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Portland Design Build Remodeling Blog

The Contractor Interview Process: What You Need to Know

You’ve decided to go ahead with your home remodel or addition, and now it’s time to choose a general contractor or design-build professional to turn your dreams into reality. Here is what you need to know about interviewing a contractor.

Ask Around
First, you should narrow down the possibilities by talking to friends and family members and checking out online reviews. Next, call several contractors and ask questions such as how long they have been in business, whether they have completed jobs like yours recently, and if they would be available when you need your project done.

Meet Them In Person

Then comes the in-person interview. Don’t waste their time or yours; choose only the contractors with the highest potential. It’s a good idea to bring along your spouse or another family member who is invested in the remodel, and let that person ask some questions, too. Don’t be shy about your queries. Listen carefully to the answers. Think about whether the company this person represents is one to which you would feel comfortable entrusting your home, your time, and your money.

To learn more about our approach to remodeling a home, download our eBook.

Do Your Homework

License & Insurance 

  • Are you licensed? The state of Oregon requires contractors to be licensed. Ask to see the certificate or Construction Contractors Board number. You can search the state website by name or CCB number.
  • Are you insured? Make sure the builder has general liability insurance (at least $500,000 worth) and workers’ compensation. The subcontractors the builder hires also need insurance.
  • Will you take care of applying for all permits required for my project? This is standard practice.

Logistics

  • Who will be on-site, managing my project? If that person is gone for more than a day or two, do you assign another manager to take over? How does that person communicate with the homeowner?
  • How many projects do you have underway right now, and how many would you expect to be working on once my job has begun?
  • What payment schedule do you follow, and how much of a down payment do you ask for? It’s customary to give a builder a down payment, but beware of anyone who wants a large chunk upfront. Some states limit down payments to 10 percent.
  • Do you give any guarantees about staying on a construction schedule?
  • What kind of warranty do you provide for your work? Ask when and how often the builder would check back after the work is complete and whether there would be any charge to correct problems.
  • What time do you typically begin and finish work each day? What days do you work?
  • Describe the cleanup you require of your workers and subcontractors at the end of each day. Where will they store their tools and supplies?
  • How will you bid on my project: with a fixed-price proposal or a time-and-materials estimate? How long will it take you to provide that bid, and do you charge for bids?
  • At the end of a job, do you provide lien waivers? These releases mean the contractor acknowledges that he or she has been paid in full and gives up his right to place a mechanic’s lien on your property. The builder should have the subcontractors fill out waivers, too, which would protect you from subs who weren’t paid by the general contractor.

Referrals 

  • Can you provide two or three names and phone numbers of customers for whom you have completed projects similar to mine?
  • Do you have a list of suppliers, architects, and subcontractors with whom you work regularly? Calls to these companies can give you valuable information about how a contractor conducts its business.

About Them

  • What kind of homeowner do you most enjoy working for, and which ones do you avoid? With this question, you might get a feel for whether the contractor would appreciate your level of involvement and, possibly, pickiness.
  • What is your background in the industry?
  • Has your company ever been sued before? What was the resolution?
  • If we have a complaint or major difference of opinion, does your contract provide for an arbitration process?

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