5 Questions to Ask Every Home Remodeling Contractor Before You Meet

5 Questions to Ask Every Home Remodeling Contractor Before You Meet

We receive 900 to 1000 new customer calls a year here at Sebring.  These calls can range from adding extra space in a basement to redesigning a dated kitchen into a chef’s dream.

Our process begins with a 15 to 20 minute conversation.  During this initial conversation we ask 5 key questions of our clients:

  1. When do you want the renovation to start and end the project.
  2. Why are you renovating (more space, aesthetics…).
  3. Where are you renovating (kitchen, bathroom, entire house…).
  4. What changes do you want to make (change cabinets, new flooring…).
  5. How much are you planning to spend on the remodeling.

From there, we end up scheduling an in-home consultation with the 300 to 350 qualified clients. Approximately 70% of the people that call us are not the right fit for our project niche.

So what makes a client “qualified” or a project “not the right fit”?  These are great questions and things you should be focused on when interviewing contractors.  The days when any contractor was good at doing any type of remodeling to your home are gone.  The Jack of all trades tends to be the master of none. You will end up paying a lot of your hard earned money for a sub-par job. Hopefully, you won’t have to spend even more when you need repairs later on to fix the issues from the first time.

Hiring the best contractor for your project takes time to research and ask the right questions. But meeting with contractors can be a significant time commitment for both you and all involved.  So before you set up an appointment, it’s best for you to ask a few key questions over the phone to help ensure that an in-person meeting will be time well spent.

1. Am I Located in Your Service Area?

Not every contractor will travel across the entire Chicago Metro area.  Most have restrictions based on travel time.  Here at Sebring Services we try to keep our service area within a 40 minute driving radius around Naperville.  This covers areas like Oak Brook, Hinsdale, Elmhurst and most of Batavia.

We have found that keeping projects to a limited geographical area typically means a faster response time, which you should consider a plus.  Being close to your house means better customer service and you do not have to wait hours for us to arrive after making a call.

If you are located outside a remodeling contractor’s service area, consider asking them for a recommendation of another company that is closer. You can also do some research on your own before you start contacting contractors. Using Google (or other apps, such as Yelp), you can easily locate home remodeling contractors near you. But do not be afraid to contact your preferred contractor if they are located further away than is recommended. They just might make an exception for you depending on your type of project.

5 Questions to Ask Every Home Remodeling Contractor2. Is My Project Something You Specialize In?

Many contractors restrict the type of projects they will do. Keep in mind, this is a good thing!  The Jack of all trades with his fingers on everything is a bad idea for your home and your pocket. Before you call any contractors, write down on paper a short description of your project.  For example “I want to remodel our small kitchen and it will involve removing some structural walls.”  Not every home remodeling contractor has experience dealing with relocating of load bearing walls.

So ask the question and make sure your project is something they are interested in working on and that they are setup to handle as well. While a phone call is not the place to elaborate on the details, be careful not to leave out something that can help the contractor decide whether they can take on your project. Try to provide a short but exhaustive summary of what the project entails.

It is also worth asking whether the contractor has completed many such projects in the past. Knowing that a contractor is skilled and experienced in your specific type of renovation will give you peace of mind.

3. Can You Complete My Project by My Deadline?

This can be a difficult question for a contractor to answer because it involves how quickly the client can make decisions and not just how fast the contractor works. Some homeowners are really good at making selection and design decisions quickly, while other homeowners need time to think about these things.  There is also the issue of plans and permits, which may take several months before they are ready, especially for extensive renovations.

While a contractor may be able to give you a rough range of time, a more certain timetable can only be prepared after a full in-person consultation at your home. And even then, adjustments to the timetable may need to be made in the course of the project.

Remember two things:

  1. A good home remodeling contractor should be in demand and typically carry a backlog of work.
  2. Rushing through the design process can ruin a project, so take your time. If you need the project completed quickly, you can talk with your contractor and see whether there are ways things can be speeded up without compromising the quality and integrity of the work done

4. Why are You a Home Remodeling Contractor?

This may sound like a weird question, but the more you get to know “each company’s why”, the more you will connect with the right company to hire.  I tell our clients all the time, in the beginning, treat the meetings and phone calls with contractors like a first date.  Would you want to see this person and their staff every day for 2-6 months? They will be ‘invading’ your personal space every day and things can get a bit testy over time, if you do not have a good relationship.

