As one of the least expensive ways to add more space to your home, a basement renovation is a no-brainer. But to ensure you’re satisfied with the end product, it’s essential to find the right professional to do the job. Basements have their own set of challenges, so it pays to work with a contractor who has expert knowledge about foundation issues and specifically the challenge of preventing moisture from seeping in. A basement contractor should also be very familiar with all the basement building products available, as this is an area of your home that needs expertise and shouldn’t be renovated in a slapdash manner. To ensure you hire a professional who knows what they’re doing, here are eight essential questions to ask when interviewing potential contractors:
1. How long have you been renovating basements?
Businesses that have been operating for several years understand scheduling and budgeting and are able to secure the best deals on materials and products. Do your research ahead of time on any contractor you’re thinking of working with. If you find anything that makes you worry, ask about it so they have an opportunity to address any concerns, rather than be taken off the short list of contractors you are considering.
2. Are you licensed, and do you have insurance?
Provinces have different requirements for contractors and whether they must obtain a licence or an alternative credential. As a homeowner, you’ll want to make sure that yours has gone through all the necessary channels to obtain any required certifications specific to their field of expertise. For example, you wouldn’t want to hire a carpenter whose licence is in roofing. Having a business license alone is not enough, as it allows individuals to operate a business but doesn’t mean that they are a licenced or credentialed contractor. Regardless of where they are based, contractors should have both workers compensation and third-party liability insurance to cover all the people on the job and any damage they may cause. Don’t accept or assume any personal liability for the contractor or tradespeople working on your property.
3. How do you plan to make this cold, damp space comfortable and liveable?
Basements are notoriously dark and cold due to the concrete foundation, so an experienced contractor will know exactly what products to use to keep the space as dry and comfortable as possible. Materials like subfloor, which you should never build a basement without, help to raise the floor, create airflow and a warmer foundation for whatever flooring you choose, is just one example. In addition to an engineered subfloor product designed specifically for basements, contractors should provide several options for other finishing materials being considered, such as tiles, carpet, luxury vinyl tiles, laminate, bathroom and lighting fixtures, and so on.
4. Do you have any references I can contact?
Do not skip this step, no matter how uncomfortable you might be cold calling strangers. Checking a contractor’s references is an essential step before making any home or project hiring decision. You need to ask some important questions about the remodelling contractor’s quality of work and reliability. Here are just a few:
- Was the project done well?
- Was communication easy and was the contract clear but comprehensive?
- Did the job come in on time and on budget?
- Were you happy with the finished basement?
- And most importantly, would you hire him/her again?
5. Will I have a dedicated team working on my project?
Contracting companies often work on multiple projects at a time, so it’s important to verify that you can count on consistency regarding the personnel who come to work on your home each day.
Here are a few questions to ask:
- Will the same team be working on my home each day?
- Who will oversee the project?
- If you are working with subcontractors, what have you done to ensure they are qualified, and are they covered by your insurance?
- If you are not overseeing the project, how often will you check in on the progress?
6. Will you provide options for different materials and do you offer written warranties?
Most contractors offer a warranty or written guarantee on their work so customers know ahead of time what is covered, and how long the warranty will remain in effect. In addition, the products and materials used in your renovation may have a manufacturer’s warranty, and the contractor should provide a copy of this information before construction begins. An experienced contractor will provide several options to clients when it comes to materials and products, and in some cases, it might make sense to do your own shopping to see all the options available.
7. Will this project require a permit and if so, will you get it as well as arrange any inspections required?
Not every job requires permits or inspections, but any project that substantially changes the structure of the home does. The contractor should not only know what kind of permits you need and how to get them, but also be willing to get them for you.
8. Can you estimate how long this will take?
It’s important for homeowners to have a clear picture of when contractors will start and complete a project and be aware of any circumstances that might affect that schedule.
Here are a few additional questions that will further clarify your projected timeframe:
- Will you be working on other projects simultaneously, and could they impact our schedule?
- Are you waiting on any other bids to come in that could affect this job?
- If changes to timeline occur, how will they be addressed?