Don’t Hire A Home Remodeling Contractor Without Asking These Questions
Remodeling your home can feel fun and exciting or intimidating and scary. But a good contractor can help you manage your fears and help make significant upgrades less stressful and more enjoyable.
Your choice of contractors is one of the most critical decisions in any major home remodeling project. A good contractor will help you understand the costs associated with any decision, keep the project on schedule, deliver quality work, manage the budget, and help you feel confident about the choices you’ve made.
Conversely, a poor contractor may blow the timeline, eat through the budget, deliver sub-par work, or even quit before the job is completed. In fact, a bad contractor can wreak havoc on your home and your finances, so you must choose a business you can trust to deliver quality work on time and within estimates.
As the person funding your home renovation, you alone are responsible for hiring the best people, and that means you’ll need to interview your contractor before the contract has been signed. To help you make a smart decision, make sure you not only know the answers to the questions, but you are able to verify every answer given through at least one reliable second source.
Question: How long has your company been remodeling homes?
Don’t hire contractors without a proven track record of success. Any contractor you hire for home remodeling should have completed enough big projects for ten good references. While it is possible to stay in business for years while doing shoddy work, it is unlikely.
And while you may get a bargain-basement price from a new contractor, the risk you take is not worth the potential savings. After all, new contractors are not experienced with time management, hiring and keeping a reliable crew, or complying with Florida’s building codes. Most importantly, new contractors are rarely financially stable, so you run a real risk of new companies going bankrupt or quitting before your job is completed.
Question: Are you a licensed home contractor?
Contractors are required by law to become certified and maintain a contractor’s license to work in the state of Florida. When you hire a state-licensed contractor, you have a clear legal path to address complaints. Conversely, homeowners who use unlicensed contractors are on their own if the workmen don’t honor their contract or leave town (and leave them with a pile of rubble in the living room.) When you hire a contractor licensed by the state, Florida’s Department of Business & Professional Regulation will help you find the contractor and pursue legal action if needed.
You’ll also want to click here to perform a Florida contractor’s license search. By searching for your contractor’s license, you will not only confirm that they are certified and in compliance with Florida laws, but you will also see how long the contractor has been in business, and see any complaints filed against them.
Finally, licensing is also a sign of competency. Licensed contractors must pass exams to prove their skills and knowledge or contracting skills. They also pass test confirming they understand state and local regulations and requirements. It is much harder to determine if an unlicensed contractor is qualified or has knowledge of regulations and building codes.
Question: Is your remodeling company insured and bonded?
When a contracting firm is bonded, it means they have purchased a surety bond. This type of insurance policy not only protects the property owner, but it also provides a certain amount of liability protection and compensation in case a contractor is unable to complete a job as required or contracted.
“…getting a licensed and bonded contractor gives you insurance. This means that should any damage happen during the renovation or construction, you are assured that your contractor will take the responsibility for it. That is a big relief for you, especially if you have set a specific budget for your project and you have no extra cash should anything untoward happen. And that responsibility is not just for damage to your house, but also for any injury that might occur during construction. For example, a visitor to your house gets an injury at the construction site, because you hired a licensed and bonded contractor, they will be the one to pay the hospital fees so you don’t need to worry about spending money.”
As with personal insurance, the amounts covered by the contractor’s insurance vary based on the policy. To ensure your contractor carries adequate protection, speak with a lawyer before entering into a construction agreement.
Question: Do you carry worker’s comp insurance for your employees?
Worker’s comp is not just a sign of a responsible employer. It also protects you from liability. Florida’s licensed contractors are required to carry worker’s compensation insurance. If a team member from an unlicensed contractor’s crew gets hurt on your property, you could be subject to a lawsuit.
When your contracting firm covers all of their employees with workers’ compensation insurance, you are not liable for injuries on the job. All licensed contractors in the state of Florida are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance (another reason to choose a licensed contractor.)
Succeed With Contractors reports,
“Doing business with a contractor who does not carry workers comp coverage, that’s current and in force, exposes you to potential liability if accidents occur on your property during the performance of their work. This is one of the most important credentials to consider when interviewing or hiring contractors or trade to perform any part of your work.”
Question: How long will this remodeling project take to complete?
While it would be wonderful to complete a project on a short deadline, have a conversation with your contractor about issues that may extend the time frame. An experienced contractor will not only give you a time frame for completion but will also be honest about possible delays that can be caused when unexpected problems arise when walls and floors are removed, or previous code violations are discovered.
Occasionally, a project can’t be estimated adequately due to the suspicion of hidden damage or additional work that needs to be done to existing walls or floors. When this is the case, you’ll want a time and materials contract. This type of contract outlines the labor rate and material markup for any parts of the project that might arise unexpectedly.
Question: Who pulls required permits for the job, you or me?
A professional contractor is responsible for knowing the local requirements and laws, and should be solely responsible for getting all work permits, arranging for inspections, and ensuring that all work done on your property complies with all state and city laws, codes, and restrictions. But more importantly, when a contractor pulls a permit, they must prove to the city that they are licensed and insured.
In the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, reporter John Maine explains,
“Contractors who want a homeowner to pull a permit probably lack both a license and insurance.
“Hire an uninsured contractor and you could face huge bills if a worker is injured on the job and chooses to sue.