Find out why they love doing what they do, find out their mission statement, and their beliefs. Make sure their beliefs line up with yours, because when you sign that agreement, you enter into a marriage of sorts.  This marriage can be a long term trusting relationship or it can end in a nasty divorce.  And the only ones that are happy in a divorce are the lawyers.

5. My Budget Range for this Project is in a Range of $X to $Y.  Is this Realistic?

We use budget ranges to help our customers down a path of less frustration, almost like a restriction plate on a race car.  Good designers have a lot of great ideas, but if you can’t afford these exotic materials or designs, why waste your time.

Talking about money can be uncomfortable, but it’s important, particularly if you have a specific amount you want to spend.  So do your research on approximate remodeling pricing, so that you that you feel more confident in your discussions. Find out how much similar remodels in your area cost and then decide what budget range you are most comfortable with.

Be honest with your contractor!  If you don’t trust the contractor with this important information, you shouldn’t move forward with them. Do not be shy about discussing the possibility of lowering the budget range. A good contractor will work with you to see what can be realistically achieved with less cost.

If you are looking for a great website that can help with budgeting check out: Remodeling Magazine: Remodeling Magazine: Cost vs. Value.

One last tip

Make sure to have a phone conversation, not an email.  You really need to get an idea if your personalities will fit. Email doesn’t give you an idea of how they will be in person. So make sure to have a frank, honest conversation. By the end of the call you should be able to answer these two questions:

  • Is this contractor qualified to do my project.
  • Will the company be the right fit.

For more help on finding the right remodeling contractor, check out our Free E-book.

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About the Author:

" We are very passionate about educating homeowners.From design ideas to hiring a contractor, we hope this bloghelps you in the process of remodeling your home. "~ Bryan Sebring

54 Comments

  1. Commercial Epoxy Flooring Contractors January 25, 2016 at 7:33 am

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  2. Andrew April 26, 2016 at 9:22 am

    These are all very good tips. I think it’s particularly important to find a reputable contractor within your area. They tend to be more responsive if they know that you’re in a vicinity, and it can be very helpful after the project has ended if you need additional maintenance. You’ll also want to find a contractor that is very familiar with bathroom remodel projects, and hopefully, has a gallery of these projects on their website.

  3. Faylinn April 28, 2016 at 10:29 am

    I really like your question “Can you complete my project by my deadline?” because it is super important to know when a project can be finished by. I am about to meet with a general contractor today about my home’s design and I think that I will ask him that question. However, I understand that my deadline may be difficult to meet. How can I know what would be an appropriate deadline to make?

    • Bryan Sebring April 28, 2016 at 2:19 pm

      Thanks for your feedback! It is really just about asking the question up front. If it is too tight of a timeline for the contractor, it is better that they know it before they start than for you as the client getting upset that your expectations are not going to be met after the project gets underway. Hope that helps Faylinn, have a great day.

  4. Kent Howton September 7, 2016 at 10:02 pm

    These are actually good questions to ask. I’m a decorative concrete contractor myself, but I know that by “decorative” I mean something that appeals to the eye and something that is artful. Sometimes it’s a struggle to do things as it is and bring out the best in what we do, but we always keep in mind that even though floors are just down there, being stepped on, it still complements any kind of home and it would even double your property’s value. That’s why I never fail to tell my staff that installing decorative concrete is more than just a task, but also a craft and art expression.

  5. Kate Hansen September 21, 2016 at 12:51 pm

    I want to remodel my house but I don’t know who would be the best person to help me do that. A remodeling contractor sounds like a great option to help you make the correct decisions when remodeling your house. I like that you mention to have a phone conversation with your potential contractor so you can get an idea if your personalities will fit. If you can’t get along with the contractor, remodeling your house probably won’t go as fast or be as enjoyable.

  6. Erika Brady October 25, 2016 at 1:08 pm

    I am looking to hire a remodeling contractor for my home. I agree with all of these questions. I think number 3 is probably one of the most important. I have a project that I am wanting finished before the snow hits, so that information will be crucial to me and my family.

  7. Braden Bills November 10, 2016 at 8:33 am

    I want to have my home remodeled. It makes sense that I would want to talk to a home remodeling contractor! I’ll make sure that they specialize in the projects that I need done. That way I know that they will do it right!

