10 Questions to Ask Your Contractor Before They Begin

How to Find the perfect contractor

Getting on the same page with your renovation contractor is essential before committing to a renovation project. By considering and asking the questions below, you are giving your project the best chance of success and reducing the possibility of unfulfilled expectations.

1. Can I have line-by-line breakdowns of quoted costs?

When you start getting quotes back, sometimes contractors will give you a one-time cost compared to detailing line by line. It always made us scratch our heads and say “is it reasonable?” We found out that getting back to them and looking for a cost-sharing in inclusion to each item let us be more artistic and discover ways we could save costs on a few lines. For example, their quote may detail waste removal for £500 for skip hire – knowing the ballpark figure may allow you to seek a cheaper solution elsewhere but still hire the contractor for the main work. 

2. How do payments work?

All contractors work a little differently, many will require a deposit to get started, some like refills throughout the renovation, some require you to pay specific individuals involved. Some will require payment for materials upfront. You need to be a little flexible and wait for any kind of payment scenario to appear. In our experience, contractors are not usually shy about money, and while your experience with other non-renewal services may have been quite reserved about money in the past, the trade will not run around the topic – it took us a little farther. – nothing to worry about but just being aware.

3. What happens if issues are discovered or requirements change?

Really worth getting into at the end of it. You will submit questions and changes to your left, right and center contractors throughout the renovation, and when you are on it, it can be confusing what an ‘involved’ change is and what is additional. We were lucky in renovating our kitchen because the contractor was a trusted family friend and they made mental notes about what was considered extra (not quoted). 

If we were doing it again or doing a bigger job, we could propose getting a written list on the go so the contractor could work out the changes. It is also worth remembering that not every change is an additional cost, it may actually come out easier for the contractor – be sure to point out to the contractor when something like this happens so they can deduct it from your final bill.

4. Is commission added to supplies?

Some suppliers deal directly with trade only and this gives the builder the opportunity to make a reduction in supplies. This means you can pay more than with another supplier/contractor. Before booking a contractor to start work, ask them if they pay commission for certain supplies. This will provide you with the opportunity to negotiate or find a contractor who deals on a non-commission basis.

5. What does your insurance cover?

First, you need to know that your home insurance will not cover your renovation, so your first port of call is your insurance company that can advise. Structural changes are usually not covered, but may be some smaller projects. Some businesses may cover the entire renovation with their own insurance, but some only have Public Liability Insurance. It is therefore important to ask your contractor what their insurance covers so that you can work out exactly what you need. You can also purchase specialized home renovation insurance to cover your renovation project.

6. What does the quote include and doesn’t include

To check what specifically does not involve evaluation. Some builders end up charging for items that may be unexpected such as consuming tools – although this can raise some eyebrows, it happens regularly. You might find that you get a nasty shock when the final bill came in as Kaya did:

7. Do I get a schedule/timeline of works?

Look for a schedule or timeline of works that is absolutely the right thing to do especially for larger projects. It is not uncommon, however, that smaller one-man-style construction firms do not work according to modern project planning standards in terms of securing a formal deadline. However, by asking this question before giving the green light to start, you will be able to get a sense of the level of sophistication you will get in the area and either be satisfied with a little madness OR actually find a contractor who can provide more security for you. For smaller projects, you should at least expect some sort of approximate timeline for your project.

8. Can I have the contact details of satisfied customers?

Asking for details of satisfied customers before you begin is a great idea. Contacting past clients and asking about their work may seem like a difficult thing to do, but when you are spending tens of thousands it is a great shout-out.

On a personal note, when we hired a carpenter recently, we took a look at a number of jobs they had recently completed and were very pleased with completing their work. Reviews can be hard to find for many businesses, so you need to be a little creative to understand someone’s value.

9. What is your preferred method to communicate during work? 

It makes sense to create a communication method before you start your renovation. Is it phone/email/text/Whatsapp? Take it from us though, many renovation contractors are not so tech-savvy and so keeping digital written communications to a minimum and having a face to face chats/phone calls, makes things easier – just follow with a text / Whatsapp to confirm everything that is said so that they do not forget!

10. Who will work at work?

There are many different types of contractors out there and they all have different skills. Of course, you need to make sure you are getting the best people at your job A tradesman that specializes in building works may not be the best person to help you with accurate carpentry and vice versa. There may be some traders who can lend their hand to many different trades and are very talented, just as there may be some traders who try to do ‘secondary’ trade and do not do them well.

With a man-style outfit, there is a temptation to reduce outsourcing to specialists as this lowers the cost, but it may be better to encourage outsourcing if you are particular about getting a high-quality finish. If you are special, be sure to show how perfectionist you are regularly and ask for photographic examples of their work.