Getting ready to hire a contractor? Make sure you know who you are hiring. Finding the right contractor makes all the difference in your home remodeling experience—from the quality of the work, to your emotional stress, and the timeliness of your project. As you narrow your search for potential remodeling contractors to work with, ask these important questions to ensure the right fit:
- Is your company a full-service or a specialty firm?
If you are planning a small project, for example replacing the bathroom plumbing fixtures, you may be better off hiring a plumber. However, if you’re looking to change the entire layout (building an addition, knocking down walls or reconfiguring your living space), then you may want to consult a full-service company or a design/build firm.
- How long have you been in business and can I get a list of references?
Longevity often coincides with experience, and it’s important to find out how long the company you’re considering has been in business. A long track record of happy clients speaks volumes. Ask for a list of client references and call on them. Take the opportunity to ask questions that will give you an idea of what it is like to work with them. Some questions might include “What did the contractor do well?’, “What did they do poorly?”, “Were there problems or surprises along the way?”, “If there were problems, how were the problems handled?”, “Were there cost overruns?” If so, why?” “Did they complete on time?” If not, what caused the delay?” If you can visit a current job that the contractor is working on, even better!
- What percentage of your business is repeat or referral business?
A satisfied client wants to give referrals. So, if the remodeling contractor you’re considering has a high percentage of referral business, it is a strong indication that you would be in good hands—working with a firm that focuses on customer satisfaction.
- Are you licensed, bonded and insured?
Licensing laws vary by state, so check requirements and verify contractor licensing requirements before hiring. In the Tippecanoe county Indiana area the only contractors that are required to be licensed are plumbing and electrical contractors.
Bonding protects you if a remodeling contractor fails to complete a job, doesn’t pay for permits, or fails to meet other financial obligations, such as paying for suppliers or subcontractors or covering damage that workers may cause to your property. Any contractor who is bonded will be held financially responsible for completing your project.
It’s also important for a company to have general liability insurance, which covers property damage and bodily injury caused by the contractor’s work. Also make certain the contractor’s insurance policy includes workers’ compensation, which covers injuries the contractor’s employees may suffer while on the job. Without it, you, the property owner, could be held liable for personal injury if the contractor does not have proper coverage. Consequently, it’s in your best interest to ensure the company you choose is bonded, licensed and insured.
- Will a permit be required for my project?
Small changes to your home, like painting, new flooring, minor electrical repairs or fixture replacements won’t typically need a permit. However, updates that include major structural changes, room additions, window installations, or electrical wiring will usually require a city permit.
Failure to obtain the necessary permits or to arrange obligatory inspections can be illegal. A qualified remodeling company will be aware of any necessary permits and will handle obtaining them on your behalf.
- Is your company lead certified?
Common renovation activities like sanding, cutting, and demolition can create hazardous lead dust and chips by disturbing lead-based paint, which can be harmful to adults and children. Contractors performing renovation, repair and painting projects that disturb lead-based paint in homes built before 1978 must be certified and must follow specific work practices to prevent lead contamination if they find lead in the paint in your home. For the health and safety of your family, you’ll want to make sure the company you choose is lead certified and performs a lead test before they start your project.
- What professional memberships do you belong to?
Membership in an industry association keeps business owners on top of important, ever-changing issues, trends and legislation within the local area. For remodeling firms, membership in various trade associations like NAHB (National Association of Home Builders) and Remodelers Advantage can be a mark of quality and is another indicator that the company you are considering is among a respected, trusted group of builders.
- Are you a general contractor or design/build firm? What is the difference?
- What is your approach to planning and scope of work?
- How do you control the quality of your jobs?
- Do you use subcontractors of employees?
- How do you handle scheduling?
As you begin your research, you’ll discover that there are two distinct types of remodeling companies – general contractors and design/build contractors. General contractors traditionally work with a designer or architect independently, and hire a variety of subcontractors to help complete the home remodeling project. As an owner, you could potentially have multiple contacts during the design phase, as well as, multiple contacts during the construction phase.
A design/build firm is different from a general contractor in that there is one chain of command held accountable for properly managing your project from start to finish. An assigned project manager coordinates each vendor and sets the pace and expectations for the design/build remodeling process—greatly reducing any chance for items to fall through the cracks. Serving as the main contact between the designer, construction crew and you, the project manager acts as an “air traffic controller” and oversees the entire schedule. They keep the team moving as each deadline approaches.
A general contractor works independently with an architectural designer (of your choosing) and carries out construction based on the architect’s finished plans. If there are any issues (errors in measurement, structural issues, etc.) there is no one held accountable for the error. This unfortunately can leave the door open for “finger pointing”.
On the other hand, a design/build firm is accountable for your project’s end-result—including the finished design, cost and timeline. Because the same team designs and builds your project, there is more focused attention on accurately estimating and scheduling the project early in the design phase. As such, you will never hear complaints that the project ran over two times what the architect estimated. All costs are considered before the construction process starts.
We hope these questions help you establish a company’s qualifications and reputation and lead you decide on the right person for your home remodeling needs.
If a design/build firm is right for you, we would love for you to consider Riverside Construction. To schedule your first appointment with Lafayette’s premier design build firm, call 765.838.1644 or request a free in-home consultation.