Before making the leap into major home remodeling, ask yourself and the project bidders the following Top 18 questions to ensure your expectations align for a successful project outcome:
- Should I hire an architect? (The answer is "Yes." An architect can also get bids from a contractor for you or hook you up with the right general contractors. Architect, plus General Contractor, is a good check & balance for the project.)
Ask the bidders:
- What's your previous work history and portfolio? (Make sure you're engaging the services of a credible service provider. Ask for three homeowner testimonials for work completed, together with before and after project photos. If possible, visit the site for a firsthand look at the complete remodel or work currently underway.)
- What licensing and insurance do you have?
What's your subcontractor plan? (Protect yourself from any possible damages or negligence by ensuring proper certifications and policies. Confirm who specifically will be doing the work on the remodel.)
- What's the remodel schedule and what is your past performance related to schedules? (You want a realistic idea of how long the remodel will take while allowing reasonable time for unexpected delays.)
- How do you source materials? Can I order anything online & early to save money? (This helps homeowners minimize costs, while ensuring safety and sustainability of building materials.)
- Who is the project foreman and is he or she on site every day?
If not on site every day, how can I contact the foreman if needed? (Questions will come up during the remodel process. When they do, be certain you know how to reach the project foreman to resolve any concerns.)
- Is project security a factor? (For peace of mind, ask how your home and materials will be protected during the remodel.)
- Are there projects I could do concurrently to lower costs for both of us? (If you're willing to do some of the legwork, this could result in significant budget savings.)
- Is landscaping included in the bid or not? What is the landscaping plan? (Don't overlook the importance of landscaping for your home remodel project or assuming its cost is covered in the bid.)
- Are there other projects that are more critical, or of more value , that you have going on? (You want to know that the project foreman considers your project as important as you do.)
- Do you know the city permitting process for the house location? Has your past work been in this city? How do you feel about the permitting process?
(It's not worth skirting the permit process, first, because it's illegal to do so, and second, because it takes time to obtain the necessary permits. Make sure you have reasonable expectations for the time it takes so you won't be disappointed by potential delays.)
- How are bonuses awarded by the contractor to their project manager and foreman? Are any of these in opposite interest of the homeowner? (Ensure your return on investment is not jeopardized, but rather part of the equation.)
- How are change orders handled? (This is a critical and potentially budget- breaking process.)
- How do you handle cost over runs? (Avoid unpleasant, costly surprises with clear communication upfront and a detailed plan for locking in prices, handling omissions, and anticipating any on-site changes, for example.)
- What is my time involvement and how much do I need to be available?
(Again, ensure your expectations are aligned with the contractor's.)
- What about this remodel project concerns you? (This is a great question for discovering anything you might not have considered in your remodel plan.)
- What documentation will I receive when the project is complete? (Before your remodel begins, ask contractor for proof of licensing, bonding and insurance. Upon completion of the project, homeowners can expect to receive copies of permits, lead testing results, for example.)
- Payment schedule? (Be sure you and your contractor agree upfront on a payment schedule and how to factor any unexpected costs into your plan.)