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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

7 Essential Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Remodeling Contractor

Choosing the right design-build professional is always a difficult decision. In recent years, with the remodeling market flooded by contractors who typically work in new construction, many homeowners have chosen contractors based solely on price, which can prove to be disastrous down the road when a project goes awry or the contractor disappears. Price is only one part of the equation. Let’s take a look at the whole picture and consider some questions you should ask your contractor when planning your next remodeling project.

1. Are you licensed?
Most states require contractors, even sub-contractors, to be licensed. Make sure your contractor is properly licensed by asking to see their license or asking for a copy of it. Also remember to check the expiration date. If a contractor cannot produce a valid license, it would be in your best interest to look elsewhere for your remodeling needs.

2. Will you provide me with references from clients, as well as credit references from vendors and banks?
A good contractor will be happy to provide you with references. You should look for a well-established contractor who can give you several client references. You also want to ensure the contractor is financially sound and will not be declaring bankruptcy during your project. In order to protect your investment, ask for credit references from your contractor’s vendors and banks.

3. Do you guarantee your work?
Your contractor should guarantee their work for at least one year from date of completion; many contractors provide multi-year warranties. Ask what their warranty is on finishes, systems and structural.

4. How do you handle the “dirty work”?
Construction is potentially dusty and dirty. Ask how your contractor plans to keep the dust contained. Ask how they will protect your home, yard, children and pets. Make sure the contractor has a plan in place to sweep up and place all construction debris in a predetermined place or refuse container at the end of every day.

5. Do you carry workers’ compensation insurance?
Make sure your contractor carries workers’ compensation insurance, as it protects you from liability if a worker is injured while on your property. If the contractor does not carry workers’ compensation coverage, you may be liable for any injuries suffered by the contractor, or any of his employees on your property. If the contractor is a one-man operation, he can be exempt from having to carry workers’ compensation insurance. If he is doing so legally, he can provide you with a copy of his Construction Industry Certificate of Exemption from Workers’ Compensation.

6. Will you pull all the required building permits?
Make sure your contractor pulls all required permits. When a contractor pulls the required building permits, you know things will be done to “code.” Also, many homeowners’ insurance policies require pulling a permit on any major remodeling to keep your home properly covered. Many contractors prefer not to pull permits because of the time involved and the “hassle” with the inspectors. A reputable contractor will permit every job where a permit is required.

7. Who will be in charge of the job?
Make sure the contractor or his project manager is on the job whenever work is being performed. The responsible party should be familiar with every aspect of your project. This will put your mind at ease about the work that is being done in your home, even when you aren’t present.

As you can see, there is a lot more to consider when choosing your contractor than price alone. When planning your next remodeling project, we encourage you to use these questions as you vet contractors. Keep in mind, remodeling projects succeed as partnerships between you and your remodeling contractor and not as simple transactions.

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