10 Things You Must Know Before Hiring
a Remodeling Contractor

According to the Better Business Bureau, complaints against home improvement/home repair contractors are among THE most common consumer complaints received.

Complaints range from high-pressure sales tactics and confusion over the contract terms to poor or incomplete workmanship and overcharging for the amount or quality of work provided.

Fortunately, much of this can be avoided with a little research. Unprofessional and disreputable contractors can be easy to spot provided that you heed this advice and don’t let the temptations of a low price keep you from seeing the warning signs.

One study of approximately 1000 homeowners conducted in 2007 by Qualified Remodeler magazine revealed that 50% of them would not hire the contractor they originally chose to remodel their home. Almost half said they would not refer the contractor they chose to their friends.

It’s been my experience that most people have the same basic questions in mind when considering a remodeling project…

  1. “How much will it cost?”
  2. “How long will it take”?
  3. “When can the work get started?”

It has always amazed me that there are so few questions asked about the contractor, the processes he or she uses to complete the project, questions about the employees, subcontractors, materials used, proper scope of work, etc.

There are always a few exceptions but for the most part these are the three most popular questions. I believe the reason for this lack of questioning is due to one or more of the following reasons:

1. People don’t know what they should ask.
2. They don’t know how or are too afraid to ask.
3. They take too much for granted, dangerously assuming that most contractors follow “standard” business practices that don’t really vary much from one contractor to the next.

The purpose of this guide is to help you become intimately aware of the “ins and outs” of how the remodeling business works.

Not only will you know exactly what questions to ask but you’ll also be much more at ease and less apprehensive about asking them because you’ll understand that any good contractor will appreciate your intelligent questions and will likely be far more interested in working with you as a result.

Furthermore, by exposing you to all of the ingredients of a great job and a great contractor and showing you what you’ll need to look out for, you’ll be in a much better position to make an intelligent decision when it comes time to hire someone for your next project. This guide will provide you with the necessary knowledge and tools that will enable you to see, quite obviously, the right contractor for your particular job.

This is not a “how to” guide on managing a contractor. While it may be hard to believe with all the stories out there, there are contractors who require very little, if any, “managing” on your part.

Many books and tips I’ve read over the years seem to be directed toward helping you “manage” a contractor. That may have been helpful advice 20 or 30 years ago, but times have changed. A professional contractor, by definition, does not need to be managed.

A professional contractor knows exactly what needs to be done, when and how to do it and how to manage it. They have systems in place and processes they follow to help ensure consistent success. A professional contractor rarely needs to be reminded or told what to do.

Everyone will probably have their own definition, but for the sake of this guide my definition of a successful project is one where:

  1. ALL of your expectations are properly set and either met or exceeded.
  2. You are left feeling very pleased and satisfied with the final results.
  3. The quality of work is exceptional and enduring.
  4. You felt comfortable with the workers that remodeled your home.
  5. Both you and your contractor respect each other during and after the work is done.
  6. You feel that you’ve paid a fair price for the value you received.
  7. The project has added value to your life and home.

Having all of these criteria met obviously leads toward you being completely satisfied. This not only is in your best interest for obvious reasons but it’s also in the contractor’s best interest because satisfied clients are many times more likely to come back to buy again AND refer other people. Getting a lot of referrals is what every smart contractor wants!

Everything from this point forward will be written with this definition in mind.

But before we can consider ensuring the success of your project, I will try to dispel some of the most common misconceptions many people have about the remodeling business.

The following section details the most common misconceptions that I believe get people into the most trouble. Let’s take a look at them now.

Misconception #1

You should always get three bids.

Not necessarily. This tactic is probably responsible for more dissatisfaction within the remodeling industry than any other single factor. Read More …

Misconception #2

Going with a low price saves you money!

Think about this for a minute. If you have solicited several bids and go with the contractor that has the lowest price, you’ve just awarded your job to the guy that just figured out the CHEAPEST way to get your project done! Read More …

Misconception #3

If the Better Business Bureau (BBB) doesn’t have any complaints against the contractor, they are probably a safe bet.

