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What You Should Ask Your Contractor Before the Project Begins

Kicking off a long-awaited renovation or new home construction project is exciting but home projects can quickly turn into nightmares if you and your contractors are not on the same page. The first step to preventing problems with contractors is to hire reputable, honest contractors who are known for their quality work and integrity. The second step is all about communication. Addressing questions and expectations with your contractors before the project starts is the best way to prevent breakdowns in communications. We recommend writing a list of questions you have for each contractor. Your list should include the following questions:

What is the project schedule?

You need more than just a start and end date. Ask for a schedule detailing when each project task is expected to be worked on and completed. This will give you a broader understanding of project sequencing and individual task deadlines, plus you’ll know sooner if the project begins to fall behind schedule.

Who will be at your home every day?

Depending on the size of the contracting company you’ve hired, the owner of the contracting business you’ve hired may be there working right alongside their worker or you may have another employee who is known as a superintendent or supervisor that will be in charge of your project. You’ll want to meet the project leader and know who will be responsible for locking up after a day’s work as well as who to contact for day-to-day issues and questions.

How will your property be protected?

Ideally, you’ll move all of your belongings from the project area but sometimes removing everything is not possible, like large appliances. If you don’t move things like hanging pictures, vases and other decorative and delicate items, you’ll have to pay for workers to remove them and the risk of something getting damaged in the process is higher. We recommend moving everything you can and using protective covers for the larger items and then discussing measures your contractors can take to help keep those items protected.

How does your contractor plan to communicate?

Some people prefer to text, others prefer a phone call. You might even meet a contractor or two who chooses email over other forms of communication. Find out your contractor’s preferred form of communication, as well as a plan for weekly meetings to discuss your project’s progress.

Does your contractor have any concerns about your project?

Ask your contractor to be open and honest about any concerns they have about your project before it begins. Then ask them how they plan to address it or if change orders will need to take place. Get worst-case scenario solutions and the cost so you can make a well-informed decision on how to resolve their concerns.

What’s my decision deadline?

This goes along with mapping out a project’s schedule. You won’t have to make every decision right away but if your contractor is waiting for you to make a choice before they can move on to the next task, you’ll be the reason your project falls behind schedule.

How often and when do I need to be available for meetings?

Syncing up with your contractor each week for in-person meetings assures better communication and a faster response should you run into a problem with your project. Plus, you’ll have regular opportunities to ask any questions that come up along the way and address change orders.

How will we document change orders and the end of the project?

Change orders are typically added to the contract along with adjustments to time and price. At the end of the project, you’ll have a plethora of paperwork--lien releases, marked-up plans, inspection reports and so on. But you may also require additional documents such as photos, care instructions for new countertops or appliances, and a list of subcontractors and laborers.

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