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Hiring Qualifications for Your Remodeling Contractor – Know What to Ask Before You Buy

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When it comes to many of the services we rely on, we have strict standards for hiring – we expect our banker, lawyer, doctor and auto repair people to have specific training, an established place of business and a good track record. But when it comes to one of our largest and most personal investments – our home – we don’t always qualify the service providers or even know what standards exist for superior services.

Construction has no real barrier for entry in Texas, so before you hire a remodeling contractor, make sure you understand the qualifications of a good home improvement professional – and know what to ask before you sign that contract. Here is a list of questions to get you started:

How long have you been in business? Remodelers come and go, but qualified professionals should have longevity in your community and be an active member of the community.

Who will be assigned as project supervisor for the job? You should exact a single point of contact for your project, with a backup name and phone number. Qualified remodelers will make sure that a supervisor schedules and manages your job in a manner that works best for you and adheres closely to the timelines in your contract.

What is the estimated time-frame for starting and completing the project? Time estimates should also include questions about when to expect subcontractors on site and and what typical working hours are.

How does your business operate? Be sure that you understand how your contractor operates – with staff, with subcontractors, with suppliers. How do they handle payments from you? What is the payment schedule?

Is your company a full service or specialty firm? For large projects, including entire rooms or room additions, you should consult a full service or design-build firm. Design-build provides both quality design and construction services within the same company. A design-build contractor will be able to see your project through from start to finish, keeping design, engineering and budget in mind.

Does your company carry workers compensation and liability insurance? Make sure your general remodeling contractor has adequate insurance to protect both your property and your liability as a homeowner.

Are any of your company's employees certified? Trade certifications are good indicators of dedication, professionalism and knowledge of the industry. Remodelers are required to meet certain industry criteria to maintain their certifications. NARI offers six designations: Certified Remodeler (CR), Certified Remodeler Specialist (CRS), Certified Remodeler Associate (CRA), Certified Kitchen & Bath Remodeler (CKBR), Green Certified Professional (GCP), Certified Lead Carpenter (CLC), and Certified Remodeling Carpenter (CRC).

May I have a list of references for projects you have completed which are similar to mine? Get a minimum of three references for projects similar in scope and price to your project and be sure to follow up on them. You should also ask for professional references from suppliers, financial institutions, or subcontractors to verify sound business practices.

What percentage of your business is repeat or referral business? If your contractor has a high percentage of referral or repeat business, which is a good indication that the work performed has been excellent.

How many projects like mine have you completed in the past 12 months? This indicates the amount of direct experience a prospective design-build professional has with your requirements and the type of work needed to complete the project on time and on budget.

May I have a list of your suppliers? You may want to add calling the contractor's suppliers to your list of follow up actions. This will help protect you from mechanics liens for nonpayment by the contractor. You will also get an idea of the quality of materials typically used by the contractor.

Before you sign a contract, make sure you are comfortable with everything the contractor proposes – from the scope of the entire project to the budget, payment schedule, materials and the workers who will be in your home. Check references and follow up with suppliers – you’ll be glad you did!