When planning a remodeling project, most people set out to do their due diligence when selecting a remodeling contractor (or firm). Your project may be a kitchen remodel or master bath remodel, or something larger like a room addition or whole house remodel. No matter what the scale of the project, it is a common school of thought to start out by interviewing three or even more remodeling contractors. This sounds like a solid foundation for “due diligence”.
Better interviewing should mean less frustration in the long run
I want to share with you some of the things I have seen during my time as a remodeling contractor and design/build firm owner to shed some light on what real “due diligence” should look like interviewing multiple contractors, for most people, this becomes a disjointed and frustrating effort.
When it comes to interviewing a remodeling contractor, some questions are better than others. It is not uncommon in the first meeting I have with a prospective client to be asked:
- Do you do quality work?
- How long will my project take?
- How much is it going to cost?
On the surface, these might seem like relevant questions. In reality, they don’t really separate the pros from the posers. For more about these ‘poser’ questions, check out our 3 questions NOT to ask your remodeling contractor when you’re interviewing them.
Here are 9 questions to help you pick out the best person (or company) for your project:
1. How many employees do you have and what are their functions?
There are many size remodeling firms (as well as independent contractors) out there and one size does not necessarily fit all. Maybe your project is on the smaller size, like a laundry room make over or secondary bathroom. A smaller firm might be a great fit to accomplish a project like this. But if your potential project is larger and more challenging like a kitchen or master bathroom, then a smaller size company may not be the best fit.
Why is this important? No matter the size of the project, all these functions still need to take place within the company you choose.
- Scope writing
- Selection coordination
- Accounts payable and receivable
- To name just a few , so……
So as you listen to the remodeling contractor describe his organization, listen for these roles and who fulfills them. If they skip over some, don’t be shy. Ask them who handles these responsibilities. That way you won’t be surprised when someone different steps in to handle selections or scheduling.
2. How many hours per week do you work?
I am a tried and true all-American, built on hard work and all that jazz. But there is a point where hard work, say 60 or 70 hours a week, may actually just be poor management, chaos control and putting out of fires. Listen to the answers to your questions and see if you can determine whether the work hours are the result of choice and dedication to good work or the result of poor management.
3. What is your responsibility in the company?
Related to the questions above, this question helps you understand whom you will be dealing with throughout your project. If you want to deal with the same person throughout your project, then a smaller remodeling contractor might be for you. In larger companies, you may deal with multiple people from sales to design to production. Just make sure you get a good understanding of how the firm works and who your primary point of contact is for your project.
4. How many projects do you have going at one time?
Maybe by now you are seeing a theme here in my questioning? Company size is relevant to the size and scope of your project. Smaller companies typically handle just a few projects at a time, where larger companies typically can handle multiple projects. With that being said, there are some smaller companies who can handle a large project very competently as well as large companies who work on many small projects. It is important to know how many projects, the size of those projects and how your specific project will (or won’t) fit.
5. What neighborhoods do you work in?
Some neighborhoods might have pretty significant price swing where you live. The gist of the question is, we all live in homes that are affordable to us. My strongest recommendation is to pick a contractor that typically works on your home’s price point and understands how your vision fits into the value that can be created and enjoyed within your neighborhood.
6. What price homes do you typically work on?
A remodeling contractor who normally works on homes in the $200K to $400K range is used to work with materials (e.g., countertops, lights, flooring) that fit in that price range. Likewise, a contractor who is used to creating spaces for homes in the $600K to $800K range is going to have a much different approach to finishes and processes. Think of laminate counters vs. marble counter tops. Or “off the shelf” box cabinets vs. custom-made cabinetry.
7. Can you show me on YOUR website some similar project to mine that you have worked on in the past?
This question will help solidify your findings from the previous question. It is always re-assuring to know and see something you want can be accomplished by the remodeling contractor that you have selected.
8. Do you have any industry accreditations?
There are a number of national organizations that offer accreditation for its’ members. And that getting these accreditations is not for the faint at heart. Trust me. It takes time, money and effort to get them. In return, it reveals a remodeling contractor’s knowledge and passion for the industry.
9. Have you submitted for or won any local or national design awards?
I think we all take pride in our work and love to show it off!
So where do these questions leave things?
See how we slipped a 10th question in there? When you’re looking to invest in a remodeling project, ultimately you want to base your decision on trust and value. Do you trust that the remodeling contractor can do what they say they can do through demonstrated projects and processes? And do you and your remodeling contractor value the same things – the project vision, quality of work, creativity, or whatever your particular list is.
Choosing the right contractor for your project can make the difference between your new space just being an “update” or a total “game changer” for your home. When you are confident in your remodeling contractor and you’ve partnered with them for the right reasons, you should end up with something you can be proud of and feel you gotten a great value for your dollar.
I wish you a successful project and hope your new space turns out to be all you hoped it could be and more. If I can be of any further help, I encourage you to reach out to me. I welcome your questions and feedback.