“A legitimate contractor seeking to pull a building permit must prove to the municipality that he or she is licensed and insured.
“But a homeowner applying for the same permit doesn’t need that documentation. The homeowner becomes the ‘owner/builder,’ and in a sense is the general contractor of the home repair or improvement project. It is designed to allow handy homeowners to work on their own houses.
“It also is a way that uninsured contractors can get around paying insurance. They ask the homeowner to pull the permit, and they can undercut legitimate contractors because they avoid the high cost of insurance.
“Florida has some of the highest workers’ compensation insurance rates in the country. The more dangerous the work, the higher the insurance.”
Question: How will you protect the rest of my property from the mess and debris of remodeling?
Good housekeeping during construction isn’t just a cleanliness concern; it’s a safety concern. Whenever people are working in your house, there should be regular clean up during the day, and a more thorough clean up at the end of the day. It’s also smart to ask your contractor how they will protect the area that is being renovated and keep the dust and debris away from the rest of your home. They should talk about how they keep the site dry and protected from the weather and how they will seal the area off to keep the rest of your home and property safe from dust and debris.
For major remodeling projects, you may need to move out of your home for some periods. Make sure you talk to your contractor about how they protect your home from theft during these periods.
And if you have pets or small children, you may have additional concerns. Make sure you discuss these with the contractor upfront so they can factor any other safety measures into their estimate and time frame.
Question: Does the home contractor company have a design center where you can see their products?
Ask the contractor if they have a design center where you can see the many products and finishes being offered for your remodeling job. This would help you see just how beautiful your new kitchen or bath might look, when it’s done. Visiting a design center hill help facilitate the selection process for the many materials, fixtures, hardware, cabinets and finishes, countertops and flooring choices that are a fun part of the process of any remodeling project.
Question: Can you provide a list of references?
Asking for references is a standard part of the contractor selection process. If any contractor you contact is unable or unwilling to provide a reference, that’s a deal-breaker. However, many unreputable contractors will give false recommendations, hoping that you don’t take the time to check them. With this in mind, it’s essential that you not only ask for references, but you call each one and spend time asking them about the contractor, the job, and their satisfaction.
Here are some key questions you should ask of a past customer:
- What kind of work did the contractor do for you?
Was the contractor hired to provide a large-scale remodeling or improvement project, or a smaller one? What was your overall goal for the project?
- Did you have a clear idea of what the contractor was going to do?
Did the contractor provide adequate written detail in the contract including important details such as who will be performing the work, what types of materials will be used, when the project will be started and finished, and how change orders should be handled?
- Did they show up on time?
How often did contractor or crew come to the home? What hours did they work? Did they clean up the work site at the end of each day?
- Did you check the contractor’s credentials?
Did the references’ project require a permit from a local building department or code enforcement agency? Did the contractor have any trouble obtaining it?
Beyond asking a contractor’s references, make sure you know the answers to these key questions before you hire: Does the contractor carry the proper license, if required, as well as liability and workman’s compensation insurance? Are they bonded? Does your project require a permit? Can the contractor obtain one?
- What was working with the contractor’s crew or subcontractors like?
If the contractor wasn’t there, was there a crew leader or an employee to answer your questions or make decisions? Were they pleasant and easy to work with?
If the contractor used subcontractors, were you happy with them? Were you provided a lien waiver in the contract to guarantee you wouldn’t be responsible for payments to subcontractors or material suppliers?
- Was communication with the contractor adequate?
Did the contractor stay in touch with you throughout the project or if any changes needed to be made? Did he or she keep you apprised of the status of the project on a regular basis?
- Did your job come in according to budget?
If not, what types of problems or delays affected the overall cost? If the project came in under budget, did you have to sacrifice anything?
- Did you get the results you expected?
If not, why? Did they fulfill the obligations of the contract? Did they complete the work on time? If not, why? Did the work pass code inspection?
- Would you hire this contractor again?
No one answer will say more about a contractor’s work then the customer’s willingness to hire them again. If they aren’t willing to hire them again, why not? Was there something particular about the contractor, their crew or the project that they didn’t like?”
Question: How will we communicate during the remodeling project, and how often will we talk?
If you are living in the home while renovations are being done, you may want daily reports. If the project is being done while you are away or living elsewhere, you may prefer weekly updates. You need to establish a communication pattern with your contractor, so they know how often you wish to be updated, as well as your preferred method of communication. While some people want daily phone calls, others prefer weekly calls or emails.
Of course, for many homeowners who work or are not living on the property, they may find they need to submit questions that arise outside of working hours. Develop a method of communication that allows you to submit questions and get answers in a reasonable time frame, without treating each inquiry like an emergency that requires an immediate response.
And make sure that if you or the contractor actually has an urgent emergency, you have a contact procedure that will ensure each party responds immediately. Both you and the contractor should have a way to contact each other after regular business hours to ensure big issues get addressed promptly.
Question: What is the contracting company’s warranty?
Any reputable contractor will stand behind their work to some extent. If you choose Beattie Development, you can rest assured that you are working with a top notch builder/remodeler. Their philosophy is that the job is not complete until you are fully satisfied. In fact, Beattie Development guarantees their remodeling work for as long as you own your home. For more information visit www.beattiedev.com.