Questions to ask before hiring a contractor for your remodeling project
Finding a good contractor can make – or break – a home remodeling project. Meeting with a contractor and asking the right questions can help ensure your project is done well, finishes on time, and minimizes both emotional and financial stress. The following are a few examples of questions to ask when meeting with a contractor.
- How long have you been in business?
Well-established contractors have a network of subcontractors they trust, plenty of customers in the area, and a local reputation to uphold. A contractor who has been in business five or more years is often a safer bet than someone who is just starting off in the industry. Check for a local address instead of a PO box, which ensures they have a local office; likewise, ask for at least two recent references to find out more about their work.
- Is the bid an estimate or a fixed price?
Because many contractors view bids as a general estimate, final costs can wind up significantly higher than originally planned. Instead, ask for a fixed price bid; this can help protect against unscrupulous contractors and hidden costs. If there are too many unknowns in a project, ask for a fixed bid on what is expected with the option to add additional, mini written bids for any additional work or costs.
- Can the bid be itemized?
Rather than a stand-alone, bottom line price, an itemized bid helps you understand exactly what each aspect of a project is projected to cost. Itemized bids also make it easier to compare bids between contractors; if one contractor bids significantly higher or lower than the others for a particular line item, you may want to ask additional questions. An itemized bid is also a valuable tool if you need to cut costs, helping you easily figure out where money can be deducted or less expensive choices can be made.
- How many projects like mine have you done this year?
Just as you wouldn’t see a cardiologist for a broken bone, you don’t want a contractor who specializes in home additions to remodel your powder room. Asking how many similar projects they have worked on in the past year can give you an idea of whether or not they have enough expertise in an area.
- What is the payment schedule?
Beware of contractors who ask you to pay for the full cost of a project upfront. Instead, discuss payment terms and schedules before construction begins. This helps homeowners stay aware of what is due when, whether that be on specific dates or at specific points in the project.