5 Key Questions to Ask your Builder/Contractor

Recently, I was comparing with a friend our personal experiences in building a home. Both of us were struck in the similarities of our experiences even though she is in Canada and I am in the U.S. It was then she suggested that I write about ways for others to avoid our troubles.

That got me to thinking about the key questions anyone should ask their contractor or builder when engaging in a building or remodeling project. Asking these questions before work begins, will help you and your contractor stay on the same page during the project and help ensure that the end result is one you will be happy with.

1. Make sure the contract states that they will build the project per the architects plans. The plans drawn up by your architect specify the number and placement of plumbing and electrical fixtures, as well as things like type and style of windows and doors and built-ins. Making sure your contract requires the builder to complete the project per the plans ensures that you end up with the correct number of recessed lights and you have a full water body jet system rather than just a shower head. It also addresses things you cannot see, such as support beams and wiring.

2. Discuss what items are not included in the contract. Items such as cabinet hardware, light fixtures and moulding may not be included, but may be items you envisioned in the space. These items can quickly add up and blow your budget.

3. Review the efficiency of appliances and plumbing fixtures selected before the project begins. Once you have that information you can decide if you wish to upgrade. Of course upgrading can seriously affect your budget especially when done mid-project, so choose upgrades wisely. However, having a toilet that has sufficient flushing capacity, or a dishwasher that has the features you really need, can make a world of difference in your day to day life.

4. Go over the details of the project with your builder. Discuss the type and style of trim to be used, the outlet placement and covers, and room layouts before your contractor begins working. For example, it is not uncommon for builders to have stock trim they use which may not be what you had in mind. However, once installed it is time consuming and expensive to remove. Discussing these items ahead of time can avoid disappointment and conflict.

5. Know and understand your allowances. Allowances are budgets your contractor lays out in the contract for each selection such as countertops, cabinetry, flooring and fixtures. Review these numbers and do some preliminary research to determine whether the allowances are sufficient for what you want. For example, you may have envisioned granite countertops when your allowance is only sufficient for formica. It is not uncommon for allowances to be on the low end, so be sure they are sufficient to cover what you expect. If not, you could find your budget spinning out of control quickly.

Here are a few other things to keep in mind. Get referrals and always choose a licensed contractor who uses licensed sub-contractors. It is the things you cannot see behind the walls like plumbing and electrical that can cause problems later. Do all your research before you begin the project. There is nothing worse than a contractor ripping out your kitchen only to realize the budget is no where near sufficient to give you the look you were going for. Don't assume your contractor knows what you want. You may want marble and custom cabinets but he or she priced laminate and stock cabinetry. Also, avoid making changes once the project begins. Making changes during the project can not only delay the completion but can also exceed your budget quickly. It is far easier and cheaper to make changes before a project begins than after.

Asking these five questions will make your building or remodeling project an easier experience for both you can your contractor.

Happy building!


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