In Basement Remodeling by Adam Jensen / Updated: November 30, 2020
It’s frustrating as a contractor who truly cares about our homeowners to hear stories from families about the terrible experiences they have had with contractors. It is even more frustrating to be that homeowner dealing with the contractor.
This is why the construction industry has a bad reputation.
The good news is that there are a lot of good contractors out there! So, here are some questions to ask the contractors you are interviewing. That way you can be sure to hire the right one for your project.
1. How long have you been in business?
Knowing how long a company has been in business is a great question to ask in order to gain confidence in the integrity of the company. Someone who has only been in business for a short amount of time may not have the skills or labor available to do a quality job. They may not have the processes in place to make sure you have a great remodeling experience.
2. Is your company a full service or specialty firm?
Companies that are full service can have difficulties being the best at one particular thing. If your project is for a very particular space, such as basement finishing, a company who solely focuses on that type of job will have the knowledge needed for anything that may come up during construction.
3. Are you licensed?
Checking to make sure the company is licensed can protect you as the homeowner. Knowing that the contractor meets minimum requirements held by the state.
4. Are you insured? For how much?
Ask for copies of insurance certificates, and make sure they’re current, or you could be held liable for any injuries and damages that occur during the project.
5. Do you have a showroom?
Just because a company has a showroom does not mean that are great to work with but, it can show that they have been in business for a while or that they have put effort into a location and plan on sticking around. Visiting a showroom can often times be a great time to meet some of the staff you may be encountering during your project as well.
6. How many employees do you have?
Asking questions about how many employees a company has can help determine the size of the company you may be working with. If they have no employees, is the person you are talking with, also the one who will be doing the work? Do they have enough help to make sure the project follows the timeline? If it is a large company, will you have a direct contact to the person in charge of your project with questions?
7. Do you offer a warranty?
Often times in the construction industry contractors will refer to something called a “Taillight Warranty.” This means that your support ends when your contractor’s truck pulls out of your driveway at the end of the job. A company should provide you with a written warranty. This way you can have peace of mind knowing that if something goes wrong they will still be here for you after the project is completed.
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8. Can I call references?
Contractors should be able to create a list of customers for you to contact to ask questions about their project and their experience with the contractor along the way. They may not have this on hand, but they should be able to generate a list for you to check.
9. Can I go visit some of your past or current jobs?
This is something that not many contractors offer. One of the best ways to find trust in a contractor is to physically visit one of their jobs or past jobs to see the quality of their work. Pictures can help, but their is nothing like walking through a finished space in person to see the quality. Here at Finished Basements Plus we host monthly Open Houses during the summer months to do just this. Homeowners have the ability to visit one of our completed jobs and walk through the space and ask us questions.
10. When will you start?
Ask your contractor when they will be starting construction. This can be helpful in a few different ways. For starters this can give you an idea of how booked out the company is with work, if they say they can start quickly, why is that? Do they do quality work? Why aren’t they busier? If they are booked out, why is that? They do great work and are a sought after contractor?
Asking when they can start can also give you an idea if they will work within your time frame. If they are booked out 7-months maybe they are not the best choice either. Finding a company who is booked out enough time for you and them to prepare the project is a good amount of time. 1-3 months is typical for larger scale projects, as a lot of work needs to go into the project before it starts. Things such as design, permits, selections, and ordering materials all come into play.
11. When will you finish?
This is often times a difficult question for most companies to answer as there are a variety of factors that can influence this. But, a well organized company should be able to provide a rough timeline of the project to give you an idea. Each of our projects are added into a calendar for our homeowners to see exactly who is coming out on which days throughout the project which also provides a calendar view from beginning to end of the project.
12. Do you offer financing?
Financing can be a helpful way to get the space you have been dreaming of if you cannot pay cash for the project. Many times contractors will have financing options in place that will help you get the project started.
13. Do you do all the work yourself or hire subcontractors?
Is all of the work going to be completed by an in house team of employees? Or are you going to subcontract the work? This can be a great question to get an understanding of who is going to be in your home throughout the project. Ask how the contractor will manage the project to ensure everyone is working in a timely and quality manor.
14. Will you be pulling the permits?
Permits are very important during major remodeling projects. Not only are they required by the city but they also ensure the work being constructed in your home is to code and done properly. Building Inspectors will come check on the work at each stage of the project to ensure everything is done properly. The company should pull the permits on the homeowners behalf as they will then be the responsible party of making sure work is done to code.
15. Do you have any products specially designed for my basement?
Basement finishing is a much different type of remodeling than many other projects. For starters, your basement is below grade which makes it a more moist and humid environment than the upper levels of your home. Materials designed to withstand this type of environment include steel studs, and insulation that will not grow mold. Standard materials such as wood studs and fiberglass insulation are not great for this environment because they can warp and grow mold over time, decreasing the lifespan of the space.
16. What makes you an expert at what you do?
This can be a great question to hear all of the benefits that a specific contractor has. Here at Finished Basements Plus we specialize in only basement finishing and remodeling. Since it is such a specific job we have been able to become the experts at it. We have learned all of the nuances that come with the basement environment and have come across just about every scenario possible for basements. This experience has given us the knowledge and training to consider ourselves experts.
17. I don’t want any surprises. Will I be getting a detailed drawing, scope of work and guaranteed price?
An important piece of a great remodeling experience is making sure that all of the details are ironed out before the project begins. Having a clear and defined understanding of the project before construction starts ensures that everyone is on the same page. Things such as a finalized drawing of the space, a detailed scope of work, and a signed contract with a price are all things that should be stamped for approval before any work begins. If all of these things are in place the chances of surprises are greatly reduced.
18. Where will I be making my selections?
The selection process of any remodeling project is crucial to making sure the final space is to your liking. When it comes to basement remodeling, there are a lot of selections that need to be made. We prefer to have our selection meetings in our showroom so homeowners can touch and feel everything that is available. Therefore, everything from paint samples, tile, counter tops and cabinets can be selected in our showroom.
19. Do you have a designer to help me with my selections?
Having an on staff designer can make a huge difference in a project. Often times homeowners need a little bit of help in the design department. Having someone with experience can make the difference between a standard basement and a lower level. Small tweaks and changes can go a long way in the look and feel of a space.
20. Why is your price so different from the other quotes I got? What did you include or leave out?
Comparing contracts from one company to the next can be a difficult process. Look to see if one contractor left some things out when compared to another. Did one contractor go into more detail than the other? If one contractor has a significantly lower bid than the others there is often a good reason for it.
The answers to these questions will help build comfort in choosing a good contractor. The contractor should be licensed and insured. He should be pulling the permit and be able to give you references for past and current jobs. Do your research. Shopping price isn’t always the best decision.
It is our goal to ensure every homeowner has a remarkable remodeling experience with our company from the first phone call to the final cleaning of the project. If you would like to come visit our work or to receive helpful tips and tricks periodically, sign up for our newsletter.