December 7, 2021
Anyone investing in a custom build or remodel wonders, “what questions should I ask my builder?” As expert custom home builders and remodelers, we’re familiar with clients’ concerns and the types of questions they have. Here are 20 questions to ask a builder that will give you peace of mind and help you select the best contractor to transform your home.
General contracting can have its fair share of dodgy “fly by night” operations. While your contractor does not need to have been in business for the longest period of time, they do need to have the technical and business skills to run a reputable company and provide high-quality workmanship. An esteemed company will be comfortable providing you with references too.
Not all contractors are cut from the same cloth. Commercial contractors aren’t necessarily experienced in residential work, even though they should technically be able to do the job and vice versa. Hiring a company that has experience with your particular home type can mitigate challenges and make the entire process easier because they know what to expect.
One of the most important questions to ask when choosing a builder is to see their insurance policies and check how long they are valid for. A good, reputable contractor will have no problem showing proof of insurance. In fact, most display their certifications on their websites. You’ll also want to make sure they’re licensed in the state you’re building in.
This is one of those subjective questions to ask a home builder that tells you more about their perceived confidence and specialities. Their answer will provide a solid indication of their capabilities, and what their company’s strengths are. A reputable company with enough experience will have a solid grasp on what they excel at, even if they are already a top service provider.
What do you ask a builder to learn more about their character? Ask what gives them a competitive advantage, and how that can benefit your custom home. Most businesses are only too happy to speak about what differentiates them from others. At Zenith Design + Build, we provide comprehensive building services from drawing plans to furniture installation.
On the top of your list of questions to ask a builder should be what standard features are included in your contractor’s fees. Ask about fencing, finished basements, decks, garages, etc. Make sure you know exactly what you’re getting into, so no sudden expenses can put a strain on your budget.
A dependable contractor will guarantee their work and should provide a written warranty agreement that discloses what is covered in the build, what is not, and for how long. An insurance-backed guarantee means any problems can be put right and paid for by the insurance company if the contractor goes out of business. For safety's sake, you should always get an agreement in writing.
In a world where online reviews can be fake and dishonest, contractors can upsell their competence; it’s perfectly acceptable to ask for testimonials from previous customers and even call them to inquire about your contractor’s previous work. A good builder will have reference lists from previous customers and even showcase completed projects on their website.
If your contractor is a custom home builder, they may have for-sale models available to tour. If not, you can request to view their online portfolio or photos from the homes they’ve built. During a busy season, they may not have updated their website, in which case, it’s a good idea to ask if they’ve worked on anything that’s not yet visible online.
Sustainability has become an increasing concern as different industries combat climate change. Construction is no different. Ask your potential custom home builder if they can have any energy-efficient components they can add to your home, like solar panels, energy-efficient windows, and water-conscious gardens, for example.
The point of custom homes is for them to reflect their homeowners aesthetic sensibilities and serve as an extension of their self-expression. You want to work with a custom home builder who serves your vision and helps pick the materials and fixtures in a design that best reflects your desires. A great contractor will go over every detail to ensure you land up with your dream home.
Most contractors include basic landscaping in the custom home design process, while others don’t. Even if they don’t do the landscaping themselves, they’ll likely hire experienced trade partners with whom they frequently collaborate with. As always, new home builds come down to managing budget and expectations, so the sooner you know what’s included, the better.
Regardless of the scope of your project, you’ll need to communicate with your contractor. They should provide a designated person of contact if it’s not them, and details on how and when is best to get in touch, whether it’s by phone, text, or email. A contractor should also provide their protocol for sending project updates.
Remodeling and additions are large investments, so it’s natural for homeowners to change their minds along the way. Occasionally, it's smaller details like cabinetry, while other times it might be adding another room. It’s good to know how much time you have to update plans, so there are no surprises for you or your contractor if you do deviate from the initial plans.
Budget questions to ask your builder when building a house include understanding how they determine the final cost. Contractors tend to provide an estimate after evaluating properties, and only once details are solidified do they supply a final cost. While the discrepancy between the two shouldn’t be that much, it’s important to know beforehand, so you can budget accordingly.
During minor additions and bump-outs, it’s usually possible to live in one part of the house; however, larger two-story renovations may require you to stay elsewhere as your home transforms into a serious construction site. Depending on your renovation, you might be able to stay for some or the whole time, but you’ll need to coordinate this with your builder.
If you have a deadline in mind, then you need to query what the expected timeline for your project is, especially if your alterations require you to move out of your current home, or you’re expecting a child, for example. It’s also a good time to ask how many projects your potential builder is currently working on, so you have a reasonable timeline.
It’s paramount you and your builder are on the same page about what can be realistically executed within your budget. Be direct and frank regarding your expectations. With any building project, there is always the possibility that unexpected expenses may occur. Therefore, it’s critical to ask them for a maximum ballpark figure in terms of a worst-case scenario.
One of the questions to ask a new home builder is what their inspection process entails. The viability of building a home or renovating relies on passing foundation and electrical inspections, among others, not to mention acquiring the correct permits. It’s good to know that your builder covers all the bases to ensure your project starts on solid ground.
Knowing if your builder’s company has been sued or dealt with any serious accidents may be a sensitive matter, but is important to find out. Should they answer yes, you’ll want to dig a little deeper to understand the circumstance and how they responded to it, which will give you an indication of their character and transparency.
Now that you know what questions to ask a new home builder, you can begin your search for one. If you’re looking to build a custom home or do a renovation of an existing house, we can help. At Zenith Design + Build, we provide the best builds and customer experience. Contact us today and find out more about how we can build your perfect home!
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