At the onset of every project, Ridley Wills honestly conveys to his clients, “we’re going down from here…and we’re going to be with you every step of the way back up.” What he’s referring to is the normal flow of the construction process, the inconvenience of disrupted living conditions and having contractors in your home all day for weeks or months. We’ve come to understand that no matter how well clients prepare themselves, there is always a point where the process becomes overwhelming. That’s why it is so important for you to be comfortable with the design/build firm you choose.
We encourage you to consider using the questions provided by The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI), a not-for-profit trade association serving the remodeling industry, to help you choose the right Design/Build firm. The Wills Company is happy to answer any questions that you may have about our process, our people and our projects to date.
NARI Questions for Homeowners
Q: How long have you been in business?
Look for a company with an established business history in your community. Surviving in any business in today’s competitive marketplace is a difficult task. A successful contracting firm should be proud of their history in the industry.
Q: Do you have employees, or do you hire subcontractors?
Learn which aspects of your project will be handled by staff directly controlled by the contractor, and which will be contracted out to independent subcontractors.
Q: Do you use a project supervisor to oversee the project?
The person responsible for your project on a day in/day out basis will greatly determine the success of your experience.
Q: If so, how much of his or her time will be spent on the project?
The amount of time and focus spent by your Project Manager on your project also greatly determines its success.
Q: May I have a copy of your worker's compensation and liability insurance certificates?
The state of Tennessee requires that general contractors carry worker’s compensation and liability insurance for all their employees and for all subcontractors who do not carry their own insurance. A company with no employees may exempt themselves from needing worker’s compensation insurance but not from needing liability insurance.
Q: How do you ensure that all subcontractors carry the proper insurance?
If worker’s compensation or liability insurance is not handled properly, you, as the client, will be held liable.
Q: May I have a copy of your contractor’s license?
Check the expiration date to ensure that the license is current.
Q: How do you warrant your work?
Look for the length of the contractor’s warranty. Look for systems that the contractor has in place to respond to warranty calls.
Q: Will you clean up the job site on a daily basis?
Maintaining a clean jobsite is important for safety and overall organization of the job.
Q: What is your approach to a project of this scope
This will give you an idea of how the contractor works and what to expect during the project. Listen carefully to the answer. This is one of the big indicators of the company’s work ethic. You should look for the following:
- How well the scope will be defined prior to construction
- How much of the project will be under a fixed price vs. an estimate
- How changes to the scope and timeframe will be handled
Q: May I have a list of references for projects you have completed which are similar to mine?
To protect yourself, always check the contractor’s references. This is an essential stage of qualifying the right company for your project. Here are just a few questions to ask previous clients:
- Could you communicate well with the contractor?
- Were you pleased with the quality of work? (This is a tough question, since everyone defines "quality" differently. It is much better to ask to see the completed project to determine the level of quality for yourself.)
- Were you satisfied with the contractor’s business practices?
- Did the crew show up on time?
- Were you comfortable with the subcontractors on your project?
- Was the job completed on schedule?
- Did the contractor fulfill his or her contract?
- Did the contractor stay in touch with you throughout the project?
- Were the final details finished in a timely manner?
- Would you use the contractor again without hesitation? (This is probably the most important question you can ask.)
The contractor should be able to supply you with a minimum of three references with whom you can actually speak.
Q: May I have a list of references from suppliers or subcontractors?
You want to verify sound business practices when you contact these references.
Q: What percentage of your business is repeat or referral?
This will give you a good indication about the company’s customer satisfaction. According to research conducted by NARI, most design/build firms attribute over 50% of their annual volume to client referrals.
Q: How many projects like mine have you completed?
This will help you determine the contractor’s familiarity with your type of project.
Q: Do you have design services available?
If the contractor does not have design/build capabilities you will need to hire an architect or designer.
Q: Will we need a permit for this project?
Failure to obtain the necessary permits or to arrange obligatory inspections is illegal. A qualified contractor will be conscious of the permitting process and ensure that all permits have been obtained before initiating any work.
Q: Do I feel comfortable with and trust the person I am about to hire?
After you have interviewed the contractor, ask yourself this question. It is the most important one, and it is the bottom line.
If you would like to read additional information about interviewing contractors or selecting a reliable remodeling contractor, you can visit the NARI web site at www.nari.org.