An important step in deciding which contractor to hire for your home addition or remodeling project is interviewing references given to you by each contractor. These will probably be (a) people for whom the contractor has done work similar to the project you are planning, (b) people for whom the contractor has worked in the last twelve months, and, possibly, (c) people not identified by the contractor but who you have identified as having worked with the contractor in the past.
The best indicator you will probably have of the quality of the contractor’s work will be jobs that are very similar to your project. You will certainly want to ask questions of these homeowners. You will also want to try to see the finished work, if possible.
By asking around and reviewing the contractor’s web site, you might identify homeowners for whom the contractor has worked recently who were not among the contractor’s references. These homeowners might have been excluded from the list for any of a number of reasons. If you have the opportunity to speak with any of these people, it is important to listen to what they have to say. It is also important to hear the contractor’s side of the story if the homeowner seems dissatisfied.
The purpose of these interviews is to hopefully see the finished work and to learn whatever you can about the previous client’s experience in working with the contractor. You should feel free to ask questions about every aspect of the project, the work and the experience of working with the particular contractor. Listen carefully and make notes about both good feedback and bad feedback. Remember that things that bother some people might not bother you at all, but also that the things that bother you might not seem so important to others.
First, ask questions about the work. How does the homeowner feel about the quality of the work produced by the contractor and his/her team? This will include such things as quality of materials, price of materials, quality of workmanship, and staying and finishing on schedule. You should also ask about unexpected problems or delays and how they were handled by the contractor. Did the contractor finish the project reasonably close to the contract price?
Second, ask questions about the subcontractors and workers. Was the homeowner comfortable having these people in his/her home? Did they show up for work every day on time and work until the end of the scheduled day? Were they clean, neat and courteous? Did they provide work of adequate quality the first time, or was it necessary to go back and re-do things?
Third, ask questions about relating to the contractor. Did the homeowner feel comfortable discussing ideas and options? Was communication clear and open? How responsive was the contractor to questions or to problems that arose? Was the contractor professional in interacting with both the homeowner and family and the subcontractors and workers? Was the contractor knowledgeable about alternative materials, designs, ways to do things, and ways to reduce cost?
Finally, ask how the homeowner feels about the entire experience. Would the homeowner hire this contractor again?