You’re renovating your New York apartment, and you’ve narrowed the contractor search down to three. Now’s when things start to get tricky because the firm you choose to oversee the process could make or break your renovation. Meaning, a great contractor will realize your vision, and get the job done on schedule and within budget. A poor choice could mean shoddy workmanship, unexplained costs, or an unfinished remodel.
Selecting the right person to manage your project is one of the most important decisions you’ll make. Rule number one: be sure he or she has experience renovating in New York City. What’s more, your building will require a pre-determined amount of liability insurance. Any contractor who will perform work must meet the minimum for your particular building. Once these two key points are addressed, ask these ten questions before you hire anyone to run the show.
1. How long have you been in business?
If you don’t know this already, this should be one of the first questions you’ll ask. Companies that have been around longer not only have more experience, but they’re less likely to scam and “go out of business after receiving a large deposit.” (This happens in New York City, and in other places too.)
2. How many projects does your firm manage at once?
You’ll want to be certain that your contractor doesn’t take on too much of a workload, so he has plenty of time to dedicate to your apartment. Other than a contractor who’s MIA, there’s nothing worse than one who’s spread himself too thin.
3. Who will be my project manager?
Will the person you’re meeting with be the actual manager, or will he designate a site super? The latter is more likely. Either way, you’ll want to feel comfortable with the person who’s calling the shots. Meet him or her before making your final choice.
4. Personally, how much time will you spend on my renovation?
Even if he or she is not the person on site, you’ll want confirmation that the owner of the company will be involved and check in, at least weekly.
5. Can I have three references?
Always ask for references to get the opinions of past clients. Come up with a list of questions for them too, such as, “Would you hire him or her again?”
6. Is this an estimate or the price?
Know how you stand on pricing from the very beginning. The more specific you are from the get-go, the less likely you will discover surprises later on. If your quote is indeed just an estimate, find out how much more the final price will be within 20 percent.
7. What’s the biggest challenge in my project that could keep you from completing on time and in budget?
If your would-be contractor has any doubts, get them during the interview process. Every remodeler has strengths and weaknesses; be certain that he or she feels confident and experienced enough to handle your redesign.
8. How many hours per day will you work on my project?
You should expect sub-contractors to be at your project working most every day between business hours (9am and 5 pm, with the exception of weekends). Confirm this before you start. If no one is working, your renovation isn’t getting finished.
9. How do you handle changes once the project is underway?
Ask anyone you interview how he or she will bill for changes and the process for making a change. Do you tell the sub-contractor, or email him or her directly? Find out the protocol now, so that when you’re knee-deep in construction, you can nip any faux pas in the bud.
10. How will you invoice me?
Invoice terms should clearly be stated in the proposal, but in case they’re not, you’ll want to know if you’ll be billed monthly or at the end of each project phase. Be sure the terms are spelled out.