Choosing the Right Remodel Contractor & Running Your Own Bid (Part 4 of 6)

(. . . continued from Part 3)

It also tells a bit about how they run the business.

15.  Is the person you first meet with the one who will be on the job everyday, or running the project for you?
This is important because there will be more continuity throughout the project.  It also gives you a sense of the size of the company and how it is run.

16.  How will the contractor follow-up on the project after it is completed?
This is essentially a warranty question. Most of us rely heavily on repeat business, so the follow-up is critical.  My clients have contacted me even years after doing remodels and asked about how to get something fixed that’s finally broken down from use.  These calls are important as it proves that I stand behind my work – period.  Some have called this type of service a ‘Lifetime Warranty.’

We call it ‘caring properly for the customer.’ I follow up on these quickly, and usually with no or low cost, at least for labor.  Does the contractor you’re thinking of care to keep you as a good customer, friend and referral for the long run?  Have past clients heard from the contractor occasionally after the job is done?

17. What quality of materials and products does the contractor use?
Your contractor should want to use the same high quality that he/she would use in their own home.  Don’t ask about names of suppliers and subcontractors until you are ready to sign an agreement as it’s digging into areas that to the contractor feel unethical.  But, you can ask past clients what their sense of this is.  Once you’re ready to sign, then you can start asking more specifics.  Too many of us have built up networks of reliable sources and don’t share them because of the time and effort it takes to establish these ties.  (We all have stories of prospective clients going direct to our sources to buy on their own after telling us they are just curious.)  We do this for a reason: our sources have given us good pricing that gives us an advantage in bidding based on their good experiences with us and on our buying power and loyalty, and don’t typically give the same pricing structure to new clients.  Also, because we’ve established the relationships with them, they already know what is not acceptable to even offer us.

really nice 3-D ‘walk-through’ views

18. Is this the contractor’s only business?  Or, does he/she do all types of construction or other work?
This could be important, depending on how much time this contractor devotes to remodeling, versus new construction, commercial construction, or a number of other things he may be occupied with.  If it’s not the only business, or type of construction done, what is the management form that is set up to handle projects such as yours?  Some contractors may be in the process of changing their main type of work or focus, maybe going into a specialty, or coming out of a specialty.  How much time does this take away from remodeling?

19. Is the contractor good with computers and technology?
Some of us do our own drawing on CAD systems (with really nice 3-D ‘walk-through’ views) and can prepare full drawings and specifications for construction, bidding and permitting purposes, while others don’t do this.  A contractor should at least be able to communicate through emails and manage his/her company with some of the computer tools available.  Most of it is pretty user-friendly now.  It’s necessary today to be able to do basic research on products, materials, regulations, codes, resources, permits, etcetera.

20. How did the contractor present himself/herself – in the initial contact and the first meeting, as well as in any bid interactions that you have had?
Did he/she look professional, come with what they said they would bring, ask pertinent questions, show they cared about your project, have excitement for the job, appreciate your time constraints?  Or, did they come in with dirty boots, smelling like something you’re not comfortable with?  Did they seem to understand your needs for the spaces involved?  Did they listen more than they talked?

21. Is the contractor aware of, and does he/she respect, the various regulations on things like hazardous materials that are likely present in your home?
You want someone that has respect for you and for those that could show up at your door when the project is underway.  These issues are potentially dangerous to your health, and to your pocketbook, not to mention major delays to the project’s completion.

22. Is the contractor aware of energy saving measures – both active systems and passive – that can be incorporated into your project, maybe saving you a lot of money over the years?
This is becoming a much bigger issue, partly because of needed stewardship of our resources, and partly because of the rising costs of various energy forms.  Often some simple things can be done to save money in the long run that don’t cost that much in the short run – some examples: a radiant barrier under the roof’s skin or inside of the ceiling space, radiant barriers in the walls maybe under new siding, foam insulation in the walls, high efficiency coatings on the windows’ glass, proper caulking to stop air infiltration, vapor barriers in the walls and on the soil in a crawl space.  Some active systems could be solar PV systems, water heating or pre-heating systems, better control of the ventilation under your home or in your attic, whole-house fan to pull cool night air through the home.

23. How does the contractor find and train people?
This is a quality, as well as a safety, question.  It also tells a bit about how they run the business.

(continued in Part 5 . . .)

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