FAQs of Remodeling
How much money down does a remodeler typically ask for to start a job?
There are many different scenarios that determine a payment schedule in the remodeling industry. Receiving some sort of down payment at signing is a good practice to ensure a customer’s sincere intent to do the project. A payment schedule should be part of the contract language. Typical down payments are 25% to 33%. Sometimes even higher depending on the type of work being done . A down payment is highly recommended when products have to be ordered by the contractor immediately. Doors, windows, cabinets and specialty items are usually ordered well before the construction starts. The monies collected at the closing are insurance that the ordered products can be paid for by the contractor and not he /she is left with a pile of bills if the unforeseen should happen. Dividing a project into 3 or 4 equal payments allows the contractor to keep abreast of the project’s labor and material costs. Payments are most likely tied to a production schedule with predefined milestones.These are only suggested down payments. Although these reflect a norm in our industry down payments and a payment schedule can be what ever is negotiated between the contractor and client. The important think to remember is that a business cannot survive without a cash flow.
There are so many from which to choose. How do I select my remodeling contractor?
It’s best to employ a home improvement contractor with an established business in your area. Local firms can be checked through references from past customers in your community or through your local better business bureau. Local remodelers are compelled to perform quality work that satisfies their customers for their business to survive. Many states, but not all, require contractors to be licensed and or bonded. Contact your state or local licensing agencies to ensure the contractor meets all requirements. Ask the remodeling contractor for a current copy of their license. You can also check with the government Consumer Affairs Office and the Better Business Bureau to ensure there is no complaints on record for the contractor. Ask to see a copy of the remodeling contractor's certification of insurance for the name of his or her insurance agency to verify coverage. Most states require a contractor to carry worker's compensation, property damage and personal liability insurance. Make sure the contractor's insurance coverage meets all the minimum requirements.
While I'm interviewing remodeling contractors, what questions should I ask?
How long have you been in business?
Look for a company with an established business history in your community. Surviving in any business in today's competitive marketplace is a difficult task. Most successful contractors are proud of their history in the industry.
Who will be assigned as project supervisor for the job?
Also ask whom you should contact if the supervisor is not available. Get exact names and contact phone numbers for all persons who will be involved in the project.
What is the time frame for starting the project?
Now is the time to ask questions about work schedules. You should ask: What is your estimate for completion? How early will your crew normally begin work? When will they normally quit for the day? Will I be contacted about delays or changes in the schedule? By whom?
What is your approach to a project of this scope?
This will give you an idea of how the contractor works and what to expect during the project. Listen carefully to the answer. This is one of the big indicators of the company's work ethic.
How do you operate?
In other words, how is your firm organized? Do you have employees or do you hire subcontractors? If you do have employees, what are their job descriptions? Do you use a project supervisor or lead carpenter to oversee the project? Other firms will have additional positions. You should know what parts of your project will be handled by staff, and which will be contracted out to independent contractors.
Is your company a full service or specialty firm?
If you are planning a small project, say replacing the bathroom plumbing, you may be better off hiring a specialty plumbing firm or a bathroom remodeler. However, if your project involves multiple changes, entire rooms or additions, you should consult a full service or design-build firm.
Do you have design services available?
If you are considering a large or involved project, you will need design services. If the contractor does not have design-build capabilities, you should consider hiring an architect. Depending on the size and scope of the project, you may need an architect or structural engineer.
Does your company carry workers compensation and liability insurance?
Ask for copies of the insurance certificates to verify coverage. In addition, some states require licensing and registration. If your state does have construction licensing laws, ask for your contractor's registration and license, then confirm the license number and expiration date with your local jurisdiction.
Are any of your company's employees certified?
Trade certifications are good indicators of dedication, professionalism and knowledge of the industry. Remodelers are required to meet certain industry criteria to maintain their certifications. NARI offers six designations: Certified Remodeler (CR), Certified Remodeler Specialist (CRS), Certified Remodeler Associate (CRA), Certified Remodeler Project Manager (CRPM), Certified Kitchen & Bath Remodeler (CKBR), Certified Lead Carpenter (CLC), Certified Remodeling Carpenter (CRC), Green Certified Professional (GCP), Universal Design Certified Professional (UDCP).
May I have a list of references for projects you have completed which are similar to mine?
The contractor should be able to supply you with a minimum of three references, including names, telephone numbers and addresses. As a follow up to this question, ask how long ago the project was completed and if the contractor can arrange a visit to see the finished job. You should also ask for professional references from suppliers, financial institutions, or subcontractors to verify sound business practices.
What percentage of your business is repeat or referral business?
This will give you a good indication about the company's customer satisfaction. According to research conducted by NARI, most remodeling businesses attribute over 50 percent of their annual volume to customer referrals; some even claim up to 90 percent or more of their total annual sales.
How many projects like mine have you completed in the past 12 months?
This will help you determine the contractor's familiarity with your type of project. You should confirm that a good portion of those completed projects were similar to the type of project you are proposing.
