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Questions to Ask Renovation Builders / Contractors

luxury home additionYou love your home, but lately you’ve been thinking it needs a few updates. Or perhaps you want to sell your home but think you won’t be able to without a substantial refresh. Maybe you’ve even purchased a residence with great bones that needs a complete interior renewal to really make it your own. Whatever your circumstance, a home renovation might be in your near future and we’d love to help you take the first step.

Large-scale home renovations are no less complicated than building a brand-new custom home from the ground up. Whether you are renovating all of your house or only a portion, finding the right builder or contractor who can be trusted to retain the inherent beauty of your home while creating changes that enhance its charm and livability is crucial. 

In this post, we present the questions you’ll need to ask every builder or contractor you’re considering for your home renovation. We also let you know some of the answers you should seek. The right team at the helm of your project can minimize the disruptions to your living arrangements while also ensuring your renovation stays on budget and on schedule.

You can have the home you want or increase the value of a residence you hope to sell with some effective research. We recommend asking questions about each aspect of a contracting project, so there are no surprises once the work begins.

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Inquire About Experience

In this field, a contractor’s level of relevant experience will be closely related to the quality of their work.

  • Do you have experience renovating homes of similar quality and style to my home?
  • How do you qualify the capability of the subcontractors that will work on my home?

Each style of home presents unique challenges. You want to feel confident that your builder anticipates those challenges and applies knowledge and lessons learned from past renovations performed on homes similar to yours. You also need to know the scope of previous projects. Has the builder successfully completed renovation projects that match the scope of yours?

You also want to determine how familiar the builder is with the subcontractor base in the area. Have they built lasting relationships with Houston’s high-quality subcontractors? Do they thoroughly investigate new subcontractors before using them on a project?

Ask About Estimates

Accuracy and precision during the estimating process is the best predictor of smooth operations during construction.

  • Can you tell me a bit about your estimating process? How do you make sure your budgets are accurate?
  • How long does it take for you to produce an estimate for my renovation project?

A comprehensive estimation process leads to accurate budgets and schedules. Look for two types of estimates.

A preliminary estimate is created after an in-home consultation and a clear definition of the project scope. It should be based on historical hard costs as well as current market pricing so you can feel confident in their renovation expertise. A preliminary estimate can take between three and ten days to produce.

A detailed estimate is completed after plans and specifications are finalized. It should be based on firm bids from vendors and subcontractors in the builder’s network. The contractor should secure multiple bids from high-quality subcontractors and scrutinize them for accuracy and completeness. There should be no holes in the builder’s budget. A detailed estimate for a large-scale renovation can take between two and three weeks to produce.

If the builder indicates it will take longer for the estimates, be sure to ask why. It’s possible your project is particularly complex and requires a renovation design that would take longer to estimate. Alternatively, the builder could be indicating the team is overbooked, which may be a red flag that your project won’t be a priority or receive adequate attention.

What to Know About Scheduling

It’s good to know when everything is expected to be finished. Questions about the length of time the project could take can give you a glimpse into how organized and proactive the builder is.

  • How long do you anticipate the renovation will take?
  • How do you mitigate challenges to stay on schedule during construction?

The time it takes to complete your project is related to the scope and complexity of your renovation design. These questions help you determine how organized the builder’s systems and processes are, the amount of experience the team has, and their diligence in updating the project schedule regularly. You need to know how proactive they are at identifying potential problems and solving them before they arise.

Questions About Management

Management inquiries provide insight into a builder’s working process. You learn about the builder’s skills in collaboration, organization, and documentation, as well as how close an eye they will keep on your project.

  • How closely do you work with my architect and interior designer?
  • Can you provide me with a sample contract, budget, schedule and warranty?
  • Who will be assigned to my project, and how often will my project be under direct supervision?
  • How will questions and concerns be addressed during the renovation?
  • In the event there are changes to the design or unforeseen conditions that result in extra cost, what does that process look like?

Close collaboration with the architect and interior designer is essential to avoiding changes later in the project. It prevents miscommunication leading to stress, schedule delays, and added costs. Understanding how the builder communicates with other professionals also tells you how you can expect communications to flow between you and the builder. Sample documentation such as a contract and warranty provide further clues to the organization behind the company.

The builder may not be able to tell you precisely who will be assigned to your project at this time, but the question sheds light on the makeup of the project team and how much work the team has at any given time. For example, the team may consist of a construction manager only, or a construction manager and a project manager. You can learn how much additional in-office support the team expects to receive as well.

With complex, high-quality renovations, the project should be under direct supervision every other day at the least and preferably every day. If the management team is too overloaded to provide that level of supervision, your project may not get the attention it deserves and could lead to mistakes and schedule delays.

Knowing how questions and concerns are addressed is a critical part of the communication pathway. You want to have a “good fit” in your communication styles. No relationship is completely smooth, but you need to know the builder values your opinions and concerns and will listen to you. If the builder offers to establish a regular meeting schedule with you, the subcontractors, and the design team, that's a bonus. It means they value organization, accountability, communication, and efficiency.

Changes in design or scheduling are relatively common in complex custom renovations. There are many unknowns before the work begins. Make sure there is a system in place for documenting changes, presenting costs and options to you, obtaining your approval, and efficiently implementing the changes.

Ask About Materials and Warranty

Learning about the builder’s preferred materials and methods as well as their warranty services highlights expertise and professionalism.

  • Can you give me examples of specific building materials and methods you prefer to use and why?
  • How do you service warranty issues after project completion?

You want a builder that is knowledgeable about high-end home renovation. Asking about building materials shows you the level of quality they provide as a minimum standard. You don’t need to be an expert on the materials yourself, but the builder should be able to communicate the reasons behind the selections clearly.

Warranty service should be quick and thorough. You should expect minimal disruptions and wait-times.

luxury home renovation

Checking References

Never skip the step of checking references. It’s inevitable that the list of references provided will have had a positive experience working with the builder, but these conversations can give you valuable insights you won’t get from just speaking with the contractor.

Questions to ask:

  • Did you enjoy working with this builder?
  • What would you say are their strengths?
  • Was your renovation completed on schedule? If not, why not? What were the reasons for delay?
  • Did the builder communicate clearly and promptly?
  • Did you feel your original estimate was accurate and thorough?
  • Did the renovation go over budget? What were the specific reasons for the added costs?
  • How did the builder react under stress?
  • What role did the builder play once the renovation project started?
  • Who specifically worked on your project? Who would you request if you had another renovation you wanted to be done?
  • Was the project clean and organized?
  • Were there particular subcontractors on your project that you strongly recommend or would avoid?
  • How has the builder responded to warranty issues since your project was completed?
  • If you had another renovation project, would you choose this builder again? Why or why not?

Sims Luxury Builders is happy to answer any questions you may have about this step in the renovation process. Please feel free to reach out to our team. We look forward to speaking with you.

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Marie Sims

As a veteran team member of Sims Luxury Builders, Marie enjoys sharing what she’s learned with the world.


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