  8. Scott November 11, 2016 at 4:44 pm

    Thanks for the insightful article. I like that you point out that it is important to know if the contractor can meet your deadline. Just because you want something done on a certain date, doesn’t necessarily mean the contractor has that same goal. Getting on the same page seems like something that is important. I would think that it would be helpful to get references from the contractor as well so you can verify the quality of the work.

  9. Marie Watson November 12, 2016 at 11:23 am

    Thanks for suggesting some questions to ask a remodeling contractor before you hire them. I really like that you recommend asking about your budget. I would think that it is a good idea to understand whether or not you can afford to do everything that you want. I have been thinking about doing a kitchen remodel for a while, and I think I have finally saved up enough money. Hopefully, I can speak with a reputable contractor who can help me figure everything out.

  10. Braden Bills January 30, 2017 at 12:04 pm

    I want to make sure that I get my home remodeled properly. It makes sense that I would want to get a professional to help! I’ll make sure that I ask them these questions to ensure that they can help me.

  11. Craig Barenbrugge March 2, 2017 at 5:44 pm

    Great article! I am a lifelong resident of Naperville.

  12. Jade Brunet March 6, 2017 at 4:35 pm

    It is good to know that asking if the projected can be completed before the deadline is an appropriate question when it comes to hiring a remodeling contractor. This would be helpful in helping you to plan according to seasons and other life events that are happening. I have also heard that it is wise to ask for references to find what kind of work the contractor offers.

  13. Leviticus March 7, 2017 at 1:30 pm

    I like your tips to establish a clear budget range and completion date before hiring. I think communication is key in having a healthy relationship- even in business relationships. If two people are working towards different goals, conflict will arise quickly.

  14. Golan Azran March 13, 2017 at 12:33 pm

    This post can be really a helpful one for both Contractor Business Owner and the Clients in need of reinstalling home. This is very important for starting a new deals

  15. Max Jones May 9, 2017 at 1:24 pm

    My wife and I have been looking to do our basement finish project this summer, and its time to finally hire a contractor. I like that you talked about getting a time frame to get your basement finished, but still being understanding that things could change through the project. I’ll have to talk to a few contractors and make sure that we can get our project done by our deadline!

  16. Annika Larson June 23, 2017 at 9:28 am

    Currently, my husband and I are looking to have our basement remodeled. We want to make sure that we choose the right contractor for the job that will provide quality work in a reasonable time frame. Like you mentioned, when looking for a good contractor, we’ll be sure to ask if they can complete the project by our deadline but make sure that the design process isn’t rushed.

  17. Harper Campbell July 5, 2017 at 2:06 pm

    My basement is in need of being finished, but I would like to hire a contractor to come in and do the job. I have never had to hire one before, and I need some advice on how to choose the right one. I like how you pointed out that one thing I need to check to make sure that they will be able to complete it by the deadline. It would be amazing to be able to have it done in the time that I would like, especially if it is done the way that I would like it to be.

  18. Lauren Jones July 17, 2017 at 3:16 pm

    We are excited to be remodeling our basement so our daughter and son-in-law can come live with us for the next year. It is good to know that one should find a remodeling contractor that finds interest in your project. Providing a short but exhaustive summery of what the project entails before hiring would be a good thing to do. We will keep this in mind as we look to hire.

  19. Mike Barochiereca July 28, 2017 at 2:28 am

    I like your article in which you have shared the information for hiring a home remodeling contractor. Sometimes people want to hire a remodeler but they don’t have any idea that how to deal with a remodeling contractor and what questions to should ask. Thanks for giving us knowledge regarding what questions to ask every home remodeling contractor before you meet.

  20. Amanda Drew August 1, 2017 at 3:59 pm

    That sounds like a good idea to figure out why a contractor is doing it as well while comparing it with their mission statement is. My yard is really pretty and I want to be able to go out and socialize in comfort. I think that I want to add a nice, concrete patio. Your tips really helped me find the right contractor.

  21. Sandra Hexner August 3, 2017 at 9:49 am

    I never thought of making sure the contractor I choose services my area. Thanks for pointing out that if we aren’t there will most likely be an additional cost. We hope to start the project here in the fall and that will give us time to find the perfect person.

