When you set out to do a remodel, addition or other major home renovation, you will need a general contractor to oversee the work that needs to be done. Hiring a general contractor means getting the best person, and while there are many general contractors in your area, you will need to screen them.
Part of that screening process is asking the right questions and getting a sense of their work history and ethics. There are a lot of questions you could ask, but here are some of the essential ones:
What’s your business history?
Asking a contractor’s business history is one of most important steps to finding out more about the work they’ve done, how well they did it and if their past clients were satisfied. If they are unwilling to give you references or talk about their history, it’s a good indication you might look elsewhere.
Some follow-up questions to ask around this question include:
- How many years have you been doing contractor work?
- How many projects have you completed like mine in the last year?
- Do you have a list of references I could call?
- What kind of insurance do you have?
- Are you licensed?
- Do you carry worker’s compensation for your employees?
- Do you have insurance in case something in my home is broken during the remodel or addition?
- Will you sign a “time and materials” contract?
- Do you often finish a project within the allotted time frame?
Who will be at the site and how will it be supervised?
Knowing who will be at your house every day during the renovation is important. You should know who they are, if the contractor will be there and any details about the team working on your home. For example, there might be a construction manager hired, which can cost between $3,200 and $4,400. It will depend on the extent of the project, and if the general contractor isn’t going to be the manager.
Some additional questions to ask:
- Can I meet the job foreman or project manager, if there will be one for my project?
- Will you be using any subcontractors on this project?
- Who will be on the site every day during the project?
- Will you be onsite every day or stopping by, and if the latter, how often?
Can you give me a timeline?
There should be a timeline for the project, so you know what to expect and when. Having a timeline will keep you aware of whether they’re behind or ahead of schedule. It will also let you know when you might need to be out of the house or specific rooms during the renovation.
You should ask the contractor:
- What is our schedule?
- Will this require a permit and who needs to pull them?
- When will you start and finish?
- What will be the start time and finish time every day?
- Will you work seven days a week?
- How will you communicate with me after hours?
- How will I know when I need to make decisions?
- What documents will I receive when the project is complete?
What guarantees can you give me?
Guarantees may or may not be part of the contract you sign with the general contractor. You want to have everything worked out before signing anything, so questions you might ask include:
- Is there any part of my project that worries you? If so, what is it and how do we work it out?
- Will you provide me with updates on a daily basis?
- Do you offer a guarantee on your work, and if so, what is it?
- Do you have any legal disputes pending from previous work that I need to be aware of?
Can I get that in writing?
Once you get everything worked out, it’s time put it all down in writing. What you need to have in the contract will depend on the project, so some questions you might ask include:
- Would you itemize the bid?
- Is the bid just an estimate or your fixed price for the project?
- Will you agree to a termination clause?
- Will your contract include the job details, timeframe, materials, cost, “time and materials” and termination clause?
If you think you need to ask any additional questions not covered here, you might want to consult friends and neighbors who have done similar renovations. Some other questions to consider asking when you decide whether to hire a general contractor include:
- What do I have to put down?
- What’s the bottom line?
- What’s your work routine like?
- Who are your main suppliers?
Remember, you want the right man or woman for the job and don’t want to go back for extensive repairs later.
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