What questions to ask contractors?

piscesgirlApril 10, 2012

We are in the process of planning out our first major remodel and are currently setting up contractor visits for bids on the job.

What types of questions should I be asking contractors to determine if they know what they are doing?

I am not looking to trip them up...I just want to make sure sure they are using the correct materials and they are doing the job the correct way.

FYI - Some of the things our bathroom job includes...

Gut down to studs

Moving toilet plumbing over 5 inches or so

Move shower plumbing to different wall

Install ceiling fan (currently no fan in place)

Installing a tiled 36 x 48 shower

Install heated floor and tiling floor

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I'm a Plumbing & Heating Contractor, and you can start by saving money on buying the fixtures and faucets on your own. But please keep in mind that you're responsible for any return trips for defective fixtures and faucets.

I've found that online retailers are beating my price at the supply house for faucets, so you might want to start there. Stick with brand named faucets, and leave the $60.00 faucets on the shelf where they belong. Sticking with brand names will be beneficial to you for warranty issues down the road. You want your Plumber to be able to get parts for you if need be.

Moving a toilet could be one of your biggest concerns (money wise) cause it might not be feasible. Venting comes into play, and so does the rest of your drain lines in the floor. It's not just a simple "Hey let's move the toilet over here"...there is a lot involved with that, so keep that in mind. Any licensed Plumber should tell you the same thing. However, 5" shouldn't be that much of a concern...but it could be.

Shower Plumbing shouldn't be an issue at all, but keep in mind water lines are not allowed by any code to be on an outside wall if that's what you're thinking. Shower drain should be cut and dry.

If you have copper in your home, keep in mind the price of copper is through the roof right now. Pex would be an alternative...and don't even think about CPVC...it's junk. If you have CPVC, you can adapt Pex if you want, but you can also stay with CPVC.

Everything else you listed seems cut and dry.

Good Luck on your project.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 1:29AM
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I got a lot of my questions from reading the experiences of others on this board. One of my big questions was "who will be the lead person on this job; what is his background; will he be here every day to supervise the subs?" Also, how do they handle communication with you? There are tiny decisions that crop up along the way and you don't want them to assume to know what you want. And there's things that are discovered once the walls are open; for example, if your home is older, your tub drain may not be vented and it will need to be brought up to today's code - you want to understand what their policies are. And you want it all in a written contract. You want to make sure that they pull all the required building permits; otherwise you as the homeowner bear all responsibility.

I can't totally agree with the first poster with respect to pricing. I had priced out my plumbing fixtures and tile online; for the plumbing, the material cost was only $50 more than I could have found online; that's a small price to pay for giving them the responsibility of ownership should something go wrong with the hardware. The tile came in at more than $100 less than my cheapest source.

I'd ask about the system they use for waterproofing the shower, and what they suggest for re-insulating the walls.

I'm sure there's more, but that's where I'd start.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 8:31AM
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We got plumbing fixtures cheaper from the local dealer (with our GC's discount) than we could have gotten them online. We paid about the same for tile as we would have paid online, but the advantage to us in getting it local was that since it was open stock we were able to return what we didn't need which amounted to about $150 worth of tile. Our GC worked out a plan that did not involve moving the toilet which he said would have cost more than all the rest of the plumbing we were having done.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 10:47AM
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ozone89 - thanks for the tips. We actually are requesting for quotes for labor only. Mainly becuase we are still in the process of making decisions and I know it will be cheaper online. We plan on buying all the tile, fixtures, etc ourselves and just leave the labor and hard materials (drywall, etc.) to the contractor.

We are not looking at cheap fixtures...Newport Brass, Cifial, Jado, etc...the high end brands. I do agree it is cheaper online. Our first quote we got from Ferguson on Newport Brass and then I determined it would cost me half...yes half, if I purchased online.

Our neighbor has the same house and bathroom layout and they moved their toilet, so I know it can be done. It does cost extra but they said it was the best decision they made.

Any other tips? I am really interested in questions on how they are building shower pans, what materials they should be using, etc. Again, I want to make sure I am hiring someone who knows what they are doing. Thanks!

    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 11:19AM
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Get references from everyone you interview - and check them. Good word of mouth is valuable to a reputable contractor. Bad word of mouth is even more powerful. Ask your neighbors who, if anyone they used, as well as who they didn't use - and why. Oh, and you will not get anything but retail pricing at Ferguson - but your GC may get a deep discount.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 12:32PM
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You can find a lot of information about the right way to build tile showers by searching threads here and over at John Bridge forums. Once you go over what the right way to do your job is, you will be able to better understand what the contractor is telling you and whether the deviation he takes makes sense from your perspective.
However, be warned that the pros who post here and on the other forums are likely to be more knowledegable than any contractor that you come across. That's what I found in my area when I interviewed 10 different contractors for our job. Once you have figured out what your job entails, put down every step in writing. I have found that contractors are very agreeable before they bid for the job but once they start won't change their procedures..very frustrating!!
Good Luck.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 11:24PM
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