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7 Questions to Ask a Contractor When Discussing Renovation Plans

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7 Questions to Ask a Contractor When Discussing Renovation Plans
4 min. read

Image: Jat306 / Shutterstock.com

Renovating and improving your home is extremely exciting and allows you to truly make your home your own. From minor renovations to major projects, it’s always good to hire a professional if you’re not confident in your DIY ability. A good contractor will discuss your plans with you and offer sage advice based on years of professional experience. 

When discussing your plans with a contractor, it’s good to pinpoint the important topics that need to be covered before work commences. Ensuring that both parties are on the same page is essential to a healthy working relationship and the smooth sailing of your renovation project. So, when you meet with your contractor to discuss plans, be sure to ask the following 7 questions.

Are My Plans Realistic?

No matter how well-thought-out you think your plans are, it’s possible that you’ve made a glaring error. For example, the wall you had planned to smash down to create an open-space kitchen could be a supporting wall, throwing a monkey wrench in the works.

A good contractor will tell you whether your plans are doable or not, rather than just stringing you along. If you have made an error, they’ll be able to offer viable alternatives and may come up with a solution that works even better.

Will My Budget Cover This Renovation?

Not only is it important that your plans are physically possible, but it’s essential that you ensure they are financially viable. Almost anything is possible with enough cash, but you should make sure the changes you’re planning are within your budget. Have a frank conversation about how much you’re willing to spend, and whether you’re able to cover this project comfortably or not.

Good contractors can help you cut costs if necessary while maintaining the quality of the job. They may be able to suggest cheaper materials that can bring the cost down to fit in your budget. After all, home improvements and renovations can increase your home’s value if you decide to sell, but they can also increase your comfort if you’re planning no such thing.

How Long Do You Think it will Take?

You need to have a timeline to follow, for your own sanity more than anything else! Knowing how long they expect the project to take lets you plan around the work and make alternative arrangements for somewhere to stay if necessary.

It also gives you an idea of how much time they’ll dedicate to your project. If they estimate that a relatively small job could take a week or so, there’s a chance they’re working on several projects at once, and aren’t dedicating time to yours alone, meaning they could be in and out and working off and on. And this is not an ideal situation.

Have You Worked on a Similar Project Before?

Knowing that they’ve carried out similar projects in the past gives you the peace of mind you need. You can be surer that their estimated timeline and budget are accurate, and that they’re fully aware of what might hinder the job, allowing them to prepare for any eventuality.

It’s worth asking to see photos of finished projects they’ve carried out in the past, as well as references from previous customers, just to make sure they are the right contractors for you and that you’re in safe hands.

What’s the Payment Schedule?

This is another important question to ask up front and one that should be cleared up long before work begins. No good contractor will ever ask for the full amount up front, so if they do alarm bells should be ringing.

A typical payment schedule for a big project would be something like 10% up front, followed by 3 periodic payments of 25% and a final 15% payment once the project is complete. Smaller projects may vary from anything like 40% up front and 60% upon completion, to simply covering the costs of materials up front and paying the remainder at the end.

Can We Put it in Writing?

Discussing everything is all well and good, but it doesn’t mean anything unless you get it in writing. Before work begins, you should have an extensive contract drawn up, that covers everything from the times and materials agreement and the estimated cost, to the dispute resolution plan and time frame.

It’s in both your and your contractors best interests to cover yourselves in case of disagreements, problems and unexpected delays. Unfortunately, such disputes can happen to anyone, so work out a strategy together in advance to ensure you’re both protected.

What Do I Need to Do?

Finally, find out if there’s anything you’ll need to do before the work starts. Will you need to clear the space so that they can get straight to work, or has your contractor taken that into consideration? Do you need to obtain permits and licenses, or will they take care of it? Be sure you know exactly what’s expected of you so that the project can run as smoothly as possible.

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