What do you do when you want to start a remodeling project on your home and you don’t know where to begin? One of my first recommendations is to ask your friends and family who has recently had a project similar to yours. Here are 6 questions you can ask to determine if their remodeling contractor is right for you.
1. Were they happy with the experience AND the results?
If they can’t answer an unequivocal “YES” then the rest of these questions are of little use. But if they are happy, ask what specifically about the experience and results they did like? It may be the things they valued in their project are not things that are as important to you.
2. Did their remodeling contractor finish when they said they would?
A construction schedule is always a moving target. Was there a construction schedule for their project and how well did the remodeling contractor stick to it? When the schedule changed (as they will), what was the conversation as to why it changed? If they were following a schedule, did it always seem like you were waiting on product to be delivered OR for trade contractors to show up and do the work? One of the biggest frustrations that I hear in remodeling is the project taking way longer than anticipated. A well-run remodeling project should start and finish on time and if the end date slips, you should clearly know why the date is changing.
3. Did the remodeling project finish on budget?
Talking about money with a friend can be intimidating, but you are making a big investment of time and money in your own home so understanding how your friend faired is important. Knowing the exact amount of what your friend invested is not the important thing but knowing a percentage where they finished above or below their planned budget is helpful.
4. What about change orders?
Along the lines of the budget, it is important to know if their remodeling contractor submitted accurate numbers or just “low balled the bid” to get the project only to write change orders later to make up the difference. If the change orders seemed to be inline with any additional work that was requested, it is a good idea to know how they document the change orders and how they got approval to move forward with the change order BEFORE doing the work.
5. How was the jobsite condition or cleanliness during the project?
Ok let’s be real here, most remodeling projects are messy and dirty and typically right in the middle of your family life. But getting a cleanliness grade of A, B, C, D or F can go a long way to knowing if the remodeling contractor is right for you and that you can tolerate the chaos it will create for you and your family. At a minimum for jobsite cleanliness, I would recommend a rug at the entrance door, floor protection to and from the area of work inside the house, and a dust control barrier around the work site.
6. What were the communications like?
Did your friend know what was happening on their project or who was going to be in their house? Was there a project manager overseeing the progress of the trades or checking on the quality of workmanship? Was there someone available to answer your call when questions came up? Did emails get addressed in a timely manner? Communication is the backbone of any quality remodeling project. Think about what your expectations are (e.g., emails answered within 1 day, phone calls returned the same day) and did this remodeling contractor meet those expectations?
Taking on a remodeling project can be a huge investment in time and money, so doing your due diligence and knowing what others have experienced with their remodeling contractor can be a place to start your remodeling project. And if you’ve already selected a remodeling contractor, don’t hesitate to get references from them and ask these same questions of their references. And always remember, “Love where you live!”