It is important to decide what questions to ask a home builder or contractor before asking them to make bids to build your home. You will want to ask for bids from at least three different home builders before you decide which one will be building your home. You should ask all three of them the same questions, and explain the home you want to build in exactly the same way. Be specific about what you want.
One good strategy is to make a statement and then ask a question. Below is a list of statements followed by questions, which are good examples of the need to clarify what you want before stating your questions.
• I prefer for my home to be built with two by six inch studs, not two by four. Is that something your company routinely does?
• I think floor joists should be at least two by ten inch lumber placed at least 16 inches on center. What size floor joists do you generally use in a home and how far are they spaced?
• I want an energy efficient structure. What sort of insulation do you use? I am interested in closed cell insulation, and radiant barrier attic insulation. Do you commonly install closed cell insulation?
• I am interested in insulated concrete panels, with at least five inches of polyurethane insulation. Have you ever worked with ICPs that thick? Do you have a supplier who can obtain them for our project?
• I understand that building with ICFs or ICPs is much faster than traditional construction. How long would it take you to get my home under roof?
• I have been reading about ___ brand of SIPs on line. Have you ever used that brand of SIP before? Which brands do you prefer?
State your preference between basement, crawl space or slab, and inquire whether this is agreeable with the contractor. Listen to what he recommends, and discuss depths and thicknesses of concrete involved in footings and the height of the foundation wall. Make a note of what he says. Express your preferences, and note any differences in his opinions from yours. Often, climate and soil conditions in the area, dictate these types of decisions, so ask him about which is best for your climate and soil.
• Ask if the company offers any sort of warranty on the home.
• Explain that you want a detailed list of materials and specifications along with the quote.
• Ask if the company is insured against losses and accidents, or if you will be required to obtain the insurance for the job site.
• Ask if you will be required to sign an arbitration clause. If he says yes, politely walk out. Never sign an arbitration clause.
It is important to be friendly with the contractor, but it is equally important to be clear about what you want and what you expect from him. Be sure to explain your dream house in detail, and make it clear that you already have a firm idea in mind of what you want. You should welcome any suggestions or advice he might offer, but stay true to your basic concept in home design. Remember what questions to ask a home builder, in order to get the home you want.