Conducting the Initial Interview
In your initial phone calls to prospective contractors, your goal is to create a short list of those suitable for further consideration and to exclude those who don’t fit your needs. For example, you may quickly disqualify some because they aren’t available when you need them. You may also intuitively sense whether a contractor is someone with whom you can work comfortably.
Trust your instincts on this; a contractor who’s surly in your first conversation is unlikely to grow more cooperative as the project develops. If the initial phone call is promising, invite the contractor to your home to discuss the required work. To ensure a productive meeting, have ready as much information as possible. Floor plan drawings (if you have any) can help a contractor give you an accurate estimate. ln addition, provide any other drawings and lists of materials, cabinets, appliances and fixtures involved. Given enough detailed information, the kitchen contractor may be able to offer you a firm price quote at the first inter- view. If you’re looking for ways to reduce costs, this is also the time to offer to do some of the work in exchange for a lower price. Although selecting the best contractors can be a time – consuming process, resist the urge to hurry it along. Depending on the scope of your project, you may be hiring as many as five or six subcontractors. For each one, you should interview at least three candidates. By the end of each interview, you should have the following information from each one:
The number of years in business. Whenever possible, use a contractor who has been in business in your community for at least five years.
Operating license number Many states require skilled tradespeople to be officially licensed. If this is the case in your area, avoid contractors who aren’t licensed.
Insurance information. Make sure that each contractor is insured against accidental injury to his or her workers. You’ll also need to see proof of liability insurance, which covers any damage to your property. Request to see certificates from the insurance companies as proof of cur- rent coverage.
Bending information. A performance bond is a type of insurance that protects a contractor against legal action from a client who’s unhappy with his or her work. While bonding is uncommon in residential construction and is therefore not an important criterion, it does indicate that the contractor has earned the confidence of his or her insurance company
Suppliers. Find out where the contractor buys materials. This can tell you something about the quality of the materials and enables you to call the suppliers to check the contractor’s credit history
References. Ask for the names of the contractors last 10 to 20 clients, including at least one job that’s still under way, if possible. It won’t be necessary to contact this many clients, but having more references allows you to conduct a random check. Avoid any contractor who’s unable or unwilling to provide you with these references.
Price quote. Although the difference may seem subtle, in the remodelling business an estimate is quite different from a quote or a bid. An estimate is simply the contractors best guess of how much the job will cost, while a quote is a firm price submitted after careful consideration. Never hire a contractor on the basis of an informal estimate. When hiring subcontractors, they may offer to work based on “time and materials.”
The time (labour) will be accounted for and charged out at an agreed upon rate; materials will be billed according to what’s used. Be sure to ask if the materials are being marked up, and if so, how much. Request that you be given all receipts for materials. In most cases, however, it’s best to pay a contractor a fixed rate for the whole job; this lets you know exactly what the job will cost, and forces the contractor to plan the work more carefully.