• Choosing a Remodeler

  • Ask the Right Questions: Find a Quality Remodeler

    As a homeowner, how can you find a quality remodeler these days? If you are trying to ensure a successful remodeling project, you need to do some probing with a very specific list of questions for your short list of prospective remodelers and their customers. The answers to these questions should help to narrow the field even further and lead you to a customer-focused, quality remodeler.

    "You are more likely to be satisfied by a remodeler focused on quality and customer satisfaction," according to Ed Caldeira, a remodeling industry expert. "You can find them by asking the right questions." To this end, Caldeira has as suggested group of questions that can help homeowners accomplish the ultimate goal: satisfaction with the finished job, whether the project is a remodeled kitchen or bath or a room addition or some other change to the house. In his capacity as director of quality programs at the NAHB Research Center, a subsidiary of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), Caldeira conducts extensive audits of remodelers cross the United States. He is the coordinator and one of the judges for National Remodeling Quality (NRQ) Awards, sponsored by NAHB's Remodelors Council and the NAHB Research Center.

    As is the case in most business situations, in order to make an educated decision, you need more information than may be provided initially by the remodeler. Two sets of questions will help probe beneath the surface of a newspaper ad or a listing in the yellow pages or a brochure. The first set of questions is for the remodeler and the second set is for his client referrals.

    Start by asking a couple of questions about the remodeler’s specific satisfaction ratings. Answers to questions like, "What are your customer satisfaction levels?" and, "How do you gauge satisfaction?" should be helpful indicators. Also ask what percent of business is repeat customers or referrals. Caldeira asserts that quality remodelers not only have good results, they think it is important to get customer satisfaction feedback and use it to improve. Remodelers who are particularly proud of their customer satisfaction ratings may show you completed client surveys.

    With this information in hand, move on to the timing question: "What do you do to make sure that the project will be completed on schedule?" Caldeira says a green light response includes the remodeler describing a well-planned remodeling process that leaves little to chance. He notes that quality remodelers have reliable, well-defined construction processes that prevent unpleasant and unnecessary surprises. The best remodelers have documented procedures.

    You also want to be able to depend on good workmanship quality. A remodeler worth consideration should be able to answer the question, "How do you make sure that workmanship quality is up to your standards?" Caldeira says quality remodelers have long-term relationships with qualified craftsmen and use a formal inspection process to constantly reinforce the company’s quality standards with these workers. Because the home remodeling industry is highly competitive, quality remodelers often "go the extra mile" to set themselves apart from their peers and to stay abreast of developing industry issues. Find out if your remodeler is active in a trade organization such as the NAHB Remodelors Council and if he has won any industry awards such as the National Remodeling Quality Award.

    Next, take into account that the remodeler you choose will be in your home, interacting with you and your family on a daily basis. Quality remodelers should be able to keep you satisfied throughout the construction process by keeping you informed of project status, addressing your concerns, respecting your privacy, and minimizing disruption to your day-to-day activities. Specifically ask how the remodeler will do these things.

    The last question for the remodeler, but certainly not the least important, is, "What happens if I discover a construction error after the warranty period?" Caldeira says quality remodelers stand behind their work even when a latent material or workmanship problem is discovered after the warranty period ends.

    To verify the accuracy of a remodeler's responses, ask for at least three referrals to people for whom the remodeler has done the same type of work. Since the remodeler will be providing the list of referrals, you would expect them to say they are satisfied with the work done. You should go beyond that and gather more in-depth details with questions, such as:

    • Is the finished project what you thought it would be? (The answer to this should tell you if the remodeler is good at communicating what you will ultimately get.)
    • Was the project completed on time? Were there any big surprises along the way? (These inquiries will help you gauge whether or not the remodeler’s processes are standardized and under control.)
    • Did you have to ask the remodeler to correct problems you found during the construction process? (The answer to this will show if the remodeler has high quality standards.)
    • As the job progressed, how did the remodeler keep you informed and address any of your concerns? (This speaks to the remodeler’s desire to keep customers satisfied from start to finish.)
    • Did you have cause to call the remodeler back after the job was complete? For what reason? How long did it take to resolve the problem? (This will help you see if the remodeler stands behind his work.)
    •  What changes, if any, would you make if you could do the job again? (This question will garner useful information about the remodeler’s design expertise and ability to anticipate your needs.)


    Armed with the answers to all of these questions, you should be able to sift through potential remodelers and find one with high quality standards. The NAHB Research Center constantly strives to promote high standards of quality in remodelers and builders, as well as in the products these professionals use. For a list of National Remodeling Quality Award Winners, contact the ToolBase Hotline at (800) 898-2842, or Ask an Expert online at www.nahbrc.org.

    The NAHB Research Center is the not-for-profit research arm of the National Association of Home Builders, and is located in Upper Marlboro, MD. In its nearly 40 years of service to the home building industry, the Research Center has provided product research and building process improvements that have been widely adopted by home builders in the United States. Through testing and certification services, the NAHB Research Center seal is recognized throughout the world as a mark of product quality and an assurance of product performance.