You've finally decided to get the work done. That leaky roof or wonky staircase isn't going to fix itself. But before you go calling tradesmen left, right and centre to get your home improvement project underway, you need to be prepared. As any homeowner knows, renovation quotes can vary wildly, and you want to make sure you're getting an accurate estimate for the work.

Asking the right questions is key. If you go into the process blind, you could end up seriously out of pocket by the time the job's done. Take it from me, doing your research and due diligence upfront will save you a lot of headache (and heartache) later on. In this article, I'm going to share 10 essential questions you must ask to get the most precise quote possible for your home renovation project. Let's dive in!

What Should You Ask When Getting Project Estimates?

When getting estimates for a home project, asking the right questions is key to getting accurate quotes and avoiding surprises.

What's included in the estimate?

Make sure the estimate includes all parts, materials and labour for the complete job. Ask if there are any additional costs or fees not listed. Get specifics on what brands, types and quantities of materials will be used.

Who's responsible for permits?

Find out if the contractor will obtain the necessary permits or if that's your responsibility. Permit fees can add significantly to the total cost, so you want to budget for them.

What's your timeline?

Ask for an estimated start and completion date. Make sure the timeline works with your schedule and any other tradesmen or deliveries involved in the project. Inquire about potential delays from weather conditions or material/labour shortages.

Do you guarantee your work?

Reputable contractors will guarantee parts, workmanship and labour for a minimum of 1-2 years. Ask about the details of their guarantee or warranty to ensure there are no loopholes.

Can I get references from past clients?

Always check reviews and ask for references from previous customers, especially for projects similar to yours. Call a few to get a sense of the contractor's work quality, service and timeliness.

Asking the right questions will help set the right expectations and minimise the chance of misunderstandings, additional fees or subpar work. Do your due diligence for an accurate estimate and a successful project!

Top 10 Questions to Ask Builders for Accurate Estimates

When getting estimates for home improvement projects, you'll want to ask the right questions to determine accurate costs and timelines. Here are the top 10 questions to ask builders for reliable estimates:

1. What's included in the estimate?

Make sure you understand exactly what's covered in the initial estimate, like materials, labour, permits, etc. Ask if there are any exclusions or additional fees not listed. Get estimates in writing and review the fine print.

2. How much experience do you have with projects like this?

An experienced contractor will be better equipped to provide an accurate estimate and high-quality work. Ask about similar jobs they've done and if you can see photos. Experience matters.

3. What's your timeline for completion?

Understand how long the work is expected to take so you can plan accordingly. Ask if there are any variables that may impact the schedule. Make sure timelines seem reasonable based on the scale of work.

4. What are the payment terms?

Typically, contractors require an upfront deposit to secure materials and schedule work, then progress payments during the job. Be wary of contractors asking for full payment upfront. Payment terms should be clearly outlined in the contract before signing.

5. What permits or inspections are needed?

Don't get caught off guard by unexpected permit fees or inspection costs. Ask if council permits and inspections are included in the estimate and who is responsible for obtaining them. If there is a wind (tie down or uplift), water (collect, flow, capture) restraint (retaining walls over 1m high) function attached to your project you can bet an approval is required. Failure to obtain proper permits can lead to legal issues and fines.

6. What warranties or guarantees do you offer?

Reputable contractors will offer warranties on workmanship and materials. Ask about the details of any warranties or guarantees to understand what's covered and for how long. Warranties provide peace of mind in case any issues come up.

7. Can I see references from previous clients?

Speaking with references is one of the best ways to assess a contractor. Ask if the contractor has references from clients who had similar work done. Actually, call the references and ask about their experience.

8. Do you have insurance and proper licences?

Make sure any contractor you hire is properly licensed, insured, and bonded to work in your area. Ask for proof of certification and insurance to protect yourself in case of any issues. Grab their license number and run an online search and be sure to only hire licensed trad contractors.

9. What is the scope of work?

The larger the project, the higher the cost. Be very specific in defining the scope of work. For example, are you doing a minor kitchen remodel with new cabinets and countertops or a major overhaul with layout changes? Get multiple quotes for the work based on the detailed scope.

10a. What are the costs of materials?

Account for all necessary materials in your budget, including fixtures, flooring, countertops, tile, lighting, plumbing, etc. Get price estimates from home improvement stores for materials you'll source yourself. Have contractors provide a materials cost breakdown in their quotes. Expect fluctuations in material prices and add a 10% buffer.

10b, What labour costs are involved?

Labour often makes up 50-60% of the total project cost. Get quotes from licensed and insured contractors that include an estimate of total labour hours required for your specific job. Make sure any subcontractors needed, like electricians or plumbers, are also included in the quotes. Compare rates between contractors to determine a reasonable price range for your area.

10c. What are the hidden costs?

There are always unexpected costs with home renovations. Add a 10-20% contingency fund to your budget to account for surprises like water damage or wiring issues. It's better to overestimate your budget to avoid going into debt or leaving the project unfinished. You can then allocate any leftover funds to upgrades or additions to the scope of work.


So there you have it, 10 questions you absolutely must ask to get accurate estimates for any home improvement project. By arming yourself with the right information upfront, you'll avoid nasty surprises down the line and ensure the job gets done properly the first time.

Take control of the process, do your research, and don't be afraid to press contractors for details. Your home is your biggest investment, so make sure any work done on it meets your standards.

Staying on top of the details may require some effort, but you'll sleep better at night knowing there won't be any unexpected costs or shoddy workmanship. The bottom line? Knowledge is power - so start asking the right questions!