This is a common and often costly misconception. In fact, just because a contractor doesn’t have any complaints with the BBB, does not mean that you’re working with a reputable professional. You need to investigate the company further. Read More …

Misconception #4

I should buy the materials myself to save money.

First, if you’re providing the materials, there’s a very good chance of getting the wrong or not enough materials. Having most professional contractors will not be interested in working under these conditions and for very good reasons. Read More …

Misconception #5

If a contractor has years of experience, he or she must be good!

About 96% of contractors go out of business before their fifth year and of those, approximately 80% will never make it to see their tenth year.

Given these statistics, if you have a contractor that has made it through his fifth year, you’re off to a good start. He must be doing something right to survive that long. Read More…

Misconception #6

The term “fully-insured” must mean that the contractor carries all of the necessary insurance to provide me with adequate protection.

Surprisingly, this is not always the case! Contractors are required to carry a minimum of two insurances; Worker’s Compensation insurance (if he hires one or more employees or assistants) and Contractor’s Liability insurance.
Read More…

Every industry has its share of scams and con artists. The remodeling industry is no exception. However, spotting a real scam or con artist in this business is relatively easy provided you pay attention to the clues.
One clue is that we tend to get a “gut” feeling if someone is trying to pull one over on us. But what about when someone does not attempt to intentionally scam us? This is more difficult to detect, especially when someone is truly being honest and sincere.

I’m referring to the honest contractors that are either inexperienced, incompetent or both. They may mean well, but their lack of skill or knowledge or inability to be able to complete or manage your project correctly can be just as devastating as the work of a truly unscrupulous contractor.

In other words, it’s not always the bad guys you need to look out for. More often than not, in this business, it’s the honest guy that doesn’t know what the heck he’s doing that you need to look out for most.

There’s a big difference between being willing and being able and there seems to be no shortage of people willing to do your particular job.

Let’s take a look at some of the things to look out for.

“High-Pressure” Sales Tactics

With the remodeling business becoming more and more competitive each year, many contractors resort to high-pressure tactics to get you to sign on the spot. These people generally have their own private agenda. They are not interested in you or the eventual outcome of your project as much as making the sale, and will sometimes promise anything to get you to sign. You should never feel pressured into making a decision about choosing your contractor.

If you ever feel pressured by a contractor or salesman, politely ask them to back off. If they persist, it’time to look for another contractor. High pressure usually leads to a poor decision when remodeling. A qualified, reputable professional would never pressure anyone into a commitment.

Unusual Payment Terms

Beware of the contractor who asks that you pay for the entire job up front or asks you to pay in cash. A reputable, professional contractor will generally ask for a reasonable deposit and will propose a reasonable payment schedule.

There are too many horror stories about contractors who disappeared with a homeowner’s money without finishing the project. A professional contractor will present an equitable, mutually acceptable payment plan, usually based on the progress of your project.

Unverifiable Credentials

If you can’t verify a contractor’s company, name, address, and phone number, it’s a sure bet that trouble lies ahead. Many of these fly-by-night contractors are called “pick-up-truck” builders. These guys don’t have verifiable businesses and are mobile enough to pack up and leave your job without a trace. A verifiable address is a must.

Hard to Reach

Anyone can miss a call, but if you find that your prospective contractor doesn’t consistently answer his phone, beware. Many contractors have adapted the bad habit of letting calls go to voice-mail making them hard to reach directly. They use this practice to screen their calls and to side-step conversations and problems they want to avoid. Any remodeling project will have things come up that require prompt communication between you and your contractor. Nothing is worse than having your contractor unavailable to you when you have concerns. It is critical that you feel that your contractor is easy to reach and open to communication.

The “Price Reduction”

This scam occurs when you say no to or show a bit of reluctance to the initial offer and in response the salesperson offers a lower price for the exact same work.

