Hey everyone! Today we have a great guest post from Software Advice contributor, Daniel Pearson addressing 3 questions we should all ask a contractor we are thinking about hiring. Daniel thanks for the tips!
Home and business owners have to make a lot of tough decisions throughout their ownership–from finding the right homeowner’s insurance to deciding whether or not to take on a remodeling project. If you’ve ever decided to remodel your home, you know that picking a contractor can be difficult.
When you don’t have much (or any) experience in the construction industry, it’s hard to know which contractor is best for your project. Fortunately, contractors can be pretty revealing about themselves and their quality of work in their bid–if you know how to ask the right questions. For any homeowner that is looking to hire a contractor, here are three questions you should ask about a contractor’s bid to help ensure your project gets completed on time and on budget.
1. Did the contractor use estimating software to create their bid?
In a 2012 report based on a survey for construction professionals, Software Advice found that contractors who use construction-specific software to create their bid are much more likely to create accurate bids than those who do not. According to the report, construction professionals who use estimating software underestimated only 5 percent of their bids. In contrast, contractors who used pen and paper or another method, underestimated 30 percent had inaccurate bids.
According to Marcus Weddle, Director of Marketing estimating software provider ConEst, software brings consistency and speed. Weedle says that estimating software, “helps contractors get bids out quickly, and ensures they are up to code. You can be a fast bidder but if you’re not accurate you could easily lose business.”
So when talking with a general contractor about a potential project, it’s a good idea to make sure they used software to come up with their project costs. This will ensure a more accurate bid, and less doubt for the homeowner.
2. Did the contractor create a time schedule?
While it’s unlikely that a contractor will be able to give you an exact schedule of project completion dates, they should be able to share an overall plan of when each phase of the project will be complete. If a contractor isn’t able to share a well thought out schedule for the project, it likely means that they haven’t given the appropriate time to planning the project.
The best construction bids list completion dates for each step of the project and an end date for the entire project. Of course, things always come up and plans will change. But a contractor who takes the time to plan out how the project will be completed is much more likely to complete a project than one who leave an open-ended time frame.
As Ekotrope’s lead technical consultant Adam Newman says, “a well put together bid allows the client to see what they’re spending and exactly what they’re spending money on before their first payment, including accurate estimates of how long each project phase will take to complete.”
3. What level of detail is in the estimate?
Estimates vary in terms of the level of detail they present to homeowners. In general, however, a more detailed estimate shows that the contractor put a lot of thought and time into it. Furthermore, the level of detail in a bid can show how accurate the contractor is.
For instance, the bid should show exact quantity of materials required for the project. Generic line items such as “labor costs” should raise a red flag if there’s no associated breakdown for what labor, exactly, you’re paying for. Instead, you should look for an analysis of each construction item accompanied by exact quantity of construction materials (e.g., rebar and cement), you amount you will spend per laborer and any subcontractor fees.
The key to vetting this part of the bid is asking exactly what’s included in each part of the bid. Don’t be afraid to ask your contractor for a detailed description of the materials used as well as why they’re using them. Also be sure to ask about more cost-effective options that are available. If the contractor isn’t able to explain a thorough cost breakdown, the accuracy of their bid is likely questionable and you should go with a contractor that can provide a more detailed bid.
While there are other elements to vetting a contractor, asking these three questions about each contractor’s bid will help you select the person that’s right for the job.