When you’re having work done on your home, you want to be sure that the people doing the work are right for you. In addition, you need to know what to expect. Unspoken assumptions are often the reason why things go wrong, so it’s always best to get everything out in the open before you go too far and clear up any misunderstandings. Here are five questions you should always ask, whatever type of project you’re considering.
- Are my timeline and budget realistic?
Get this out of the way up front, so you’re not wasting anyone’s time. Even before you’ve agreed the details, find out roughly how long they expect the whole process to take, and what the price range will be. Contractors’ prices and availability can vary massively, so if there isn’t a good fit there, then call someone else. Of course, if everyone you call is telling you the same price, then you probably need to revise your budget. And remember, you get what you pay for, so if one guy is quoting you a fraction of the normal price, ask yourself how he can do it so cheap.
- Who will be responsible for the design?
Most contractors prefer to work with their own designers. However, if you prefer to work with a designer of your choice or do it yourself, make sure that’s acceptable. Find out what input you’ll get into the design, and what the approval process will be.
- What does your estimate actually mean?
Be very clear about what is and is not included in the estimate. What may occur that could involve an extra charge, such as additional materials, time overruns, design changes, or discovering essential work that needs to be carried out. There is always a risk that the cost may increase, but you need to know what the potential causes are, and how much it could cost you. Also, agree a procedure for handling cost overruns: you don’t want to be unexpectedly presented with a huge bill at the end, or have the contractors suddenly stop work half-way through until you find some extra money.
- Have you done similar projects before?
Get them to show you previous projects, especially if you’re asking for something a little unusual, or it involves any structural work. If there are risks, your contractor should be able to explain them. In addition, ask them what permits will be required: any experienced contractor will know exactly what they need to do.
- What insurance do you have?
It’s rare, but sometimes things do go wrong. For example, power cables or plumbing can be severed, wooden floors can get scratched, or structural damage may occur. Make sure your contractor has all the necessary insurance to work on your premises, and can accept liability for any major damage.
Getting answers to these six questions will ensure that both you and your contractor approach everything with the right frame of mind. If you don’t get the answers you’re looking for, then talk to someone else, and avoid any potential disasters.