Substantial reductions in price without changes in the scope of work or specifications likely signifies that the contractor is trying to get a higher price for something that is worth less to begin with and is just trying to “save the sale.”

In my book this is bad business. Personally, I think this practice suggests dishonesty on the part of the contractor. If you can’t trust him now, you surely can’t trust him later.

If you and the contractor negotiate different materials, methods or circumstances that clearly have an impact on the cost, this would be fine. Otherwise the “price” should be the “price.”

No Contract or Proposal

I can’t tell you how many headaches and how much frustration could have been prevented if only there were a carefully drafted contract with a defined scope of work, clear specifications, and detailed terms.

Insist on a thorough contract or proposal that includes all the details!

By following this rule you will substantially increase your chances of being satisfied. I believe many problems stem from people going ahead with someone they feel “good about” and taking too much for granted. Do not assume it is included unless it is spelled out in writing!

In addition to the benefits that come from knowing what to expect, if a contractor takes the time necessary to compile a detailed document, there will be far fewer unforeseen issues and misunderstandings, which will result in less stress for both parties and a project that moves along much more smoothly.

If there is ever a misunderstanding, chances are it can be easily cleared up by referencing this critical document.

Incomplete Specifications or Unclear Terms

Pay particular attention to the “Scope of Work” and “Specifications” section of the contract or proposal. This is the part of the proposal that defines exactly what work will be completed (the scope of work) and exactly what products or materials and which methods are going to be used (the specifications).

Every project should have clearly written specifications. Not just vague generalities. Again, most contractors fall short on this so when you see a well-defined set of specs, chances are good (but not guaranteed) that you have found a good contractor.

Shoddy or Incomplete Workmanship

By far, this is the most widespread scam of all. It’s as common among the honest guys as much as it is with the actual con artists.

You wouldn’t believe how much shoddy workmanship I’ve seen over the course of my career as a professional remodeler. It has been noted that approximately 40% of home improvement work done today is a direct result of poor workmanship or improper materials installed by a previous contractor.
A few years ago I read about a study that was conducted on some 400 newly built homes. 94% of those homes were found to have “major flaws.”

To address the potential for “shoddy workmanship”, I recommend following up with references and actually visiting some completed projects until you are 100% satisfied that your contractor will provide the level of workmanship you expect. DO NOT ignore this issue. You really should visit the jobs to see for yourself. Simply do not take someone’s word for it. See it firsthand, because their idea of quality might be completely different from your idea of quality.

In my company, we recommend (and sometimes require) that prospective clients visit one or more of our past projects so they can see firsthand examples of our work. I would strongly encourage you to visit job sites. You’ll have a much better sense of the quality of work you can expect.

The Contractor Asks That You Get the Required Permits

Some contractors may ask that you get the required building permits. This could be a signal that he is either unlicensed, the work is outside the area in which he is licensed or he is not able to get a permit due to improper or inadequate insurance coverage. The contractor may also not be in “good standing” with the building department.

In any case, a reputable contractor will always obtain a permit on every job requiring one. When a contractor obtains the required building permits, you are more likely to have things done according to the applicable building codes. Also, many homeowner insurance policies require that a permit be issued on any major remodeling project in order to be properly insured.

Not all contractors will do this. Many prefer not to because of the time involved and the inconveniences of dealing with the building department.

The Schedule or Time Frame Seems Too Good To Be True

If the schedule you’re quoted seems too good to be true, it probably is. Professional contractors make it a point to set realistic expectations. A contractor who knows his business will give you a realistic work schedule/timeline. Don’t be lured by the contractor who promises an overly optimistic completion date. Chances are, he is promising something he can’t deliver.

The Contractor Doesn’t Warranty His Work

Believe it or not, in some states, there is no law that requires a remodeling contractor to warranty his work. However, warranties are essential to any remodeling project. A good contractor will comply with the standards set forth in the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Residential Construction Performance Guidelines, at a minimum.

