7 Essential Questions to Ask a Builder Before Hiring Them

Building and remodeling are big undertakings. These types of projects are exciting, and we want you to feel that excitement as the experience should be a fun one.

We enjoy what we do and it’s important to us that the experience for our clients is equally enjoyable. There are so many decisions to make with a new build or remodel…

Take a deep breath.

The number one thing you’ll want to do in the pre-planning stages is to do some in-depth research before hiring a custom home builder by asking the right questions. Knowing which questions to ask a potential contractor can help you to feel much more secure in the decision-making process, helping you to make a confident decision in who to ultimately work with.

Cheryl and Jeff Smith of Smith Brothers Construction1
Jeff & Cheryl Smith at a Job Site

Here are 7 questions to ask a home builder before hiring them:

Question #1 – Are you insured and can you provide validity of this?

This one might seem an obvious question to ask a contractor before working with them, but you’d be surprised how many people skip this simple yet all-important question…and often end up suffering for it. A good, reputable contractor will be happy to show and proof of insurance. They will often showcase this on their website, marketing materials, and even offer it up in conversation, which only adds to their credibility. Do yourself a huge favor and ask them if they’re insured, regardless of whether or not they were referred to you by even your best friend.

The homes we build are in California and Hawaii, and we’re fully insured in both states.

Question #2 – Do you use certain subcontractors on a consistent basis, and can you provide me with a list?

Most construction companies utilize the skills and expertise of trusted subcontractors to help complete the job. Here at Smith Brothers we may do construction, architecture, and interior design, and self perform many of the trades, but we still subcontract some of the work because it is efficient.

Hiring trusted professionals in a particular field will help ensure the quality of the work completed is done with the utmost precision to better deliver exceptional results. Our team has built a solid reputation with the subcontractors and tradespeople we work with, many of whom we’ve worked with for years. They are insured and we trust them.

Question #3 – Will you provide me with a full list of references?

A good builder will happily provide you with a list of solid references. This is not an unrealistic expectation. Ask for a list of recent references (clients they’ve worked with within the past 2-3 years), as this would be the most relevant and up-to-date. In addition, create a list of specific questions you’d like to ask these individuals to help guide the conversation and keep it productive. Ask questions regarding timelines, communication, and quality of the work they received. Keep in mind that some delays are unpredictable, but previous clients can offer insight into how their timelines were affected and more importantly, how well the builder communicated the details throughout the process.

Lastly, a good builder will also happily showcase their work by either providing photo’s, and maybe even a tour of homes they’ve built, if the owner is willing.

Questions #4 – Do you offer the ability to work on an ‘allowance system’ rather than adhering to a ‘package deal’?

A builder who is open to ‘allowances’ gives you control of the selection of supplies and control over the budget. Whereas a builder who offers a fixed bid will have a set number of specific items that you can choose from. We like to offer both choices for our clients and work with them to help them decide what will ultimately be the best option for them. 

Allowances, on the other hand, offer the ability for you to set the cost for the project that works within your overall budget. You’ll have the freedom to choose from the builders suggested materials at his quoted price, or go with something you’ve specifically chosen for your project. If you decide to go with a fixture that is less expensive than the ‘allowance,’ the difference is credited back to you—not to the builder.

For example, you may spend less on the flooring so that you now have funds to allow for a desired upgrade elsewhere. Ultimately you have the freedom to spend the money where you want to spend it. 

In our humble opinion, we feel that ‘allowance based’ systems are best, as you should ultimately make the decisions on what you want in your home.

Question #5 – Do you offer a warranty? If so, what is the time period for the warranty?

An experienced builder anticipates that problems can occur. Homes are very intricately designed structures that involved a handful of different people to build, so unforeseen issues can happen. With this in mind, a trusted builder should have a plan in place to take care of these issues within a respectable amount of time.

We offer a 10-year warranty on our projects.

Question #6 – Do you offer specification sheets of the intended materials to be used in a home build or remodel? Will you be able to supply me with samples or showcase them?

Knowing, seeing, touching and feeling the materials that will be used in the construction of your home is pretty crucial. A good builder will to offer you what we call ‘specification sheets’ of all materials that will be used, along with samples that you can see, touch and feel. Certain materials come with specific warranties that you’ll want to be fully aware of before purchasing.

For example, a kitchen countertop may have a 20 to 25-year limited warranty, depending on the brand. A good builder knows how to communicate all of these details to their clients.

Question #7: Are you involved with your clients throughout the entire process, from groundbreaking to completion, and even with the warranty of construction labor?

Our best advice here, seek out a builder who will be involved in the entire process— from design, to planning, construction, and follow-up. The builders’ warranty should cover the labor involved in the construction of a custom home build or remodel. Keep in mind, however, that this is separate from material warranties. Regardless, a well-respected builder will still be involved 100% and is available to communicate with you, even after you’ve moved in!

If you enjoyed this blog you may want to read our blog about, “Prioritizing Home Improvement Projects.

Smith Brothers Construction is a unique team of construction craftsmen, architects, and interior designers. Since 1978, we stress the absolute highest levels of quality, performance, value and service in each and every project. Our award-winning design ideas, expertise, and collective experience allow us to provide the very best in what we do. For more information please contact us at 877-230-0333, (+01) 858-350-1445, or


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