Questions to Ask
So, you have decided it’s time to start that remodeling project you have been considering for a while now. Congratulations! Now comes the challenging, and most important part: selecting the right contractor.
If you have hired a company in the past and had a good experience, or have a recommendation from a friend or relative, this may be easier for you. But in case you have no clue where to start, who to talk to, and what types of questions to ask, we have put together this list. These are some of the most important questions to make sure you ask a remodeler/contractor before you hire them.
1. How long have you been in this business?
While more years in business doesn’t always translate to better service, it is safe to say that a contractor who has been in operation for many years will have worked through a lot of the growing pains that a newer company hasn’t, and will likely have systems and procedures in place to ensure their work is done on time, on budget, and with the highest level of quality. They will have better relationships with manufacturers and be able to offer better products and better prices than a company that is new to the industry, and they will likely have a proven track record and be able to supply you with a long list of previous client references for you to contact.
All-Star Remodeling & Design has been in business since 2000 and carried an A+ Rating with the BBB!
2. Are you licensed and insured? Can you provide me with a copy?
This should be one of the first questions you ask. If the answer to either is no, stop the conversation right there. A builder’s license offers proof that the contractor has met industry training standards and is approved to do work in the area. Contractors should also carry insurance, both liability insurance and worker’s compensation. Liability insurance will protect you if anything in your home is damaged while work is being done, and worker’s comp will help ensure you are not held responsible should any of the workers get injured while working on your project. Don’t be afraid to ask for a copy of their license and proof of insurance.
We are both licensed and insured and supply all of our clients with a copy of our builder’s license and proof of insurance at our first meeting!
3. Do you have an office or a showroom?
This question will help to separate the established and legitimate businesses from the guy who works out of the back of his truck. While the guy who works out of his home or truck might be able to offer you a cheaper price, they likely will not have the licenses and insurances you should make sure your contractor has, they will likely not have the relationships with manufacturers to be able to offer the best quality products, and they will likely not have the manpower to complete a large project in a timely manner. You may also sacrifice good customer service and communication if you deal with a small one man operation who has multiple projects going on at once. The other advantage to hiring a company that has a legitimate place of business and has been around for years is that should something go wrong with the workmanship in the future, they will still be around and you will be able to get ahold of them to make sure they keep their promise(s) and address those issues.
Our office/showroom is located at 3535 Lake Street, in Kalamazoo MI. We have most of our products on display and samples of nearly every color option available!
4. How do you communicate with your customers? How often?
Communication will make or break your relationship with your contractor. If they cannot give you an answer to this question that shows they have put serious thought into communication with their customers and that it is a priority, you should move onto the next. At the very least you should have a phone number, an email, and a physical address to their office or showroom should you need to contact them. You should also expect to hear from them at least weekly with updates and information on your project.
We communicate with our clients via telephone and email on an as needed basis with updates and information on their project. The installation department also calls each of our clients every single Friday to give them any additional updates, let them know what to expect the following week and when, and to get feedback on how the project is going and if there are any issues or concerns. Click here to learn more about our communication with our clients.
5. How many projects have you done that are comparable to mine?
As mentioned before, experience and expertise are important when it comes to selecting the right contractor. You should make sure whoever you hire specializes in the specific type of work that you are looking to have done. Just because a company is an expert at installing windows and knows how to read a tape measure, doesn’t mean they should be the ones to install your countertops. The more experience a contractor has with your specific type of project the more likely they are to successfully execute it and avoid or at least handle complex issues that may arise.
This answer would depend on the type of project, but having been in business for over 17 years we have completed thousands of remodeling projects and seen most every situation and type of project you could think of!
6. Can you provide a list of references I can contact?
Any “professional” contractor should be able to give you names, addresses, and phone numbers of AT LEAST three clients with projects like yours. If they cannot do this, this is a huge red flag. This is one of the only ways to make sure that the contractor you choose can get the job done, and done correctly. And don’t just take the contractor’s word for it… call the references. Ask them about the quality of work, budget, timeliness, cleanliness, safety, level of professionalism, and if their goals and expectations were met. Past clients are the most appropriate people to talk to because they’ve already experienced what you are considering.