  22. Max Jones August 9, 2017 at 2:18 pm

    I’m really glad that you suggested to have a phone conversation with someone like a concrete contractor before hiring them. I think that being able to have an actual conversation with concrete contractors would be helpful so that we can find out if they are qualified and the right fit like you said! I’m going to have to see if I can get in contact with some different concrete contractors and figure out who would be the best to do our work for us!

  23. Max Jones August 9, 2017 at 2:18 pm

    I’m really glad that you suggested to have a phone conversation with someone like a concrete contractor before hiring them. I think that being able to have an actual conversation with concrete contractors would be helpful so that we can find out if they are qualified and the right fit like you said! I’m going to have to see if I can get in contact with some different concrete contractors and figure out who would be the best to do our work for us!

  24. Braden Bills August 15, 2017 at 9:24 am

    I would like to renovate my bathroom, so I’m planning on hiring a professional. It makes sense that they would want to know the when, why, where, what, and how I would like things to be done! I’ll make sure that I ask myself those questions so I know what I want.

  25. Taylor Bishop August 24, 2017 at 7:11 am

    These are some interesting questions to ask a home remodeling contractor. I’ll be honest, I never thought that it could be useful to learn why the contractor decided to pursue this profession, and to see if their beliefs are similar to your’s. Honestly, I like this idea just because it seems like a great way to be able to learn and understand more about them. Hearing about their passion for their profession may even get you excited for your own project, especially if it’s clear that they love doing it.

  26. Scott September 11, 2017 at 8:26 pm

    I like that you recommend to ask the contractor if they will be able to finish the project by your deadline. I can see why this would be important to know before they get started. You might also see what you could do to help speed things along.

  27. Derek McDoogle September 23, 2017 at 11:37 am

    I love that you highlighted upon the fact that if you don’t have the money for fancy materials and other things, to not worry about it. Going basic would really help my situation for sure. I have always loved more plain aesthetics anyway, so this is great. Thanks so much for your advice and great expertise!

  28. Braden Bills September 26, 2017 at 8:15 am

    I want to make sure that I get my home properly renovated. It makes sense that I would want to get a good contractor! I’ll be sure to ask how long they expect the remodeling to take, and what changes they are planning on making.

  29. Bobby Saint October 9, 2017 at 7:12 pm

    Good read. I agree that one of the things you must ask your contractor is if your budget would fit right into the total assessment of the repair that needs to be done. It’s always best to try to negotiate and come up with a win-win situation between both parties. If I were to hire a remodeling contractor, I would certainly take this into account. Thanks.

  30. Deb Pearl October 12, 2017 at 9:29 am

    I would love to do some remodeling on my home and I need to find a good contractor to help me out. Thank you for the information and tips!

  31. Tamara Thorpe October 13, 2017 at 7:03 am

    Great article. I will keep these helpful questions in mind because the first renovation I had was really a mess and now I know why. Thanks

  32. Dan October 26, 2017 at 1:54 am

    My wife and I are looking into having some home renovations by next year, and we want to make sure that we hire the best contractor for the project. I like your tip on checking with the contractor if my project is something they are interested in working on or specialize in. This way, we can have peace of mind that the home renovation contractor is skilled and experienced in our specific type of project.

  33. Tammie Houston October 26, 2017 at 11:25 pm

    It really helped when you talked about how a certain timetable can only be discussed after the contractor has actually visited and seen my kitchen. I plan on getting my kitchen remodeled for the holiday season, and I want it to be done as quickly as possible. Seeing your article made me realize that I can’t have things the way I want, but that’s okay. I’ll just contact a professional and start the job as early as possible. Thanks for the tips!

  34. Jeremy Thompson November 2, 2017 at 7:45 pm

    It’s interesting to learn that meeting a deadline can be dependent on the client’s quick decision as much as it’ll be to the contractor’s skills. I’ll do my best to remember your tips and have a pre-planned idea before hiring a contractor. I’ll just modify it based on the contractor’s suggestions. Thanks! I’ll do my best to have a reputable home improvement contractor to help us out with our remodeling.

  35. Sharon Smith December 6, 2017 at 7:24 pm

    The best part of your article for me is when you talked about how you must engage in a real conversation with the remodeling contractor that you’re interested in to make sure that the company is a good fit for your needs. It will also make sense to choose a kitchen remodeling contractor that can fit your personalities. My children love baking and cooking, so I’m looking to remodel our kitchen and giving it a bigger space. It’s a must for me to find a professional contractor that I can communicate well to ensure that the result is satisfying. For me, a kitchen remodeling contractor that has the same personalities as I am is the best choice because the project can be a smooth process. I will make sure to consider all your tips.