These are a set of performance guidelines or standards that was compiled by NAHB to help determine whether or not a contractor’s work requires corrective action in cases of dispute. Most professional contractors know about these guidelines and may refer to it in their warranty. They can provide you with a copy.

Remember this: Contractors committed to quality workmanship and client satisfaction warranty their work at least one year and many offer two years or more. In any case, make sure your contractor offers a warranty and that it’s in writing!

The Contractor Appears Unkempt and Disorganized

We all know not to “judge a book by its cover,” but if you fail to recognize this telltale warning sign, expect bad things to happen! A disorganized contractor means a disorganized project. Pay close attention to the details. Look for clues that the contractor “has it together.” You want your project to be organized – that starts and ends with your contractor.

Sadly, many contractors believe that the individual who can come up with a low price gets awarded the most jobs. This is definitely an easier way of selling due to less sales resistance and the ability to fill up an empty schedule. But eventually it will catch up with him – sooner or later he will find himself broke and out of business. It’s inevitable.

If you’re saying to yourself, “So what if he goes out of business – that’s his problem,” consider this:
It could be during your project that he discovers he is out of business!

Below I’ve listed some of the methods I have seen used by contractors, both knowingly and unknowingly, in an attempt to maintain low prices in order to win your project. There’s probably many more. These are some of the most common ways:

  1. Unrealistic allowances.
  2. Not accurately accounting for the proper amount of time necessary to complete the job correctly. Taking shortcuts.
  3. Using poor quality materials.
  4. Hiring inexpensive, unskilled labor; people who have not had the proper training.
  5. Hiring inexpensive trade or subcontractors.
  6. Doesn’t carry the proper insurance or carries no insurance.
  7. Simply underestimating due to lack of thoroughly “thinking through” the job.
  8. Inadequate safety precautions on his job-sites.
  9. Paying workers with cash (under-the-table), avoiding taxes and insurance.
  10. No benefits for employees, i.e. health insurance, vacations, 401K, holiday pay, etc.
  11. Plans on charging more once the job has started by intentionally leaving things out.
  12. No long-term warranty.
  13. Typically doesn’t stick to a schedule.
  14. Disposes of debris illegally.
  15. Avoids paying payroll taxes to the IRS.
  16. Inadequate dust control and surface protection.

Remember this…

If a contractor is forced, albeit intentionally or unintentionally, to work for prices so low they can’t make a profit, they can’t help but deliver products and services that are of very little value to you.

Is that what you really want?

Again, be careful not to let price alone drive your decision making process.

Many people often think that when the cost seems out of proportion to the actual materials and labor required to complete the job, the difference is lining the contractor’s pockets.

Believe it or not, despite the fact that remodeling can seem expensive, it’s not a highly profitable business, especially when you consider the amount of risk a contractor has to assume every time he takes on a new project and the amount of effort it takes to keep a project on track.

In addition to the actual labor and materials, there are so many other expenses every successful contractor must figure into his price in order to survive.

Without having a basic understanding of this, you may simply disqualify one or more of the actual professional contractors you have considered simply by mistakenly believing that the price is too high.
The following is a list of some of the key elements that make up “overhead” in every successfully managed remodeling company. If one or more of these ‘essential elements’ is missing, the company’s ability to manage your project and provide quality service drops considerably.

  • Telephone, cell phones, pagers
  • Office rent
  • Office supplies
  • Stationery and printing expenses
  • Website, hosting, and Internet
  • Worker’s Compensation & Liability insurance
  • Health insurance
  • Paid vacations, holidays
  • Staff meetings
  • Payroll expenses
  • Office administration and management
  • Time doing “free” estimates
  • Material price increases which may not be billable once a job is quoted
  • Estimating errors and omissions
  • Warranty repairs
  • Tools and equipment
  • Trucks, repairs & maintenance, fuel
  • Continuing education, training, and industry events
  • Computers and software
  • Business loans and interest
  • Accountant’s fees
  • Taxes
  • Production supervision and management
  • Advertising, marketing, and sales costs

These are just some of the items that a professional contractor has to account for. When you consider that all of these items have to be paid for out of the money that’s left after paying for labor and materials, it’s hard to believe remodeling doesn’t cost even more!

