Choosing a remodeling firm can be confusing. You talk with a few firms, everyone seems nice, their photos look good, and they seem capable of doing the work. But… it’s a big decision. This your home we’re talking about. You will also be living with this company for several weeks or months. This decision requires some thought. But what should you think about? The following is a list of 10 items that you should ask about when interviewing a remodeler. The answers to these questions should assist you in determining the right firm for you.
- Are they licensed and insured?
Any firm you consider should be licensed to do work in your specific jurisdiction. This license should be held by the company and not an agent that allows them to work under their license. You should also understand insurance coverage- what is covered under the company’s policy and how much coverage they have.
- Do they have a track record of similar projects?
You probably do not want to be the first person that has ever done a specific project type with a company. Ask to see examples of similar projects, at similar budget ranges. You should also consider visiting or talking with a past client who has experienced a project like yours.
- Can the organization provide you with an outline of their process?
How is the project developed? Are there fees associated with this work? Are there regular check-ins to review overall design ideas, materials to be used, a timeline for what comes next, and where the budget stands?
- Will the firm provide you will a sample construction contract to review?
A professional contract will include items like: a start and completion date, the cost of the project, a draw schedule that outlines progress payments, any allowances for items not yet selected, what has not been included, and lots of information relating to the relationship between the builder and the client. The contract may also be tied to a set of drawings that outline specific areas of work. Make sure the contract covers any areas that cause you concern.
- Is a permit required and who is responsible for it?
Most areas require a building permit for a project. There may even be several permits required. Who is responsible for procuring these permits? Are the permit fees built into the contract? As a consumer- you want a permit. It costs money and is a hurdle to overcome but it also provides you with a level of protection. Permits come with regular inspections by building department officials. Projects built “to code” are not necessarily built to a very high standard, but they are at least built to a good quality standard.
- How is design work dealt with?
Does the company have an “in-house” team of designers? Do they have relationships with designers they work with regularly? Are you responsible for the design work and material selections? Again, you should understand any fees. Is covered outlined in the process? Covered under the contract? Or are costs associated with this work additional to the construction contract?
- Who will build the project?
Will all of the work be built using subcontractors or is it mostly built using “in-house” labor? Are there standards for subcontractors? Does the company have long term relationships with them? For any people that are officially employed by the remodeler, are there standards like background and drug testing?
- Will the project abide by the EPA’s guidelines for lead safe work practices?
There are very specific procedures for working in homes built before 1978. Make sure the firm understands this is a legal requirement and follows these procedures including documenting it with paperwork. Lead poses a real health hazard- especially for children. Don’t take any chances
- Who is responsible for overseeing/ supervising the work?
You may want to be you own general contractor, but if you don’t, you should understand who will oversee the project. Is there a project manager for the project? What are their responsibilities? Can you meet regularly with them? What is the best way to contact them if you have questions or concerns?
- What type of warranty is provided?
You need to understand what is covered and for how long. You also want to be sure you receive any warranties associated with materials- appliances, windows, etc. are often covered by the manufacturer.
10 simple questions that should make choosing a remodeler a little easier and hopefully give you the confidence to move forward. This is not an exhaustive list but the answers to these questions should provide a foundation for making an informed decision.