38 Questions For Evaluating a Remodeling Contractor

Ask these questions of every contractor you meet with (even us!) and you’ll be on your way to finding the right contractor for your needs. 

Steps to finding the right contractor

Key Message

Not all contractors do the same kind of work. In fact most are only good at one or two areas of remodeling. Smart contractors specialize in what they are good at. Contractors who try to do everything can be risky to work with.

Similarly, not all contractors provide the same level of service. Some prioritize speed or low cost, others prioritize high quality and great service.

You want to make sure you are meeting with contractors who specialize in the kinds of work you want done and provide the level of service you want.

These checklists can help.

There are at least 3, and Ideally 4 Stages Where You Want to Evalute Potential Contractors

Stage 1: Website Research

Good website research will save you time and make sure you are calling the right contractors in the next step.

Stage 2: Initial Phone Call

This is where you get a real good sense of the level of service an contractor provide and how organized they are.

Stage 3:  In Person Consult

For most contractors this is the final time you will see them before making a hiring decision.

Stage 4: Office/Showroom Visit

Bonus if they meet in person to review your estimate with you (but very very few contractors do this).

    If you find this guide useful you might also like: 8 Questions to Answer When Evaluating  A Remodeling Estimate

    Stage 1 Checklist

    12 Questions To Answer From Their Website

    1. How big is the company?

    How many staff and what are their roles?
    Do they have designers and project managers in house?
    Do they have support staff?

    2. What kind of projects do they do? 

    Check out their project gallery.

    3. Do they have specialized knowledge about kitchens and bathrooms?

    Kitchens and baths are the most complex rooms in the house and expertiese is needed to remodel them well.

    4. Do they provide design services ?

    Do you have to find your own designer at additional cost?

    5. Do they have a showroom? 

    If not, how are selections handled?

    6. How are projects managed?

    Do they have a dedicated project manager or are subs left on their own?

    7. Is their process clearly outlined ?

    Does the site give you a good idea of what to expect?

    8. Are they Licensed?

    License number should be on the website, usually on the About Page or footer. If not look it up online.

    9. Are they properly insured?

    They Should have: General Liability, Workers Compensation and Commercial Auto. At least $1,000,000 in coverage

    10. Do they offer a warranty on their work?

    A 1 year warranty is required. We provide a 5 year warranty.

    11. How long have they been in business? 

    Remodleing is more complex tha new home building and experience is needed.

    12. What are average project costs or some costs of recent projects?

    Check out their project gallery or cost page

    Stage 2 Checklist

    14 Questions To Answer During the Initial Call

    1. Is the phone answered quickly and professionally? 

    Are they preparred for the call or on a noisy jobsite / driving etc..
    If you leave a message, it the call returned promptly?
    Do they seem to follow a process to collect info and explain how they work?

    2. How long does it take to get an estimate?

    When can the intial home visit be scheduled and when can you expect to receive the estimate

    3. What is included in the estimate? 

    Concept plans? Design costs? Project management costs? Installation labor and materials costs? Finished material and fixture costs or allowances?

    4. Are the material costs or allowances line itemed?

    How to I know if the allowances are realistic?

    5. How detailed is the estimate?  

    Is everything line itemed so I can be sure of what’s included?

    6. How close are your estimates to actual final project costs? 

    Do people usually go over budget?

    7. What do you thing a realistic budget would be for this project?

    Ask for a rough estimate or cost range. Understand that this is very rough but you want to make sure it is within your budget.

    8. Is their process clearly outlined ?

    Does the site give you a good idea of what to expect?

    9. Do you review the estimate with me?

    If not, what happens if I have questions or want changes made?

    10. Are they properly insured?

    They Should have: General Liability, Workers Compensation and Commercial Auto. At least $1,000,000 in coverage

    11. If I approve the estimate, what happens next?

    What is the process for deisgn, selecions and creating the final proposal

    12. Do you have a designer on staff or one you recommend? 

    Is there help with design and selections or are you on your own?

    13. Can you provide references from recent clients for whom you have done similar work?

    at least one of two. They may need time to notify the clients to expect your call.

    14. How to I schedule an in person consult and is there a fee?

    Can they schedule an exact day time or do they say “I’ll call you when I’m in the area?”

    After the Call

    • Do you get a follow up email summarizing the call?
    • Do you get an appointment confirmation?
    • Do they send additional information? (we send license and insurance info for example). 

     

    Stage 3 Checklist

    12 Questions To Answer At The In Person Consult

    1. Print a list of things you want done

    Not really a question but having a list ready for each contractor helps avoid confusion. It also acts a guide so you can ask speficic questions about how things are installed.

    2. Do they use sub contractors or in house labor?

    Licensed trades like electric, plumbing and HVAC must always be subcontracted.