This all adds up to a substantial amount of money. In order to cover his overhead, a contractor typically must add between 35% – 40% to the actual cost of labor and materials required to complete your project. Again, this is just to cover overhead expenses. It doesn’t include profit. Most professional contractors try to maintain a 5% – 10% profit when all is said and done. Without a profit, the contractor will eventually go out of business.

The next time you receive a price from a contractor that seems too high, don’t automatically assume that he is trying to line his pockets. He may very well just be trying to pay for the very things that allow him to survive and provide a good, reliable service to you and a good environment for his employees.

Beware of the contractor that tells you his prices are low because he keeps his overhead down. Chances are high that there will be trouble ahead.

Not Following Up on References

We’ve all been taught to get references but oftentimes people fail to follow through and actually check them! Most people get a list of references, but don’t call. Do not just assume they will be good. Go ahead and check out the references you are given. A reputable contractor will give you a large list of previous clients and welcome the opportunity for you to talk to his past clients and will be delighted to show off his previous work.

Not Inspecting the Contractor’s Work

Ask to see completed projects as well as a job in progress. For current projects, take a close look around. Is the job site neat and clean? Do things appear to be organized? Are the homeowners happy or are they disappointed?

Selecting a Contractor Based On Price

We’ve already discussed this, but it is clearly the most common mistake so it definitely warrants repeating. Certainly, price can and should be a factor in choosing your contractor but should not be the main determining factor. You’ll be far better off choosing a contractor you feel comfortable with and working together with him to design a project that will serve you AND will fit your budget. A reputable contractor won’t make foolish mistakes just to save money.

Believe me, the last thing you want after a contractor has begun work on your home is to have that sinking feeling of having made a terrible mistake and wanting him gone. Bad experiences usually accompany the low price. Do your homework. Do not be influenced by a low price.

“It’s unwise to pay too much, but is worse to pay too little. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do. The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot – it can’t be done! If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run. And if you do that, you will have enough to pay for something better.” -John Ruskin (1819-1900) – English art critic and writer


Your contractor must be easy to reach by phone and email and never make you feel like you are imposing on him by contacting him. A quality contractor will answer his phone rather than letting voice mail shield him from things he should be handling.


Does your contractor keep his appointments? Yes, a contractor’s day can be busy and things do come up that interfere with his schedule, but promptness is an important factor. This may sound a bit “old-fashioned” but if he is willing to break an appointment, what other commitments is he also willing to break? Little things count. If he’s running behind he should have the courtesy to call to let you know.


Honesty and trust are of the utmost importance in any situation, especially when the person has total access to your home. Make sure you feel a high level of trust with your contractor and trust your instinct if you don’t. Not only are you trusting him to be in your home and around your family, you’re also trusting him with, in many cases, a very sizable amount of your money!

Membership in NARI or NAHB

NARI stands for the National Association of the Remodeling Industry; NAHB stands for the National Association of Home Builders. In order to become a member, the contractor’s background and references are investigated. It’s always a good idea to hire a NARI or NAHB contractor. Membership reflects a contractor’s commitment to professionalism.


Both organizations offer industry certification and designations such as Certified Graduate Remodeler™ (CGR), Certified Remodeler™ (CR), Certified Kitchen and Bath Remodeler™ (CKBR) and Green Certified Professional™ (GCP). If a contractor has one of these designations, chances are high that you’re dealing with a very reputable professional that is committed to his career as a professional remodeling contractor.

Furthermore, to earn one of these designations a contractor must demonstrate certain levels of skill and knowledge in addition to successfully completing numerous courses on various topics related to the industry.

