Ten Questions to Ask Your Contractor and the Answers You Want to Hear

One of our potential clients recently gave me a list of questions he had gotten and expanded from an article from Houzz.com.

These are all good questions, but I’ve modified them a bit to fit what I’ve been asked at one time or another over the years. The point I want to make is that just because you know a good question to ask doesn’t mean you will recognize the best answer. Here are the correct answers to the 10 questions you should ask a potential contractor:

  1. What is the projected process schedule?
    What you are asking here is “what is the big picture?” The contractor says the job will take four weeks; what you want to know is what stages of the process are scheduled to be completed each week to demonstrate that it really will get done in four weeks.
  2. What days and hours will you work on my home?
    What you want to hear is Monday through Friday, 8:30am until 4:30pm. Having the confidence of knowing when workers will be at your home helps keep the stress level of a remodeling project down. Knowing you will have your peace and quiet in the evenings and weekends is important.
  3. Do you carry liability and accident insurance and do you require your subcontractors to carry liability and accident insurance?
    The answer you are looking for is “yes, and we will provide copies of current policy certificates upon proposal acceptance.” Most clients accept the yes but don’t get the proof.
  4. With whom do I communicate about the job site on a day to day basis while the project is active?
    What you are asking here is, “who is the project manager?” It may be the contractor himself, the company’s design coordinator, a lead carpenter, or a professional project manager.
  5. What is the communication process while the job is going on?
    What you are really asking here is “is there any proactive communication while the job is active?” What you want to hear is, “we update the schedule daily with ‘who, what, why, when and where’ and supply that information by the method of communication we have agreed upon (email, text, voice).” If you have further questions, you have access to the contractor, designer and project manager during extended hours.
  6. How will you protect the areas surrounding the work space?
    What you want to hear is a confident answer that makes sense. You will be able to tell if they are sincere about containing the job site, or just figuring it out as they go.
  7. What are the payments, and how are they collected?
    The payments should be balanced with the work so neither the homeowner nor the contractor get too far upside down with their commitments. Payments should be collected in person by one of the lead people on the project at milestones such as foundation installation, drywall texture, completion of painting, etc. The payment should not be made if the contractual obligation by the contractor for the payment hasn’t been met. Make sure the payment structure is crystal clear at the end of a project milestone, and don’t give up the payment unless you are happy.
  8. How are change orders handled?
    Change orders—changing the scope of work during the process—end up being a messy business between contractors and homeowners more often than they should. If something changes during the project, the contractor and the client should immediately agree on the price difference and settle it at that time. “Working it out” at the end of the job generally will leave one or both of you frustrated or angry.
  9. What is your warranty?
    What you want to hear is that there is a two-year workmanship and product installation warranty. One year really isn’t enough, and your contractor should be confident in the workmanship and have the desire to maintain a lasting relationship with his clients.
  10. Will you provide lien release from your company and your sub-contractors when the project is finished?
    You want to hear a yes, and then tell your contractor he will not be paid the final payment until you have them all. In the initial process schedule you should be able to identify all the sub-contractors. Make sure you have all of the lien releases before you make the final payment.

We try our best to address these questions in our proposal and marketing content. Look for a contractor who is doing the same for your project, and you’ll know his intent is in the right place. Read more

Attic Ventilation and Insulation Tips to Save You Money!

No better time of year to discuss proper attic ventilation than August. I’ve crawled around a few attics this month, and as always, I am amazed at the huge difference in temperature of properly vented attics compared to improperly vented ones. An improperly vented attic can be as much as 50 degrees warmer than an unvented attic. If it is 100° outside, and your attic isn’t vented, it could be 150° up there. This heat load on your home air conditioning is much more than anything you could be losing through non-insulated walls and single-pane windows. Read more

Awesome Kitchen!

Check out this awesome kitchen we recently finished. This one has it all, and then some! As you will see in the before pictures and before floor plan, this was a typical ranch home galley kitchen. From a design perspective, this one had a lot of potential because it had good bones and was big to begin with, so when we took out the wall between the kitchen and the adjoining family room, we had a big, clean palette to work with.

Here are some of the highlights of the project:

When I’m waving my arms around drawing imaginary pictures in the air of what it might look like when a wall is removed, I’m never quite sure the homeowner really sees it like I do. Our design software helps a bunch, as you can see—we were able to show the basic feel of the new kitchen with the before and after floor plans and renderings our design software produces:

Once we get the walls and general layout of the cabinetry decided, the homeowner works with our design coordinator, Stephanie, to pick out what I call the ”frou-frou.” This homeowner did us all a great service by doing a lot of research to figure out what features and looks she wanted. This helps us work within the homeowner’s realm of thinking so we can help them develop a design that is professional, but with their own personal taste and touches. A good example is the pantry. She provided us with this picture to show the function she wanted and we built her a very user-friendly and functional pantry.

We went from demo to substantial completion in six weeks. This is fast for this complex of a job. We accomplish this by having everything purchased and on hand before we start, and have good communication with the tradesmen and homeowner throughout the project. On a project like this, there are 14 different steps involving different trades, and in the end, about 40 different people are involved in making it all come together. Mike, Jr. is the one that makes that all happen; I think I noticed a few gray hairs on him the other day. Read more