Selecting a general contractor to work with is a big decision. You are choosing a company that you will trust with your home, your family, and your money. With so much on the line, you want to make sure you are thoroughly vetting these people. Here at Better Builders, we have created a checklist of twenty-seven questions any good contractor should be able to answer yes to.
Many people opt to collect bids from several different contractors before deciding who to work with. Practicing your due diligence and making sure you’re getting the highest value for your dollar is expected. But, it is important to keep in mind that your project is about a lot more than just who can do the work for the lowest dollar amount. To give you an idea of this vetting process, we’ve decided to share our six key categories and one sample question from each section with you here:
1. History, Reputation, References, and Stability of the Contractor
Q: Do you only use subcontractors that are licensed, bonded, insured, and require a signed subcontractor agreement before the start of work?
A high-quality contractor will hold their subcontractors to the same standards as their full-time staff – require them to pass the same background checks, be insured, etc. It’s comforting to know that the crew who will be in your home have passed a background check and are vetted professionals. If the subcontractor does something incorrectly and these standards are not in place, it’s harder to hold them accountable for fixing their mistakes. A contractor should take steps to lessen the risk of issues that could impact the client and make the project take longer with delays or the need to correct work.
2. Structure of Agreements
Q: Do your agreements specifically spell out all contingencies regarding the price?
There are two main types of agreements, fixed price or time-and-materials. “Time and material” is essentially the hourly labor cost, plus the cost of materials with the builders mark up. Fixed price usually involves an in-depth pricing phase to create a detailed package outlining the exact cost of your particular project. Fixed price can be seen as a guaranteed price for your project; it’s the builder’s responsibility to get the costs correct up front and it’s their responsibility to complete the job within that number. Any builder working on a fixed price should include a line item for contingency in the budget. This can be used for unforeseen issues that arise or minor changes the homeowner may make along the way. If your contingency budget isn’t used up by the end of the project, a high-quality building team should refund the money to you.
When gathering multiple bids for your project, beware of quotes that are much lower than other contractors. You shouldn’t sign an agreement that’s just a bid because a lot of contractors give a price to get the job, whereas a good team would provide a price to finish the job well.
3. Projects and Experience
Q: Do you have a written step-by-step process for every major type of work that you perform?
Detailed and well-tested processes are important so that the homeowner and building team have a very clear expectation of what the standard operating procedure (SOP) is for each common type of project. This way, the work is consistent, and schedules are too because you have a tried and true process to follow. This could look like: prewritten rough schedules of what a kitchen remodel should be, outlines of how long each phase should take, as well as detailed procedures for the crew like ‘best way to frame a window.’ The contractor then uses these SOPs as a training tool to show the building crew how to complete work in a high-quality, consistent and efficient way.
Q: Do your crews have a written daily clean-up procedure?
Daily clean-up is important for both safety and sanity. It’s difficult to go through a remodel no matter what, but if you come home from a long day and there are nails, dust, and footprints throughout the house it makes it even worse. A written daily cleaning procedure ensures a tidy construction site as well as ensuring tools, screws, etc. are put away each day. This is vital for the safety of homeowners, children, and pets.
5. Follow Up and Follow Through
Q: Do you provide a 5-year warranty for your remodeling and new home projects on all labor and workmanship?
The industry standard for warranty is 1-2 years. A quality builder, however, knows that good enough, isn’t good enough, and will provide an above-average warranty. Better Builders offers a 5-year warranty because we guarantee our work and are confident that the quality of service is well above the industry standard, because of this, we provide high-quality follow-through. Do you want someone who can get the job done or someone who can get the job done well? You want a team that holds themselves above the industry standards.
Q: Do you and your employees use environmental and health-friendly materials, caulks, and adhesives whenever possible? And do you have policies and procedures in place to ensure their use on my job?
It’s important to choose a building company that acknowledges that the building industry can be hard on the environment and has products and services to lessen this impact. A business that adheres to the ‘built-green’ standards should have these standards in place. Some indicators of an environmentally conscious builder could look like hiring a service to sort through the dumpster to pull out items that can be recycled vs. going straight to the landfill, or using no or low VOC (volatile organic products) paints and adhesives. Once these chemicals are in your house, they are released over time into the air and are inhaled, so avoiding them whenever possible is a long-term benefit for both your family and the overall environment.
Good Enough, isn’t Good Enough
These are just a few of the important details you should know about a contractor before deciding to work with them. Better Builders is proud to answer a resounding YES to every credential on this list and is always looking for ways to improve our services even further.
To further aid you in the process of finding the right building team for your project, we have created a full, 27-question checklist. If you are interested in the check-list, contact us today.
Read the eBook, "The Homeowner’s Guide to Planning a Remarkable Renovation" and discover the best way to plan your home renovation so that it is successful.