An excerpt from “Comparing Apples to Apples” – Basement Edition
When you finish a basement, you are really “Buying the Process, not the project”. Nearly everybody treats contracting for a finished basement as if it is already built. It is not, and it will not be for a long time. The “Process” is how the contractor behaves and treats you in that long gap between the signing of the contract and the completion of the project. Listed below are questions to ask before finalizing your contractor. Price is not the only reason to select a contractor.
- Is the contractor licensed? Ask to see a copy of their license.
- Is the contractor insured? Ask to see their certificate of insurance.
- How long have they been in business? Newer contractors can be good, but more experienced contractors have a larger body of work to examine.
- Do they specialize in your work? Will they match the existing house specifications? Specialists are more knowledgeable about your type of project and understand how to work more efficiently.
- Does the firm appear to operate in a professional manner? Be cautious of anyone for which you answer “no” to one of these questions:
- Do they have a truck with name and phone number on it?
- Are the checks to be made payable to a business or personal account?
- Do they work from 8 to 5 Monday thru Friday or just on weekends?
Contractor Business Management
- How long did it take to receive the final proposal? Taking longer than 2 weeks may predict issues completing the project on time.
- Is the proposal detailed? Does it list all of the specifics of your project? Did they fill out the form you gave them? You should have no questions or surprises as to what your finished basement will look like.
- Does it include a contract? If not, find another contractor.
- Who applies for the permit? Be suspicious if a contractor asks you to get the permit. If he does not get the permit, you have little recourse if something should go wrong.
- How much of a deposit is required? When is the balance due? Specifics protect your investment in the project.
- When will the construction start and finish? Information that is more specific usually means a more organized, professional contractor.
- What is the contractor’s warranty? What things are covered? Specifics protect your investment in the project.
- How long did it take to receive a return phone call? If they do not call you when trying to get your business, they surely will not improve afterwards. You should be able to reach the contractor by cell phone and not thru his office.
- Do they seem organized to handle your project? Distrust disorganization.
- Will the contractor furnish a list of the contractors who will be in your house? Why would you let complete strangers into your home, possibly when you are not home?
- What information does the Better Business Bureau provide? Make sure they are members of the BBB and have successfully resolved any complaints against them. Investigate if the complaints seem excessive.
- Does the contractor agree to furnish 10 to 20 references of comparable projects? Ask to look at their work and talk with other homeowners. A reputable contractor will love the chance to showcase their work.
- Do you trust this person and/or firm they represent? You must feel comfortable with your contractor.
- Is a lien waiver provided? This certifies that you have paid in full. Never sign a contract that does not specify one.
- Are bids from different contractors the same? Never assume that each contractor’s bid include the same materials or services as others. Ask about anything of which you are unsure.