At our very first appointment, we supply our clients with a list of at least 20 references, with a description of their project, their phone number and email address, and we encourage them to reach out and ask them about their experience with us! Click here to view our reference list.
7. Can you give me a projected timeline for this project?
An experienced contractor should be able to give you an estimated start date, completion date, and make you aware of any circumstances that might affect that schedule. It is also smart to ask how change orders will affect the project’s timeline (and cost).
We spend a lot of time up front putting together a detailed scope of work and selecting all the materials, items, and fixtures for the project, which allows us to give an exact price and a specific and accurate timeline for each project. In fact, On-Time Completion is one of promises in our 5-Star Promise! Click here to learn more.
8. Do you handle the permitting and inspections process, or do we?
Not all remodeling projects require permits or inspections, but most do. Your contractor should not only know what kind of permits and inspections will be needed and how to acquire them, but they should also pull and handle them for you. They are the professionals and know what needs to be done. Be very aware of the contractors who do not pull permits. If they are willing to cut this corner they are certainly cutting corners elsewhere.
We insist on pulling all permits necessary for our projects and we also handle the scheduling of any inspections. This makes it easier on us as well as our clients.
9. Who will be at the jobsite and how will it be supervised?
While the owner or project manager may not be able to be on the job-site every minute of every day, you should be confident that you have trained, skilled, and informed workers on site at all times. You don’t want unskilled guys working on your project without supervision. Your project should have a dedicated lead carpenter who understands the entire scope of the work, and the owner or project manager should stop by regularly to track the progress and make sure things are going as planned and that no issues or complications have come up. This question will also help you determine whether the contractor has a crew of trained employees to do the work or if they are just going to hire a bunch of subcontractors. If your contractor is using subs, be sure to verify they are also licensed and insured.
We have a Project Supervisor that visits our jobsites every day to ensure that all work is being completely correctly and on pace with our projected timeline. We also have a dedicated Lead Carpenter assigned to each job who has a daily work order that outlines what all work is to be completed each day and specific instructions for doing so. (We also require our subcontractors to be licensed and insured.)
10. Do you offer a warranty? If so, what type and how long?
You wouldn’t purchase a new car without some type of warranty protecting you against defects or problems… and you shouldn’t hire a contractor who can’t guarantee their work. Most contractors will offer some sort of warranty, but not all warranties are created equal. It is important to know ahead of time what all it covers and how long it will remain in effect.
We offer a Lifetime Workmanship Warranty! If you have any issues with our installation or workmanship, we will be back on the job to take care of it. Click here to learn more.
11. How is your payment schedule set up?
Different contractors may offer different options when it comes to payment, and different options may work better for your specific project, but you should never be asked to pay for the entire amount up front. Typically, a contractor will ask for a down payment to begin work on your project, then collect payment(s) during the project as phases of work are completed, with final payment being made after the project is finished.
Once a formal proposal and estimate has been developed and delivered and the client has decided they would like to move forward with All-Star Remodeling & Design as their remodeler, we collect a fully refundable Design Retainer. At that point, we work with the client to select all the specific materials, items, and fixtures for their project and get ready to move the project into production. Once underway, depending on the size and overall cost of the project, we will collect progress payments and upon completion and a final walkthrough we will collect final payment.
12. Do you belong to any professional organizations? If so, which ones?
This is not a requirement or a necessity, but it does show the commitment a potential contractor has to the job and the industry in general. Professional associations offer additional training, networking, and research materials to members in an effort to keep them up to date with trends and practices.
We are members of the HBA (Home Builders Association) and the NAHB (National Association of Home Builders).
If you would like more information on our services, please call our Kalamazoo remodeling contractors at 269-342-6356 or complete our online request form.