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Top 8 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Remodeling Contractor

June 2nd, 2023 | 5 min read

By Brian Taylor

Ready to transform your home with a remodel but nervous about handing your vision off to a contractor? Trusting a remodeling contractor can be stressful, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the industry or unsure if hiring a contractor is the right move.

Knowing how to vet your service options will help connect you with a company that understands your project expectations - a key factor of successful builds.

As a remodeler with 15+ years of project management and construction experience, we understand that remodeling contractors should earn your trust via open transparency before you sign a contract. 

How do we achieve this level of trust? By asking the right questions.

In this article, you will learn about the top 8 questions to ask a remodeling contractor to confidently start your project with as little mystery as possible:

1. What kind of remodeling projects do you have experience with?

Is this an obvious question? Sure. But will it help verify who can and can’t complete your remodel? Absolutely.

With any build, it’s important to make sure you have the right team with the right expertise working on your project. You don’t have to wait to meet them for the first time to get your question answered either.

Take a look at their Google Reviews. Scour their website for testimonials. Get a full picture of how satisfied their former clients are before making the plunge. A contractor with the right/verified experience will guarantee more success with your remodel.

2. Are you a licensed remodeling contractor?

Another simple yet essential question that, when unanswered, could lead to unforeseen issues. Every Michigan remodeling contractor is encouraged (but not required) to get a builders license before offering their professional services.

When secured, a current Michigan builders license confirms that your remodeling contractor (and their team members) has received state-verified training and will pull your home’s permits prior to construction. This means the integrity of your project’s completion falls on them instead of you - eliminating the possibility of you being hit with fines and penalties.

You read that correctly. Even if you’re not the one responsible for pulling the permits, without a Michigan state builder’s license, you could still face fines and penalties under the building permit rules.

This is why it’s so essential to hire a licensed contractor who is upfront, proactive, and follows the rules.

3. Are you an insured remodeling contractor?

Typically, a licensed remodeling contractor is also insured. Why is that important?

Let’s say you hire a contractor for your dream bathroom remodel. On the first day of production, one of the builders slips on the old tile and breaks their arm.

An insured contractor automatically offers workers’ compensation to the builder, taking the responsibility of paying their medical bills off your plate.

An uninsured contractor doesn’t offer workers’ compensation to the builder.

Our advice? Avoid the extra headache of worrying about paying someone else’s medical bills, and hire an insured remodeling contractor.

If you want to verify whether or not your prospective contractor is licensed and insured, check out Michigan’s Department of Licensing & Regulatory Affairs (LARA) and their “Verify a License” webpage.

4. What kind of project timeline can I expect?

Different home remodeling projects call for different workloads. Based on the type of project you’re pursuing, a remodeling contractor will estimate your build’s overall completion time. But some contractors don’t take the time to walk you through every step of the process.

Knowing your project’s step-to-step timeline lets you get a clear idea of what to expect from every stage of the process.

A remodeling contractor who knows each aspect of your build shows a genuine understanding of your vision. Most importantly, they’re willing to help you understand each step and the factors that lead to your projected completion timeline.

Here are a few projected timelines you can expect from your remodeling contractor:

  • Basement Remodel/Finished Basement: 3 to 4 months

  • Deck Build: 2 to 4 months

  • Kitchen Remodel: 2 to 3 months

5. How much will my project cost?

Money makes the world go around…and gets the home remodeled. Like most services, you want to know exactly what you’re paying for. That standard should be no different before hiring a remodeling contractor.

During your search, look for professionals who are upfront about their prices on their website or in conversation while discussing your plans. The more willing they are to offer an accurate cost in the contract, the more likely they are to deliver on that cost.

Additionally, whether you submit a change order to edit your current design plans or your contractor discovers additional structural issues (such as rot or mold) that could halt production, any budget adjustments should be clearly explained moving forward.

Unfortunately, some companies aren’t as transparent when it comes to estimating a quote.

An important phrase to look out for is “cost contingency” or an unknown amount of money that may be tacked onto your original quote in case of unforeseen changes to the build.

While this cost may seem harmless, that “unknown” number might end up costing you more than you intended.

6. What is your payment schedule like?

Speaking of costs, one of the most essential parts of your project’s expenses is the payment plan that is set up with it. Usually discussed and agreed upon before the start of your project, a payment schedule gives a clear timeline of how much you will pay your remodeling contractor and when.

A contractor who is upfront with your payment schedule will work with you to choose a plan that best fits your goals.

7. How do you handle unexpected issues or changes during a project?

Unfortunately, life throws everyone a curveball sometimes - and the world of remodeling is no exception.

Remember our now-injured builder from earlier? Aside from offering workers’ compensation, a remodeling contractor must be able to pivot accordingly personnel-wise to still get the job done.

In order to do so, a reliable remodeling contractor will make sure to confirm the scope and price of your adjustments before moving forward - communicating clear expectations across the board.

8. What is the best way to communicate with you?

PSA: the right remodeling contractor will give you a complete hierarchy of whom to talk to throughout your build.

They will never put you in a position where you will have to wonder who to reach out to no matter what phase your project is in.

When done correctly, constant communication throughout your project welcomes open and honest feedback about all details and progress. Finding the mode of communication that works best for both parties will encourage better rapport, leading to project results that match and exceed your expectations.

Typically, that mode of communication depends on who you’re working with. Most contractors interact and give updates via text or phone call - mainly using email to send official contracts and other initial information at the beginning of the remodel.

Next steps to hiring the right remodeling contractor for your home remodel

Meeting and interviewing a remodeling contractor can be intimidating - especially if you’re upgrading your home for the first time.

However, hiring a remodeling contractor before vetting them properly could lead to misunderstood project expectations, and worse, expensive setbacks with unfinished home renovations.

Fortunately, asking the right questions before signing a contract will help understand the scope of your project, as well as make a more informed decision about which professional is the best fit for you.

Every question in this article is a concern that fellow homeowners have asked us at Custom Built. As one of Michigan’s trusted design-build firms, we understand the importance of knowing your project and contractor from top to bottom and encourage you to take the time to thoroughly research and vet potential contractors.

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To learn more about finding the right home remodeling contractor for you, read the following articles:

Brian Taylor

Brian brings 20+ years of experience in the home remodeling industry to the table. He’s worked with families in all areas of whole home performance (science-backed solutions for home health, safety, comfort, and efficiency), residential renewable energy, conservation, foundation, and hydrostatic issues and solutions.