    3. Are the in house staff employees (w-2) or independent 1099 contractors?  

    Some contractors 1099 their employees to avoid workers comp and income tax costs. This shifts more risk to the homeowner.

    4. How do you protect the home, control dust and dispose of debris?

    Will there be a large rolloff dumpster on site? Are HEPA filters sued durign demo?

    5. Who provides materials?

    Do you need to buy and store them or does the contractor take care of that?

    6. How are materials stored on site? 

    Do they have a trailer or do you need to provide garage space?

    7. Is their process clearly outlined ?

    Does the site give you a good idea of what to expect?

    8. Do you review the estimate with me?

    If not, what happens if I have questions or want changes made?

    9. Are they properly insured?

    They Should have: General Liability, Workers Compensation and Commercial Auto. At least $1,000,000 in coverage

    10. If I approve the estimate, what happens next?

    What is the process for deisgn, selecions and creating the final proposal

    11. Do you have a designer on staff or one you recommend? 

    Is there help with design and selections or are you on your own?

    12. When can I expect my estimate?

    Do they meet with your to review it in person or do they just email it to you?

    After the Consult

    •  Do you get an email summarizing the meeting?
    • How long does it take to get the estimate ?
    • Do you feel confident the estimate is accruate?

    Evaluating a remodeling estimate is not easy, especially if you do not have remodeling experience. You don’t know what you don’t know.

    ideally your contractor spends time with you reviewing the estimate in detail so you can ask questions and make sure you know what is included and what is not.

    If they do not then this guide will help. If you ever need help reviewing a competitors estimate just let us know and we can review it with you.

     

    What Should Be Included In A Remodeling Estimate:

    1. Summary

    A paragraph or two at the very top that explains the scope of work in plan language and includes and special notes from the consult.

    2. General Items Section

    • Jobsite info, notes on set up and debris removal
    • Note on permits and building code issues
    • Notes on design work, material selecitons/allowances and plans
    • Notes on project management
    • Notes on timeline – time to design, plan, order materials  and proposed start date

    3. Labor Section (Scope of Work)

    • Itemized list of labor by trade
    • Shoudl include quantities (sq ft, linear feet, each)
    • Should have notes about installation standards and materails to be used

    4. List Installation Materials Included

    • Rough materails like drywall, thinset, etc..
    • In general any materiall that does not need to be selected by you should be included here.

    5. List of Selections or Allowances

    • Line item list including quatity and cost
    • Examples of materials that fit the allowance amount (so you know they are realistic)

    6. Cost summary 

    • Labor Cost Total
      • Subcontracted labor total
      • In house labor total
    • Material Cost Total
      • Rough material costs
      • Selections
    • Shipping and Tax
    • Project total

    8 Questions To Ask When Evaluating An Estimate

    1. How long is the estimate?

    • If an estimate includes all the items we outlined above it should be at least 3-5 pages.
    • Avoid single page estimates – they certainly lack detail and there may be hidden costs.

    2. What is included in the total?

    • It should be very clear what is included and what is not
    • Some things to look for:
      • Design services
      • Material selection services
      • Appliances
      • installation labor
      • installation materials
      • project management fees
      • Selections or Allowances
      • Debris removal
      • Permits

    3. How Accurate is it?

    • It can be hard to assess labor costs but some quick googling should allow you to compare material costs.
    • Avoid surprisingly low estimates.

    4. What’s the next step?

    • This is a rough estimate, what is the process for getting a more accurate proposal
    • Is there a design and selections process?
    • Any more home visits needed?
    • Do they provide a fixed price proposal or do they do “Cost Plus” where they just bill you for actual costs and markup as they go?
    • Most construction lawsuits invovle cost plus contracts

    5. How long to create the fixed price proposal?

    • How many design meetings to expect?
    • How long to collect bids?

    6. When can the project start? 

    • What is the lead time for materials?
    •  How accurate is the start date?

      7. What is the payment schedule?

      • Are they based on project milestone (work complete)
      • Is there a final payment that is left until all work is done?

      8. Is there a warranty?

      • 1 year warranty is required by law
      • 3 – 5 years is ideal
      • What is included in the warranty?

      Let us know what you think

      If you found these checklists helpful or would like to see something added to them let us know!  You can contact us here.

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      Design Build Remodeling Contractor, Tallahassee

      McManus Kitchen and Bath is a design build remodeling contractor with a full service showroom right here in Tallahassee. We help homeowners update their home with a turn key process so you can enjoy the remodeling experience as much as you’ll enjoy the result.

      We start with a detailed and realistic budget. From there your designer will help you explore options, choose the perfect materials and create a final design specific to your needs.

      Once design is complete we order everything for you and store it until needed. Your dedicated project manager supervises all on site construction and makes sure your home stays clean and safe throughout the project.