What questions should we ask a general contractor for a home remodel?

We're going to be adding a master bedroom/bath, knocking out some walls, and rebuilding the garage. We've got our plans drawn up already. I'm wondering what questions we should make sure to ask the contractors we plan on interviewing.

Ive done this sorta thing before. You will need first an estimate of expenses. They dont like to give you estimates because its hard to know how long they will have to work. But they can give you an estimate of material expense. I have had remodeling done via contractors several times and I am telling you it is extremely important to find one who will charge you a flat rate for labor. Sometimes they can “take their sweet time” because they know they are being paid by hour.

Find out their experience, have they ever done this particular job before. Are they free lance or do they work for a company. If they are working for a company they will likely charge more but you will have some security in knowing that they have a boss over them you can go to.

Make sure that you are not buying tools for them. Some contractors will tell you that you will be paying for materials and include tools (that they probably already own) in that estimate.

Have a contract drawn up and get a copy. This is extremely important.

Talk to them about how they conduct business. Do they clean up after themselves? This is also very important. Most do not. They even tell you they will and dont. Make sure thats in the contract. Or you might end up like me with a light coating of white ceiling spray paint over everything you own.

Ask them what measures they take to protect the existing possesions. These questions may sound stupid but some contractors are so full of themselves they think they can paint a room without getting anything on the floor so they dont use a tarp.

Make sure YOU are the one who picks out the materials. Let them know you want to be very involved in picking out hardware and paint and flooring and everything else.

Make sure they wont be taking any vacations mid-job.

Dont let them tell you that they cant give you a deadline. They can. And make sure that you wont be paying extra if they go over.

If you have children, find out if any of the materials or chemicals they may use will require your family to evacuate the house for a while.

Do not become buddies with the contractors. Once they think they make your friendship they feel they can manipulate you into thinking they are in charge. You are the boss, you are hiring them. Keep it strictly business to keep them working.

If you have a smokefree home make sure they know that.

Make sure they will pay for any repairs of anything they damage. They always do. Every single time Ive had a contractor they broke something. One dropped a water heater on my back steps and broke them, one broke my attic door, one chipped my stove. All of these things were not noticed untill they had left.

Do a walk through often while they are working and a final thorough walk through after work is finished and before you pay them to check for damage. Pay close attention to detail and ask if they will come back for free later if you find anything left undone… Like paint defects.

Do not give them the full amount untill you do your walk through after they are done. They may not come back if you pay them and things are still undone.

They may want as much as 50% half way through the job.. Thats typical. Find out when they expect you to pay and how much at what times. Some contractors collect every Friday and thats okay… just not the full amount.

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