Will we need a permit for this project?
Most cities and towns require permits for building projects. Failure to obtain the necessary permits or to arrange obligatory inspections can be illegal. In some cases, if a project violates a zoning law or some other regulations, it may even have to be demolished if there is no way to comply with the law. A qualified remodeling contractor will be conscious of the permit process, and ensure that all permits have been obtained before initiating any work.
May I have a list of your suppliers?
You may want to add calling the contractor's suppliers to your list of follow up actions. This will help protect you from mechanics liens for nonpayment by the contractor. Suppliers also can be a source to establish credit history for the company. Of the many questions you can ask during an interview, the most important question is one you must ask yourself: "Do I feel comfortable with and trust the person I am about to hire?" Your answer to that last question should make the hiring decision a little easier.
How much should my remodeling project cost?
This really depends on the size and scope of your project. The materials chosen, the size of the room, and age of the infrastructure can all impact the project cost. Remember when you are comparing bids, that you are comparing the exact same scope from each contractor. If a price comes in that looks to good to be true, it probably is. How much value will my remodeling project add to my home? This also depends on the scope of your project, and you may be surprised which projects add the most value. You may visit Hanley-Wood’s Cost vs. Value report HERE
How long should my project take?
Again, this depends on the size and scope of your project, and what is found during demolition. Unforeseen problems can crop up once walls are taken down that require additional work. Ask your remodeling contractor for the most reasonable timeframe and stay in touch with him or her as the project progresses, so you can plan for a finish date.
Should I plan more money than the contract price?
Additional work or a change in the project requested by the remodeling homeowner usually require a contract price change. Planning for the unforeseen is wise, though, so putting aside an extra 10% over the contract price makes for a less stressful remodel.
What can I expect to do while a remodeling project is being done in my home?
Most importantly, keep the lines of communication open between you and the remodeling contractor and the work crew. Ask questions. Let them know what your family schedule is and whether you have pets confined somewhere. It’s important to keep the work areas off limits to children and pets for their safety; however, you may have a little extra dust and dirt in your house, so keeping the work area off limits will avoid them tracking the dust to other parts of the house.
How important is it for my remodeling contractor to be licensed and insured?
It’s very important. If licensing is required in your state or town, ask for proof of licensing or call the issuing municipality to verify the license. For insurance, ask for a proof of insurance or call the insurance company with whom the contractor is insured to verify coverage.
Should I try doing the project myself?
Answer these questions, Yes or No:
1. Do you enjoy physical work?
2. Are you persistent and patient?
3. Do you have reliable work habits—meaning that once the project is started, will it get finished?
4. Do you have all the tools needed and, more importantly, the skills required to do the job?
5. What quality level do you need for this project? Are your skills at that level? 6. Do you have the time that will be required to complete the project? (Always double or triple the time estimated for a DIY project, unless you are highly skilled and familiar with that particular project.)
7. Will it matter if the project remains unfinished for a period of time?
8. Are you prepared to handle the kind of stress this project will create in your family relationships?
9. Do you know all of the steps involved in the project?
10. Have you gotten the installation instructions from the manufacturer to determine whether this is a project you still want to undertake? (Most manufacturers will send you installation instructions before purchase to determine whether the product will meet your needs.)
11. Is this a job you can do completely by yourself or will you need assistance? If you do need assistance, what skill level is involved for your assistant? If you need a professional subcontractor, do you have access to a skilled labor pool?
12. Are you familiar with your local building codes and permit requirements? (Some jurisdictions require that the work be completed by a licensed and bonded professional in order to meet code.) It’s best to check these requirements before beginning work on the project.
13. What will you do if the project goes awry? (Most contractors are wary about taking on a botched DIY job, and many just won't take them.)
14. Is it safe for you to do this project? (If you are not familiar with roofing or do not have fall protection restraints, you may not want to venture into a roofing job. Similarly, if you know nothing about electricity—leave it to the professional. Some jobs can be fatal if not performed correctly. Your health and safety should be the primary concern. Never enter into a DIY project that would jeopardize either.)
15. Will you be able to obtain the materials you need? Who will be your source of supply? Will they deliver?
16. Are you attempting to do-it-yourself for financial reasons? If so, have you looked at all of your costs, including the cost of materials, your time, and the tools you need to purchase? If you are new to the DIY game, you may also want to look at the cost to correct any mistakes you may make—i.e., the damage factor. Will it still be a cost-saving venture?
17. If you are trying DIY for the satisfaction of a job well done—can you ensure that the job will be "well done"? If it doesn't come out right, how will you feel? Will you be able to afford to redo any unsatisfactory work? If you answered yes to 8 or more of these questions, you might attempt a DIY project. But before you run for the nearest home improvement store, revisit those questions you marked "No" and carefully consider the potential problems you will face in those areas if you proceed with the project. Hiring a professional might still be your best choice. Be prepared and take your time in selecting a home improvement contractor.
FAQs courtesy of NARI