mean to them? Get the details of their idea of 'clean' to ensure your expectations will be met.
- Will I have access to the areas you are working in during the evening or weekends?
- Do you need part of my garage, shop, or outbuildings as a staging area for tools or supplies?
When and how do we pay you? Will there be a payment schedule?
This is VERY important!
So important that you most likely have seen this addressed on the news, and certainly by the Better Business Bureau.
Never, I say never, pay your contracted price prior to work starting, or on the first day of the job.
When you ask for a payment schedule, you should receive an answer of some sort that will be along these lines:
We do take payments, we will make a detailed payment schedule that will be directly correlated with major parts of your renovation being delivered or completed. An example would be, on the first day you give a down payment, your second payment is due when rough in electrical is finishes, etc. You should be able to see completed stages of your project prior to or finished the day of payments being made.
If you have a small job that will be completed in one or two days, it is not unreasonable for them to ask for a materials draw and then pay the remaining in full when the project is complete.
Does your company specialize in new construction or remodeling?
The remodeling process is different when compared to new construction. Remodelers see you every day. We must be mindful of you, your family, your pets, and any special needs of note. A good remodeler must take all of this into account. Furthermore, remodelers must take things apart before they put something back together. Knowing how to properly take something apart can save you money during the rebuilding process. Make sure your contractor specializes in remodeling.
Do you offer design services?
If you are considering a large project, you will need design services. If the contractor does not have design-build capabilities, you should consider hiring an architect, engineer, or other design professional.
- If we are paying for the design work, will we have our own copies of the final design?
- Can we use those copies to acquire other bids for our job?
Are any of your company’s employees certified? Do you belong to any professional organizations? Which ones?
Trade certifications are good indicators of dedication, professionalism, and knowledge of the industry. Certified remodelers are required to meet certain industry criteria and continue their education to maintain their certifications. This education goes well beyond the State of Oregon contractor's education requirements.
The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) offers several designations including: Certified Remodeler (CR), Certified Remodeler Specialist (CRS), Certified Remodeler Associate (CRA), Certified Kitchen & Bath Remodeler (CKBR), Certified Lead Carpenter (CLC), and Certified Remodeling Carpenter (CRC) to name a few.
Belonging to a professional organization that is directly related to remodeling has a few advantages for you, the client.
1. That company is making a public statement that they care about their industry.
2. That company is paying additional money to belong to an organization that is helping them grow, giving them access to continuing education and networking.
May I have a list of references for projects you have completed which are similar to mine?
The contractor should be able to supply you with a minimum of three references, including names, telephone numbers, addresses, and project scope.
- How long ago was the project completed?
- Can you arrange a visit to see the finished job?
- How many projects have they completed in the last 12 months that are similar to yours?
You should also consider asking for professional references from suppliers or subcontractors to verify sound business practices.
Will we need a permit for this project?
Failure to obtain the necessary permits or to arrange obligatory inspections can be illegal. In some cases, if a project violates a zoning law or other regulations, it may even have to be demolished. A qualified remodeling contractor will be conscious of the permit process and ensure that all permits have been obtained before initiating any work. They should also be able to answer during your interview if you will need permits.
How about working with your neighborhood association to get approval? Is your contractor willing to do this? They should be.
Will we need a permit for this project?
Failure to obtain the necessary permits or to arrange obligatory inspections can be illegal. In some cases, if a project violates a zoning law or other regulations, it may even have to be demolished. A qualified remodeling contractor will be conscious of the permit process and ensure that all permits have bee
How do you deal with additional charges or change orders?
This is a loaded question. Know that the most expensive words you will speak during a remodel are, "While you are here..."
It is important to know how each company works with changes to the original scope of work. As remodelers, we sometimes have unforeseen conditions or damages found inside walls or other areas of your home that you simply could not have seen until demolition started.
Change orders should be addressed int he contract that you sign with any company.
- How will change orders affect the timeline of my project?
- How do you bill for these changes?
- When are the bills due?
Do you offer a warranty?
Most contractors will offer a minimum warranty of one year, this is standard and should be expected. Many of the items that will be used in your home will also have their own warranty information. Make sure you get all the information for everything that will be installed in your home.
- How do you deal with defective materials?
- What if we have any workmanship problems?
- Do you fill out any paperwork for my warranties?
- How do I get the paperwork regarding the materials installed in my home?
Has your company ever had a disagreement with a client? How did you resolve it?
These two questions go hand-in-hand. Honestly, I would not believe anyone in the service industry if they said they never had a complaint. The fact is, someone will get upset over something at some point. The real answer you are looking for is how did they resolve the issue or work with the client to fix it?
- Did they have to go to arbitration?
- Did they have to go to court?
- Do they have outstanding judgments against their company?