By Megan Wild, Author of Your Wild Home
Have no fear, this won’t get too personal, but you need to get to know potential contractors as well as possible while you can still afford to.
Contractors should be likened to a temporary sibling-in-law — but with the added positive you get to choose this one yourself. As with sibling-in-laws, you will spend a considerable amount of time with your contractor and doubtless will put a lot of money and time in their hands. Therefore, it’s a good idea to make sure you both understand each other as well as possible from the beginning. Start by asking questions!
Not only will some Q&A help you decide who to hire, but clear communication of both your expectations and your queries will make your contractor’s life much easier.
So, in the quest for the perfect (temporary) addition to your extended family, speak to a variety of contractors, particularly those referred to you where possible. If you’re stumped on helpful or appropriate questions, take a look below and hopefully you’ll be on your way to a stress-free relationship.
1. How Long Have You Been in This Business?
This is self-explanatory, however, contractors who have been in business for more than a couple of years have matured through the growing pains and proved themselves to be robust, reliable and efficient enough through their longevity. Controls and systems have been implemented to ensure client expectations are met including budget, timeline and quality.
2. Do You Have a Contracting License and Insurance Certificate?
Unfortunately, while the majority of contractors operate under a legitimate license and insurance certificate, there are the less diligent characters out there, too. Take the time to learn what state requirements are for contractors.
As far as insurance is concerned, it’s important to view the insurance certificate itself as both workers’ compensation and liability insurance should be active.
3. Would You Please Itemize Your Bid? And is This Fixed or Estimated?
Break down that bill! Not only will this encourage a relationship of openness, but it will also help your contractor plan and assign tools, manpower and time correctly to the job.
Getting an itemized bill helps you to compare with other contractors fairly and decide which services and goods would suit you and your project best.
4. What Guarantees Can You Give Me?
Warranties are a clever tool to ensure you’re both protected — and don’t sign the contract until all warranties or terms are to your liking. Keep assiduous records of all invoices and transactions should a dispute arise.
On this note, also check that your contractor has received necessary permits to carry out the work.
5. Do You Have Experience in Green Construction?
Of course, this will only apply to those amongst you who want green renovations. If you do want your home to be LEED certified/green, your contractor should have previous experience because it requires a lot of different steps. Ensuring all contractors understand the requirements for documentation is something that is important for LEED certification/other types of certification.
6. Could You Please Introduce Me to Your Job Foreman at Their Current Project?
Taking the time to visit the individual who could lead your project at their ongoing place of work is a helpful insight to how your own work will be managed. When onsite, be sure to speak to the client where possible and understand how the progress and expense matches with the initial predictions.
7. What Timeline Should We Work Within?
As a homeowner, you need to know how much of your life to put on hold and for how long while construction is underway. Of course, any type of project is going to have a major effect on your life, therefore managing expectations so you can plan your near future is dependent on the timeline provided by your contractor.
8. What is Your Working Day Like?
Once again, this is all about clarifying expectations and empowering yourself with the knowledge you need to drive your project forward with professionalism and fairness. Clarify start and end times, days of the week they’ll be present, expected noise levels and parking requirements. Understand if items need to removal, toilets provided and if anyone should be home during their working day.
9. What Way Would You Like Me to Reach You?
This is especially pertinent for rectifying any urgent matters or emergencies should they occur — Establish a designated point of contact as well as the failsafe way to reach that person. This normally would be the business owner or project manager.
Establish whether text, calls or email suits best and also pin down an estimated time of reply — this commits you both into a certain dynamic which aids professionalism and timely communication.
10. How Do We Resolve Disagreements?
While most relationships will be hassle-free, disagreements do occur. In which case, inquire as to how your contractor has previously handled disputes and what they have done to avoid similar situations going forward (where possible).
In the rare case this happens, always give your contractor a chance first to rectify the situation (once again, within reason!).
It could be one of the most important choices you make this year and could determine the success of your project, therefore choose your contractor extremely wisely. There are multitudes of highly qualified and excellent contractors out there, so do your best to clarify what you want and if they can deliver before signing the signature line.