Every year millions of people hire contractors to remodel or somehow improve the biggest investment they’ve ever made – their homes. And every year we hear stories about shoddy workmanship, overcharges, even damage to other parts of the home. Homeowners spend thousands of dollars on remodeling projects and fail to get what they pay for, often because they spend to little time asking questions and planning, before work begins.
According to contractor members of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI), homeowners do not ask enough questions. Of the questions they do ask, too much emphasis is on when a contractor can start, when the project will be finished and how much will it all cost.
While cost and timing are important, ensuring that a contractor is both trustworthy and reputable are the most important. Once the decision is made to hire a particular contractor, then you can discuss the start and end times of the project. If it is a remodel requiring construction, these are details that should be addressed in pre-construction meetings.
The NARI website at www.nari.org lists these questions every homeowner should ask before signing with a contractor:
1. How long have you been in business?
2. Who will be assigned as project supervisor for the job?
3. Who will be working on the project? Are they employees or subcontractors?
4. Does your company carry workers compensation and liability insurance? (Always verify this information by calling the agency. A copy of an insurance certificate does not let you know if the policy is still current. Even if the certificate has an expiration date, you cannot tell if the insurance has been canceled by either party. If licensing is required in your state also ask if the contractor is licensed and call to verify compliance with the law. Not all states offer or require licensing. Check with your local or state government agencies.)
5. What is your approach to a project such as this?
6. How many projects like mine have you completed in the past year?
7. May I have a list of references from those projects?
8. May I have a list of business referrals or suppliers?
9. What percentage of your business is repeat or referral business?
10. Are you a member of a national trade association?
11. Have you or your employees been certified in remodeling or had any special training or education, such as earning a Certified Remodeler (CR), Certified Remodeler Specialist (CRS), Certified Kitchen & Bath Remodeler (CKBR), Certified Lead Carpenter (CLC), Green Certified Professional (GCP), Certified Remodeler Project Manager (CRPM) or Universal Design Certified Professional (UDCP) designation?
Whatever you do, never hire an unlicensed home improvement contractor. In most states it is against the law to act as a home improvement contractor or subcontractor without a license. Sure, it is tempting, especially when the rates these people quote are so much lower than licensed workers. Just remember: You get what you pay for.