Ability to design your project

Unless your project is very simple, you will want to work with a contractor that will start with a design phase complete with a feasibility study to develop both the remodel and a budget that will work for you. Design/Build contractors will work with you to develop space planning and floor plans. They will lead you through the multitude of choices that must be made. Most importantly they will work with you to balance the choices with the ultimate budget for your project. This planning stage prior to moving forward with your remodel will insure that all of the details have been addressed and that the possibility of unexpected extra expenses will be minimized.

Knowledge of Green Remodeling Technology

In today’s world of high energy prices and limited resources, it is critical that your contractor is up to date in regards to incorporating eco friendly green techniques and features to every project. The common misconception is that green remodeling will cost more. The reality is that extremes in anything will cost more and a well balanced plan will respect your budget.

A contractor that is focused on green aspects of remodeling will be more conscious of not wasting materials, recycling the used appliances, fixtures, and reusable building materials. This will save money and give you a tax deduction for donating used materials to charitable organizations. By viewing your home as a system rather than an accumulation of parts, your contractor will commonly incorporate many choices and techniques into every project that will improve your home’s performance and not necessarily cost more than uneducated choices.

High Percentage of Referrals or Repeat Clients

When a significant amount of a contractor’s business is derived from repeat or referred business, it is an indication that his clients are pleased and that he has an outstanding reputation. If your contractor has a long list of happy clients and has an outstanding reputation for doing quality work, chances are high that you will be satisfied as well.

Will Your Home Be Protected?

Simply put, remodeling can be very dusty and dirty. If not adequately controlled, dust will get everywhere, especially if there is a lot of sanding or demolition. Make sure your contractor has plans to take the appropriate measures to control dust and protect your floor finishes. This can increase the price a contractor quotes by a considerable amount and this is work which is often overlooked by inexperienced or nonprofessional contractors.

A reputable contractor should be able to provide plenty of positive references. You would be wise to avoid any contractor that can’t. Here are some examples of questions you can ask a contractor’s references.

  1. What type of project or projects has the contractor done for you?
  2. Did they do a quality job?
  3. Why did you choose this contractor?
  4. Did you get prices or opinions from other contractors that you feel had comparable specifications and credentials, if not, Why? And if so, how did they compare?
  5. Did the contractor finish within the time-frame he said he would?
  6. What would you say about the crew members that did your work – were they respectable and clean? Did they seem to know what they were doing?
  7. Was the contractor responsive to you your questions and/or concerns? Could you reach him quickly?
  8. Did they maintain a neat and orderly jobsite?
  9. Did the contractor do what he said he would do?
  10. Were there any additional charges and if so, were they handled in such a way that left you feeling satisfied?
  11. On a scale of 1-10 (ten being highest) how would you rate your overall experience with this contractor?
  12. Do you have any reservations about hiring him again?
  13. May I come by to see the work first hand?

Good Communication

It is essential that you have an excellent flow of communication with your contractor. Does he return calls promptly? Is he listening intently to your likes and dislikes? Does he take notes? Can you reach him when you need him? This will be even more important once your project begins.

Right Fit

You’ll most likely be spending a good bit of time with your contractor, so it is important that you feel comfortable with him. You should also have a good sense as to whether or not the same holds true regarding the members of his staff. It’s extremely beneficial if you both genuinely respect one another and even better if your personalities complement each other. A professional contractor will want a “customer for life” and will indicate the importance of this every step of the way. The bottom line: do you feel comfortable with this individual? Like any good relationship, a strong rapport and close communication with your contractor will help any job go more smoothly.


The scheduling of your project is something that should be discussed up front. A responsible and reputable contractor will do his best to keep you informed both in the initial stages and as your project progresses. Keeping you informed will help eliminate many headaches along the way.
A Clear, Well Written Proposal/Contract

Getting it in writing is absolutely essential! Nothing is worse than a disagreement because the terms weren’t written down. Frequently, one person remembers something differently. Make sure the details and specifications are clearly spelled out.

