10 Questions to Ask Your General Contractor Before a Renovation

10 Questions to Ask Your Contractor

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Talking with a contractor will always be a big step when it comes to pursuing renovations, but a lot of people don’t know what to ask. If this is your first time working with a contractor, you might have a lot of questions—or you might feel a bit lost and confused. 

“I’m excited to talk with a contractor, but how will I know how to find a good one?”

You don’t need to be an expert in renovations yourself to benefit from what a contractor can offer, but you should know some general information about the industry. Knowing the right questions to ask will help you to choose a reliable contractor that also feels like a good fit—and this is very important.

A contractor might be highly talented, but they still might not be the right fit for you or your project. In this article, we will explore the ten questions that you should ask every contractor before your renovation starts.

Are You Licensed?

Licensing is an obvious point of concern for homeowners. The fact is that you want someone who is trained in what they are going to be doing to your home. If they aren’t licensed, you really can’t guarantee the quality of the work that will come out—and you open yourself to additional risk. 

“My cousin isn’t licensed, but he said he can renovate my kitchen for half the price of any other contractor. Should I trust him?”

“While your cousin is probably very nice, the truth is that you should always work with a licensed contractor to ensure that your renovations are up to code.”

As you might expect, licensing is a legal matter. Though theoretically anyone could work on your home, it doesn’t mean that they are qualified or have the licensing to do it legally. Never assume that your contractor has licensing. It is always good to ask.

Do You Have Insurance?

Insurance is a huge point of concern for every homeowner that pursues renovations—and it is important for the contractor too. Insurance in this instance works in the same way that your traditional insurance might. Overall, it guarantees that your home and the people inside of it will have financial support if something goes wrong.

“Do they need insurance? Won’t they just fix it if there is a mistake?”

“Insurance actually covers damage to your home and people on-site. It is important because accidents do happen.”

A contractor that has insurance is one that you can feel confident in. That is because if anything goes wrong, it will default to their insurance, which means you should not be responsible for what happens. Though every general contractor hopes for the best, sometimes accidents happen. You’ll be comforted knowing they have insurance when they do.

What is the Timeline for the Renovation?

Discussing the timeline in advance is very important for your comfort and satisfaction, but it also plays a huge role in communication with your contractor. You should have a clear understanding of what timeline to expect while the team works.

“How long will the renovation take?”

“We estimate 3 to 5 days as long as everything runs smoothly—and we will be happy to keep you informed if that changes!”

Having a clear timeline in place can work wonders for your level of contentment. If there isn’t a defined timeline, you will likely find yourself wondering when—if ever—the project will end, which can be frustrating. When you know what to expect, it is more exciting and you can look forward to the big reveal.

Will There Be Job Site Supervision?

Job site supervision is an interesting topic of discussion in the world of contractors. Everyone operates a little differently, and this can vary from one project to the next. Generally, a team will either have daily supervision or they will not have supervision at all. While the team might not need supervision to do the job correctly, some people have a personal preference for a team that has a supervisor on-site.

“Will there be supervision?”

“Yes, we always have someone on-site every day to help keep everything on track.”

An on-site supervisor is not necessarily there to manage the people, though they can offer directives. They can also offer clear ongoing communication and help you to stay informed regarding who is in your home, which is very important. If you want supervision during your project, it is important to discuss that with your team and define the expectations that you have for them.

Is There a Job Warranty?

Warranties are a crucial part of any product or service. They are designed to ensure that you are investing in an outcome that you can trust. In the same way that you might buy a car with a warranty that guarantees broken components will be replaced if they break down within a certain timeframe, warranties can be applied to renovations.

“What does a warranty guarantee for renovations?”

“Every warranty is different, but that is something that you can discuss with your contractor to make sure that you feel comfortable!”

A warranty will protect the work that is done in your home. It is a way of guaranteeing that the contractor will stand by their work and guarantee the overall quality. In the majority of cases, warranties will offer support for the project for a set amount of time as it is defined in the warranty. 

This means that if something goes wrong, the contractor will come back and offer up replacements or make corrections as needed. Warranties cover different lengths of time, so make sure that you find one that works for you. Remember, the longer the warranty lasts, the better.

What is Your Communication Plan?

