Questions to ask a general contractor
If you have not found a contractor yet you should first look at our finding a general contractor post. Once you finally figured out a list of contractors you want to contact, now what? Be prepared, I can not stress that enough. Building a new home or remodeling a home is an incredibly time and emotionally consuming task. If you do not take the time to properly vet and educate yourself on the process and those involved you will struggle to have a comfortable project. Below are some general questions you should consider asking your contractor.
What is your typical job?
This is a question that is overlooked quite often. You do not want to hire a builder for a $1,000,000 remodel when they typically do $30,000 bathrooms. You want to find a builder who is the right fit for the scope of work that you are doing. If the builder is not equipped for the job at hand it will lead to problems.
Do they have an interior designer in-house?
Some contractors have someone that does interior design as part of the company. It does not always mean that you will work solely with the contractors interior designer but it does mean that you have 1 more person that needs to be kept in the loop.
How do your mark ups work?
This is a somewhat touchy question to a lot of builders, some will just ignore the question and go in a different direction. Going into this question you have to understand that people are in the industry to make money so they will be marking up items. Just make sure that what is being marked up is fair. If a builder is very transparent about where your money is going it will alleviate a lot of unwanted stress and unknowns.
How long will the job take?
You need to see how long they believe the job is going to last and compare it to your calendar. You want to make sure to take into account holidays.
When will you be able to start?
Make sure that they are not on a large delay if you are planning on getting started soon.
Will you be getting a permit for the job?
You want to make sure the contractor that you are using does the job the correct way. There is no worse feeling than being mid job and getting hit with a fine because the contractor thought he could get away without getting a permit. It may cost a bit more to have a contractor go through the proper channels but you get a lot more peace of mind.
Do you have your own in house crews?
To some this is a big deal, to others, it is a non-issue. Most builders do not have all of the crews in-house because the amount of overhead required makes it logistically challenging. It is good to know who is part of the contractor’s crew and who is subbed out.
What is the payment schedule?
Determine how you will be paying for the project. Some builders do not take credit cards and only will take checks or cash. It is also good to know how the pay breaks down, is it half up front or is it a draw schedule throughout the entire project. The first draw will most likely be the largest as much if it goes to soft costs and purchasing materials that need to be on site at the beginning of the project.
Are you licensed and insured?
Your contractor needs to have all the necessary insurance and licenses to conduct his business properly. You do not want to be left on the hook by a builder without the right credentials.
What is your change order policy?
No matter how much you prepare in some cases things just happen that can’t be seen. In a remodel you may open a wall and find that one of the studs have lost strength and need to be added on to. Listen to what the contractor says and then compare it to his contract. Make sure what he says matches what he writes.
Read the contract!
Make sure you read the contract that you are given and compare it to everything the contractor said. It is very easy for a contractor to say “Oh that’s just in there just in case but we never do it”, and 99% of the time that may be true, but you have to determine if you are comfortable with that answer. If something makes you uncomfortable let them know and see if anything can be done to change it.