Remodeling projects are often exciting! But when it comes to the contractor managing the project, it can mean the difference between confidence and sleepless nights. So how do you choose the right contractor and prevent those sleepless nights? Here are a few important areas to focus on when interviewing prospective contractors.
How much experience does the contractor have with your type of project? Many contractors try to do all forms of construction, but there are subtle differences in materials and design that affect the outcome of each construction project. For example, Archadeck specializes in outdoor living spaces. Could we remodel a kitchen? Absolutely, but you might find there are several little things that just don’t look quite right. Choose a contractor who specializes in your type of project. A good rule of thumb is if a company has done at least 100 projects in a category, they have probably learned the nuances that make sure the project is done right.
What is their background and history? Looking a contractor up on Angie’s List and The Better Business Bureau is a great way to learn how the contractor treats other clients. Speak with references and, if possible, take a look at other projects the contractor has completed. A contractor that does not have a long list of references prepared may be a red flag.
Key Performance Indicators
Pay attention to the little indicators as you interact with the contractor. If you notice they are not meeting your standards before you sign a contract, they will most certainly fall short during the project.
- How quickly do they respond and what is the quality of their response?
- Are they on time?
- Do they ask questions to help you avoid mistakes?
- Do they listen and understand the priorities for your project?
- Do they commit to follow-up, and more importantly, do they fulfill these commitments?
Evaluate the Contractor’s Method
A good contractor will ask questions and listen to your ideas and concerns in order to best understand your priorities for your project. At Archadeck, we use a very specific design process to help us understand our clients’ needs and desires. Not all construction projects involve design or a “design process,” but the contractor’s method should strive to understand your needs and wants and clearly document the plan you agree to. Here are a few important things to look for:
- Clear and written details. Project specifications should include details regarding materials and finishing information. Any items the client will be responsible for should also be included. For example, we note number one grade decking and stainless steel screws for our deck projects. Or when we build screen porches, we note that the client buys the ceiling fan which we install.
- Design plans. In many cases, it is helpful to visualize your project. With every project we build, we offer a plan view (view from above). This helps ensure Archadeck and clients are in full agreement with what the end result should be.
- Price or estimate? Some contractors give estimates. Estimates can change and some contractors purposefully give a low estimate that they plan to increase once the project begins. We guarantee that the price we agree to will not change unless the project is changed by the client or something unforeseen (not visually present or a requirement by a building department outside of noted building codes) occurs.
Project management is crucial in construction. Understanding how a contractor manages the multiple issues that can arise during the course of the job should be important in deciding who you want to hire for your project.
- What system does the contractor have in place to ensure your project runs smoothly? At Archadeck, we have a system called the Job Progress Methodology. This is an elaborate checklist with over four supporting guides for the field personnel that keep us on track. We use this tool in conjunction with a series of construction standards that clearly reflects how each detail of the project will be built.
- Who are the crews and how are they managed? We work hard to find skilled, reliable, and trustworthy tradesmen. We issue a written test, conduct background checks, follow up with references, check that all insurances are up to date, and that our crews are properly licensed. With new crews, our Construction Manager is on site daily for the first two to three weeks to ensure they are building to our expectations.
- Does the contractor handle permitting and inspections? If you want a full service contractor, they should handle all issues related to the permits and inspections required for your project. This includes contacting JULIE (Illinois utility locator service) and providing any drawings and information your Home Owners Association might require.
- Do they keep their clients informed of the job progress? Some of the feedback we often hear from our clients is how much they appreciate our daily communication and updates about the progress of their project. It is helpful to understand what’s been done, what is planned, and if there are any problems that need to be or were addressed. This grants peace of mind that every detail is being handled and allows for less disruption in our clients day to day lives.
It is important to understand what the contractor has in place to protect you and your home. The safeguards they have in place and the manner in which they respond to these questions help indicate how trustworthy a contractor may or may not be.
- Liability insurance is a must. This protects your home from any damage caused during the construction process.
- Workers’ Compensation is also important and required for any company with employees. This protects you from an employee of the contractor getting injured on the job and suing you for the bills.
- Contractors should be licensed in the town or city the construction is being performed. Request a copy of their insurances and applicable licenses.
- What type of warranty do they offer? We offer a warranty of one year on workmanship and five years on structural issues. For added protection, we also offer a third-party guarantee of performance and warranty coverage. Archadeck clients receive a National Guarantee Corporation Warranty. This insures their project is completed and they receive at least two years of warranty coverage.
- Will the contractor stand behind their work? All too often we hear about contractors or companies that hide behind a clause in their warranty. A good contractor will stand behind their work and do the right thing, regardless of the warranty terms.
Go With Your Gut
What do your research and instincts tell you about the contractor or company? Can you trust them to do what they say, to stand behind their work, and to do what is right? After interviewing with your contractor, you should feel comfortable in your decision, knowing they are experienced, insured, organized, and ethical.