When you have contractors working in your home, nothing is more important than communication. It is a core component of your agreement with your contractor, which means you want a clear and concise plan so everyone can stay in touch and up-to-date while the renovations take place.

“I would like to receive daily updates on a project. Is that too much to ask?”

“Every project team is different, but we can always adapt our communication strategy to ensure that you feel comfortable. We love sharing updates with our clients!”

Communication is a broad subject. While it can certainly apply to receiving updates on the project, it will also include discussions if something should change, like the timeline. Your communication plan should cover how you and your team will communicate, when you will communicate, and what is expected during these communications. Some people just like to hear that the renovation is still on track—and that is just fine!

Do You Have a Permit?

When it comes to renovations, there is a lot of legal work to consider. Permits are how most states guarantee that the individuals working in your home are legally allowed to do so—and permits can vary widely! Knowing that your contractor has the right permits can ensure that your home is changed for the better while also working within certain legal parameters.

“What do permits cover?”

“A permit ensures that the people working in your home are legally allowed to make the changes that you all discussed.”

Permits apply to a long list of different renovations. A team might need permits for electrical work, plumbing work, floor installation, and more. These permits guarantee that they know how to handle builds in a way that stays in line with legal and safety regulations. Every contractor should have the permits that meet the needs of your renovation. It means that a third party has signed off on the changes and confirmed that they are up to code.

Do You Design In-House?

Contractors are known for their incredible work in your home, but this often applies to builds specifically. Knowing whether or not your contractor offers in-house design can play a big role in your understanding of the overall project.

“Can you help me to map out my new kitchen?”

“Of course! We offer design services so you know exactly what you are getting before we ever start the renovations.”

In general, design needs will be met one of two ways depending on the contractor that you work with.

The first method is an in-house design where the team actually has design experts that help you to map out your renovation. When this happens, you will work with the team directly to ensure that your new renovation will look exactly like the renovation of your dreams—but not every team offers this. 

Some contractors partner with third-party design professionals to meet this need. Instead of having someone design a remodel in-house, they will connect with experts who specialize in this kind of work and then work together with them to bring it to life. 

Either approach to design is fine, but it can be helpful to know.

What Projects Do You Enjoy Working On?

When you don’t work in a field, it is hard to understand the differences and preferences that come with it. Chances are that at your job, you have a kind of work that you prefer and some tasks that you just flat-out do not enjoy. The same is true for contractors.

“What kind of renovations do you like to work on?”

“Honestly, our team has a lot of fun on kitchen remodels!”

Knowing the interests of your contractor can help you to find the perfect fit for the job. Any time that you want to invest in a renovation, you want a team that is as excited about the change as you are. Passion really shows through in projects like this, and it is just nice to see a team that is pumped up about your renovation.

You might work with a contractor that offers a wide range of services, so is it really bad to go with someone who prefers bathroom renovations to kitchen remodels? Not necessarily. However, it can bring a little something extra when the team is hyped up and ready to work on your design. 

How Much is This Going to Cost?

Renovations can vary significantly in the overall price, which is why most people are fairly concerned about cost when it comes to their big remodel. This is completely understandable, but it is also something that you should be able to comfortably discuss with your general contractor. Consider this one of the must-know details that should be very clearly defined.

“How much is my new hall bathroom going to cost?”

“The project should cost $22,000 based on all of the features that you have selected.”

Receiving a clear and well-defined price is very important, and when you don’t receive one, you will be left feeling a little worried about the final cost. It is absolutely normal to feel that way, but it isn’t normal for someone to avoid giving a price.

In the world of renovations, it is possible that something unexpected might come up to influence the price—but, in general, your contractor should be able to give a distinct price for the cost of the remodel. If they can’t do that, you should consider this a red flag.

A contractor that won’t give a straight price might be looking to get the project started and increase the price later, which isn’t common, but isn’t unheard of either. However, it might mean something else completely. It might mean that your team doesn’t have enough experience to appropriately price it out—that should be a big point of concern for you. You want trained professionals, so make sure that you feel confident in the team before you sign any paperwork.

The Takeaway

Though you might not be an expert in renovations, you don’t need to walk into a meeting with a general contractor feeling like you don’t have a clue what is going on. Using these ten questions will help you to connect with your contractor, get on board with the changes, and feel confident going into your renovations. A good contractor will always be happy to answer any questions to help you feel more comfortable!

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