Every part of the job from the general conditions and demolition to the final trim and clean up should be clearly described. General terms like “install windows and doors” are too vague and should be clearly spelled out indicating exactly what window, what door, including make, model, size, features, location, color, style, etc.

This needs to be done for each and every item in the project. Without it there is no way of knowing exactly what is included and what isn’t! To avoid any trouble, absolutely insist on a crystal clear proposal.

A detailed, well-written contract will make your project run much more smoothly than one that is written poorly. A detailed contract should include (or at least make reference to):

  • A visual representation such as a blueprint, floor plan, drawings, sketches, etc. that clearly shows what work is being done and where.
  • The timetable in which the project is expected to be completed, including approximate start and end dates.
  • The price, along with payment terms and schedule.
  • Very detailed specifications for all products and materials. The description of each item should provide enough detail to clearly identify it, such as the brand name, model, color, size, etc. Allowances may be used for any materials to be selected later, (for example, a special fixture). Such items are “limited” by the “allowance,” which is the amount within the price allocated toward the purchase of a specific item.
  • A list of work and/or things not included.
  • Insurance information.
  • Permit information (e.g. whether or not it’s required and who will get it)
  • Procedure for handling change orders.
  • Notice of your right under the FTC’s rule to cancel the contract within three business days if it was signed in a place other than the contractor’s place of business.
  • Details on issues like access to your home, care of the premises, phone and bathroom use, cleanup and trash removal, etc.

Details, Details and More Details

There are several things that should be discussed prior to starting your project. What time will work start and end each day? How will pets be dealt with? What about the children? Where will materials be stored? What special circumstances need to be taken into consideration? Discussing details like these up front saves a lot of aggravation and eliminates misunderstandings.


Remodeling can be extremely disruptive to your normal lifestyle. Remember to be as flexible as possible. For example, don’t plan a party based on the completion date or schedule overnight guests when your house is being remodeled. Be prepared to make some sacrifices and remember, whatever disruptions occur, they are temporary.

Change Orders

Changes are inevitable when it comes to home remodeling. It is next to impossible to foresee everything in advance. There are always changes made to the design, the materials, and the scope of work once work begins.

It’s a good idea to set aside an additional 10% or more beyond the contract amount to cover these changes. It’s always better to plan for more than to come up short. There are also those inevitable “Oh, while you’re here…” things to do, too.

The bottom line is: Almost all changes will affect the budget and the schedule. Make sure all changes are in writing and are kept current to avoid any surprises in the end.

Written Lien Waivers

Often your remodeling professional will work with other tradesmen or subcontractors who specialize in certain aspects of your project. It is your contractor’s responsibility to make sure these people, as well as material suppliers, are paid for services and materials related to your project.

Make sure your contractor is willing to provide you with a written lien waiver at the end of your project in trade for the final payment. This is a document that proves that you have paid for the project in full, thereby eliminating the chances of the contractor’s subcontractors or suppliers placing a lien on your property due to not being paid by your contractor for the work performed on your home.

A reputable contractor should be able to provide plenty of positive references. You would be wise to avoid any contractor that can’t. Here are some examples of questions you can ask a contractor’s references.

  1. What type of project or projects has the contractor done for you?
  2. Did they do a quality job?
  3. Why did you choose this contractor?
  4. Did you get prices or opinions from other contractors that you feel had comparable specifications and credentials, if not, Why? And if so, how did they compare?
  5. Did the contractor finish within the time-frame he said he would?
  6. What would you say about the crew members that did your work – were they respectable and clean? Did they seem to know what they were doing?
  7. Was the contractor responsive to you your questions and/or concerns? Could you reach him quickly?
  8. Did they maintain a neat and orderly jobsite?
  9. Did the contractor do what he said he would do?
  10. Were there any additional charges and if so, were they handled in such a way that left you feeling satisfied?
  11. On a scale of 1-10 (ten being highest) how would you rate your overall experience with this contractor?
  12. Do you have any reservations about hiring him again?
  13. May I come by to see the work first hand?