  36. Derek Dewitt December 8, 2017 at 9:01 am

    My wife and I are wanting to remodel our kitchen next year, but we aren’t sure where to start when it comes to hiring a contractor. I like that you suggest taking your time with the project, so you don’t compromise the quality of the work that is done. We’ll be sure to find a contractor who will take his or her time and give us a deadline only after they’ve done an in-person consultation like you said.

  37. Jaque Christo December 12, 2017 at 9:12 am

    Thank you for the 5 questions to ask every home remodeling contractor before you meet. I like the ideas, especially to ask if the project is something the contractor specializes in and if they can have it done by the deadline. This not only can tell you if the contractor is confident and able to achieve your project, but sets a line of trust that they will complete your project on time and to your specifications.

  38. Callum Palmer December 19, 2017 at 6:24 pm

    I agree, you need to be honest with your contractor when it comes to the budget for your project. As the article points out, it can be a bit uncomfortable talking with a contractor about your money, but it really is essential. After all, the remodeling contractor needs to know what the budget is and whether or not it is realistic for the project you’ve hired them for.

  39. Kiara Woodsland January 15, 2018 at 9:59 pm

    I like that you talked about how a good remodeling contractor can find a way to see what can be realistically achieved with the budget that you have. My mother and I are interested to renovate our house. It’s important for us to find a home improvement contractor that can work with the budget that we have and let us know what we can achieve out of it. Since we have a lot of expenses at the moment, it is essential for us to only deal with a contractor that can help us with our dream project according to our budget. I will make sure to consider all your tips.

  40. Camilo Ann February 1, 2018 at 7:05 am

    Thanks for sharing the info, keep up the good work going… I really enjoyed exploring your site. good resource…

  41. JM February 12, 2018 at 11:07 am

    Super site.

  42. Julius Amberfield February 12, 2018 at 8:05 pm

    It sure was nice how you pointed out that it’s not a good idea to rush the contractor to finish the process because that can affect the outcome of the job, so it’s best to just let them take their time to do things. You can’t rush art after all. We need to get the house remodeled before summer when my mom comes home from France, so we still have a few months. Thank you for sharing.

  43. Latoya Anderson February 23, 2018 at 8:55 pm

    I like that you talked about how you should consider asking the remodeling contractor that you’re interested in if they can complete your remodeling project on time and see if they can give you a timetable. My sister is looking to renovate her bathroom to give it a newer look. She wants to make sure that she can find a remodeling contractor that can complete the project before her birthday celebration. Thanks for sharing all your tips.

  44. Pamela Brown March 19, 2018 at 8:36 pm

    I do agree that it’s helpful to write down on paper a short description of your home renovation project so you can see if the home remodeling contractor that you’re interested in, specializes in the type of project. My husband is specifically interested in renovating our bathroom and upgrade its look. We want to be satisfied with the service that’s going to be provided to us by the remodeling contractor that we will hire, so it will make sense for us to ensure that we will only work with remodeling contractor that specializes in bathroom renovations. Thanks for sharing this.

  45. Ray April 4, 2018 at 11:37 pm

    “Master of all trades is jack of none”. When you’ve worked in construction as long as I have, you realize this statement is so true.

    Hire people who do things on a day to day basis as otherwise like you say you’ll probably end up having more expenses on the horizon.

  46. Moira Blythe April 18, 2018 at 10:30 am

    My husband and I need to hire a contractor to help us with our home rebuild. I had no idea that some contractors will have a radius outside of which they do not work in. This makes sense, but lowers the amount of potential people to work with.

  47. Derek Dewitt July 16, 2018 at 8:41 am

    I want to remodel my kitchen this year, so thanks for sharing these tips on finding a remodeling contractor. I like your point about asking the contractor for a timeframe. I’ll be sure to ask this so I can start planning.

  48. Duncan Lance September 7, 2018 at 6:54 pm

    These are a lot of good questions, especially the one about the deadline. After all, you will want to make sure that the contractor you hire can finish your project on time. That way you do not have to worry about having to extend the amount of time you are unable to use your home.

  49. Vincent November 13, 2018 at 2:25 am

    What a great and helpful post, I really learned a lot from this

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