General contractors or construction contractors oversee the entire remodeling or new construction project. Contractors manage materials, arrange for necessary permits, and facilitate all day to day tasks to reach completion. While a good contractor will have skills to perform certain tasks themselves, he or she is responsible for hiring subcontractors like electricians, plumbers, engineers, and architects just to name a few. In addition, the general contractor should be at the site regularly to check progress and resolve any issues.
General contractors are a must for successful completion of a new construction or remodel. The contractor is one of the most important decisions you will make for your project and having a reliable one can be the difference between turning your dream into a reality or turning it into a nightmare. This is why it is so important to ask the right questions before hiring one.
The 8 Essential Questions to Ask a Contractor:
1. Are you bonded and insured?
Both the contractor's bond and insurance are incredibly important means of protection for the customer. They offer the peace of mind knowing that you are working with a reputable professional and will provide adequate recourse should anything go wrong. For more information about contractor bonds and insurance check out this article on Angieslist.
2. Who will be working on the project?
Find out who will be there performing the work and how long the contractor has worked with them. You want a contractor with a crew that has a verifiable and successful track record. Truly outstanding contractors will offer background information about their subcontractors and can provide before and after photos of past projects.
3. What qualities do you look for in your subcontractors?
This question perfectly follows up #2. An experienced contractor will likely have a list of subcontractors that they have worked with and it’s important to know why they choose to work with those professionals. Do they look for the cheapest work possible or search for professionals that offer great value for a quality product? Asking this will give you insight into the type of professionals they will hire for your project.
4. What happens if cost exceeds the budget?
It’s no secret that when it comes to home renovations you can expect the unexpected. If you have ever watched one of the many home update shows on HGTV, you likely witnessed a dreaded moment when a surprise obstacle brings progress to a screeching halt. Running into asbestos, structural problems, lead based paint, prior water damage and termite damage are among the most common renovation setbacks. This often means new materials and/or extra work will be required which usually increases the cost.
A qualified contractor will be on the lookout for the potential of these types of issues however sometimes they are not visible until work has started. It’s important to know in advance how your contractor handles these situations. Will they contact you with options and the cost of each as well as provide a new “mini-bid” with itemized expenses? Or will they take it upon themselves to order the work to be done and bill you for it at the end?
5. Can I make changes to the plan?
Experienced contractors jump into action right after you hire them. They begin organizing the necessary professionals and ordering the proper materials. This can sometimes restrict making changes to the project along the way. Be up front with the contractor if you think there is a chance that you might want make a change or add something new. Ask how long you might have to make a change and if there will be a charge to do so.
For example, you might have plans for carpet in the hallway but later decide you want to have laminate hardwoods.If the carpet and materials have already been ordered the contractor might not be able to return them. If they can be returned you might incur a service charge for returning the carpet and picking up the new materials. It’s also important to note that certain changes can raise the cost if additional materials are needed. An instance of this is swapping tile for carpet. Tile requires mortar and grout which carpet does not.
6. When can I expect the project to be completed?
While it might not always be possible to give an exact date of completion, the contractor should be able to give you a reasonable window of time for the type of work being done.
7. Do you have a website?
In our modern age of technology it is common for any business to have a website. Contractors should not be excluded from this. A reputable contractor is more than happy to post pictures of prior projects and provide information about the workings of their business. A contractor with a website, and better yet social media pages, ensures quality of work by enabling customers to leave online reviews and provides multiple means of contact.
8. Do you have any concerns about what we have planned or see any obstacles down the road?
This question will offer you immediate feedback regarding the feasibility and efficiency of the work you wish to have completed. Asking this question will also shed light on any areas of the project that are obvious unknowns with prices that are difficult to estimate. The contractor might hone in on questions about the structural integrity of the home or provide useful information about the design.
Asking these 8 questions will help you know more about your contractor before you hire them. Once you do choose a contractor, be sure to read the invoice or contract thoroughly before signing.
What are your biggest concerns on hiring a contractor? Have you worked with a contractor before? Sound off in the comments below!
Tiffany Merlene Buescher
Passionate DFW Real Estate expert and Certified Military Residential Specialist.