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Questions to ask your remodeling contractor

May is National Home Remodeling Month. If you’ve been thinking about a home remodeling project, now is a great time to get started—not that May is the only month to make a fresh start! Kettler Forlines Homes is a homebuilder in the DC Metro region, and we also help homeowners with their renovations. When you’re trying to decide whom to trust with this important project, be sure to learn as much as possible up front. Here are some questions to ask a remodeling contractor.

Do you work in my area? Right from the start, be clear about the region they cover. A remodeling contractor who focuses on the area where you live is probably more available and responsive. In addition, if you need your builder to follow up with details, like completing warranty repairs, it’s better to have someone nearby. Traveling longer distances usually means a contractor adds travel expenses into the cost of the job. 

Is my project the type of remodeling you commonly do? You want someone with a remodeling experience that reflects the specific challenges of your job. If you want an addition, you should think twice about a contractor who mainly does commercial work or interior renovation. This experience means you’re not paying for their learning curve.

Are you licensed and insured, including liability insurance? This question is perhaps the most critical. Your home remodeling contractor must have the proper insurance coverage to protect your property. Get a copy of the insurance certificate and then call the issuer to make sure it’s a valid policy (i.e., hasn’t been canceled). 

Not all states require contractors to be licensed. Make sure to find out what’s required in your state. Check with your local or state government agencies. Then, check to make sure your prospective contractor is properly licensed.

Can you do the design or should I hire an architect? You’ll need plans to proceed with your home remodel. Some contractors offer this service while others prefer to have the plans provided.

Do you take care of obtaining all the necessary permits? The variety of permits required for a remodeling project can seem complicated to someone who isn’t used to the process. A contractor who willingly and expertly handles permitting is a valuable feature when filtering your prospects.

What is your estimating process? The way a contractor provides an estimate is a good clue to how they handle business. If they give you a ballpark and scratch out a price on a piece of paper, move on. To provide a reliable estimate, the remodeler needs to have a clear understanding of your needs and wishes. They need to see your home to understand what the challenges might be. Then, they need to explore the cost and availability of materials in order to avoid having the unwanted surprise of substitutions later.

How many other remodeling jobs are you currently doing? Remodelers are in big demand right now—at least, the good ones are. You need a contractor who isn’t squeezing you into a tight schedule because of work overload. That leads to delays, something that is particularly heinous once they’ve begun to tear apart your home!

When could you start this project and how long do you anticipate it to take, start to finish? This is a follow-up to the previous question. Get a firm commitment of the starting date and a reasonable estimation of completion. 

Can I provide some materials myself? Maybe you have resources where you can find exactly what you want. Bear in mind that some contractors can be insistent about acquiring everything themself. This isn’t necessarily stubbornness. If what you purchase ends up being defective, they aren’t responsible for the cost or delay. Discuss the option with your remodeling contractor before making your decision.

How do you handle changes in the project? This one is critical! It’s quite common that a homeowner wants to change something along the way. It could be as simple as the paint color or as complicated as moving a wall, which may or may not be feasible. Also, if you change your mind on items like cabinets, flooring, and appliances, just realize that they may have already been ordered and your change of heart could come with a cost to cancel/change the order, along with a delay.

Who will be working in my home? You’ll be allowing strangers access to your home. It’s fair to know who they are. Find out if your remodeling contractor uses subcontractors, for things like plumbing, electrical, mechanical, and finish work. Also, ask for the name and contact information of the project supervisor.

How do you protect my property during the renovation? It’s comforting to know the contractor respects your property. How will they handle coming and going? What steps do they take to protect your home during the rigors of home construction?

What are your typical work hours? Before someone comes knocking at 7 a.m.—hours before you usually get up—discuss the work hours. Most of them tend toward an early start, so you might have to be flexible.

Can you provide me with homeowners you’ve worked with on similar projects to mine? Of course, you want references! Your potential remodeling contractor should be prepared to provide you with names and contact information. If they have a website, also look at the “Before and After” photos.

Kettler Forlines Homes would love to give you our answers to these questions. We take immense pride in a job well done—that includes the personal service, reliability, and quality from start to finish. If you’re in the DC Metro area and need to remodel your home or any part of it, please give us the opportunity to offer our services. Let’s talk about what you’re thinking about and make your home a more perfect fit!