8 Questions to ask before starting your home remodel

Although we live in a world with endless information just a click away, finding a good contractor for your next home improvement or remodeling project can be difficult. We know your home is very special to you, and that is why finding the right company for a remodel is imperative.

​To help with this process we have come up with a list of seven important questions to ask remodelers as well as some communication tips to make sure your home improvement project goes as smoothly as possible.

Questions to ask contractors

It is essential to interview home service providers before hiring them to work on your home. More often than not we tend to lean towards the option with the lowest cost, but if the company is not licensed, does not have the proper permits, or doesn’t utilize green practices to maintain the livability of the house, the low cost isn’t worth it.

When interviewing each contractor you should ask them the following questions to ensure you pick the right one:

1. How long have you been working in the industry?

You will want to get a sense of how much experience this company has, as well as how long they have been operating. Businesses that have a longer history in the field will most likely have more experience and may be better for bigger projects. That is not to say newer companies can’t produce the same caliber of work, but they may be better for smaller projects until you can confirm they are qualified. Whether you choose to go with an older or newer company you may also want to ask for references to assess their previous work.

2. May I see your certificate of insurance?

Generally, you will be able to verify most state-required licenses online. Once have validated they have the licenses required by the state you will need to see how they are insured. They should have both workers compensation as well as liability insurance. A reputable company will have that documentation on hand and be more than willing to let you take a look.

3. Do you have prior experience with this type of project?

Learn more about the types of projects this contractor specializes in. Hiring a contractor that specializes in the same type of work you need done on your home can help ensure things will go smoothly. For instance, a green remodeling company knows to use specialized tools to collect dust and other debris and maintain internal air quality (IAQ). From there you can ask the company for some specific examples of projects they have done that are similar to yours to assess if they are right for you.

4. Will you do all the necessary work to ensure the completed project meets local codes?

Not all jobs require permits or inspections but larger jobs, such as major renovations and structural additions, usually will. Your contractor should not rely on you to apply for the right permits and schedule the necessary inspections; all of this should be done by the company. Work that is not correctly permitted or inspected can cause major (and majorly expensive) headaches down the road, especially when you try to sell your house.

5. What is the projected timeline for this project?

As a homeowner, it is important to have a clear idea of when the project will start and end as well as any possible conditions that could delay completion. Experienced contractors should be able to give you the projected time it will take to complete the project. This way you can make the necessary arrangements needed until the job is finished.

6. How will you ensure my home and yard won’t be damaged?

​Even though your home will be under construction, your contractor should still be taking the necessary precautions to ensure nothing in your home or yard is damaged. This could involve having workers wear shoe covers, covering the floor with protective material, using an air filter, or covering furniture with tarps.

7. How will we handle payment?

You need to know how much the total project will cost, the payment types your contractor accepts, and the intervals at which you’ll need to make payments. For larger projects, an initial down payment isn’t unusual. Some contractors request payment at the project’s halfway mark and the final payment upon completion of the work, while others ask you to pay the remaining balance only once the project is finished.

Another important detail to clarify with your contractor is how any additional charges to the job cost or budget will be handled. Be honest and upfront as to whether your budget has any wiggle room and how you’d like the company to communicate any additional expenses that arise.

8. How will you preserve the home’s livability?

Many people choose to stay in their home during a remodel, raising the question of internal air quality. Dust, mold, drywall, and other harmful substances exist in many older houses in Seattle. The best contractors use the right equipment – such as air filters and dust control systems – to maintain livability in your home.

Communication tips

Being able to communicate effectively with your home service provider will make the job go smoothly. Lack of communication is one of the main issues homeowners experience with home service providers. Your contractor should be communicating with you any issues that affect timeline, cost or other details. While you should also be communicating any special requests or concerns you have with their work.

1. Voice your requests and expectations.

Often times you have a vision of how you want your home to look when the remodel is complete. Make sure you voice your opinions and special requests to your contractor. The best way to make sure your expectations are understood is to speak with them in person, and then check back in with them right before the job begins.

2. Make sure you and your partner are on the same page.

Before the remodeling company begins work on your home, make sure you and your partner are on the same page of what is being done and how it is being done. It is also important to make sure you are both aware of any special requests that have been made. This will help prevent job delays and misunderstandings between you, your partner, and the crew.

3. Establish a regular check-in cadence before the job begins.

​Having a weekly check-in date established with your contractor can help prevent mishaps as well as keep you updated on the timeline. Establish a preferred method of contact for these check-ins.

The bottom line

​Home remodel and renovation projects are often necessary if you want to make your home more sustainable or increase market value. Hiring the right contractor is a great way to ensure your home is in good hands and everything is done correctly. Use the questions and tips above to guide you through the contractor interview process. Once the job begins, communicate openly and frequently with your contractor. Reputable contractors want happy customers, and staying updated on everything happening at your home is vital to the success of everyone involved.

About the Author

Jennifer Karami is a writer at Redfin, a technology-enabled real estate brokerage. Redfin’s mission is to redefine real estate in the customer’s favor.

About Olga Lockhart

Olga Lockhart, Marketing Manager for Pathway Design & Construction, researches, analyzes, and writes about these key topics: Universal Design, Aging in Place, Northwest building & Seattle remodeling trends, air quality issues, and solutions, during construction. She's also willing to chat about travel and culture out of the office.

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