Questions For Home Improvement Contractors - What You Need To Know But Rarely Ask

General Contractor

You don't add a new room or remodel your kitchen on a regular basis so chances are excellent that hiring a home renovator firm is a one off experience for you. If you're buying new furniture, electronics, appliances or even a new car, you have an idea of what questions to ask and what research to do to make an informed decision and get the best value because you've done it before.

But if you're shopping for a service that you've never used before, how do you go about ensuring that you're picking the best service for your needs?

Well for starters "shopping" is probably the wrong word to use when looking for a home renovator. What you really want to do is "qualify" a contractor. You want to have every confidence that your choice can deliver exactly what you want, when you want it and within your budget.

Think about it for a moment. What you're looking to hire is someone who you will invite into your home to tear it up before it becomes the thing of beauty that you envisioned. That someone has to coordinate, supervise, and schedule qualified labor, materials, permits and deal with the unexpected (which is almost always expected). You're not buying a toaster here.

So with a project this complex, and a cost that can be substantial, you'd think that consumers would have a ton of carefully thought out questions for home renovators before they selected one for the job.

Actually they don't.

Most Commonly Asked Questions of Home Renovators

Our sister site, Handy American, ran across a survey conducted by the National Association of the Remodeling Industry. NARI asked its contractor members to share the most common questions asked by consumers when selecting a home renovator. Keep in mind that these are consumers who are relying on the contractor to provide professional tradesmen and technicians, arrange acquiring and delivery of all materials required, pass permit inspections, manage costs, answer the homeowner's questions and deal with their concerns and deliver the project to their total satisfaction.

So what does the typical consumer ask a home improvement contractor?

  • When can you start?
  • When will you finish?
  • What time will you show up for work each day?
  • Will you work every day?
  • Can you finish the job before (enter a date that's important to the consumer)?
  • What's the cost per square foot?

In other words "How fast can you get it done and what will it cost?"

Here's why you need to know more.

There is an incredible selection of qualified, professional home improvement contractors to choose from regardless where in Canada you live. However, there are also a large number of "shade tree" contractors and out and out frauds who rely on big promises, low cost and a consumer's ignorance to acquire business. If all you rely on is "How fast can you get it done and what will it cost?" you won't be able to separate the wheat from the chaff (or shaft in this case) and you're opening yourself up to becoming the next home improvement horror story.

Here's a short list of questions you need to ask:

  • How long have you been in business? A contractor with a history is most likely a contractor who delivers at least satisfactory results and knows how to run a business. A good carpenter or a great electrician is not necessarily a good business person. One of the principal reasons for general contractors to fail is an insufficient supply of working capital.
  • How many projects like mine have you done in the past year? Contractors tend to specialize. A contractor who principally remodels bathrooms probably has a great plumber and tile guy but if he's bidding on a room addition does he have somebody who understands foundations?
  • Are you licensed? This will require a bit of work on your part. Some jurisdictions have province wide license requirements while some jurisdictions have no license required at all. Check with your local permit office to find out what applies in your area. Often licenses prove minimum experience levels, insurance and assurances that only licensed tradesmen will be used on a project.
  • Can you give me a list of people who you have done similar work for as references? Calling references will answer many of your questions regarding the reliability and quality of the contractor.
  • Who will supervise the job and will the workers be employees or contractors. The supervisor is going to be in your house every day. Obviously you want someone who is competent and that you can communicate with easily.

Don't be shy about asking these questions and any others that you might have. Professional home improvement contractors want you to ask these questions. They want you to know that they are the real deal.

Lastly rely on your instincts. If the contractor comes across as honest and forthright then he or she probably is. Remember, trust and confidence in a home improvement contractor are just as important as the proposed price in when making your choice.

Posted by: TrustedPros
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