You have decided to have your tile and grout cleaned. Do you know what you should ask tile and grout restoration candidates to ensure the best and longest lasting results? Following is a list of questions to help you prepare for the interview process.
1. What training have you had?
When hiring any contractor the more informed you are about the service you need, the better off you are. As with any profession the proper training is extremely important. This is especially true when using chemicals and colors. The wrong chemical or method can ruin your tile and grout. A properly trained company has received hands on training in these application processes. Be sure to ask any prospective contractor about their training and certification.
2. Are you insured?
Ask for proof. Have him show you a certificate of insurance, or, if the job is large enough, have his insurance company send you one. Be sure he carries liability and workers’ compensation insurance. Any reputable company will carry both.
3. Do You Carry Workers Compensation Insurance?
Workers Compensation Insurance protects you from liability if a worker is injured while on your property. Be aware that if the contractor does not carry workers compensation coverage, you will be liable for any injuries suffered by the contractor or any of his employees on your property.
If the contractor is a one-man operation, he can be exempt from having to carry workers compensation insurance. Ask him to show you his certificate of exemption from workers compensation. This is very risky for you though. If he shows up with a helper and the helper gets hurt, with no workers compensation insurance, you may have to pay the medical bills. If the uninsured contractor is sloppy about verifying his sub-contractors workers compensation insurance and the sub-contractor gets hurt, again you may have to pay the medical bills.
4. Can you supply me with a list of references?
Ask for references—and check them. Many contractors in all fields have references, but you’d be surprised how rarely they are actually checked. Call at least two and ask if the contractor did a good job. Were there any problems and, if so, did he correct them? Were his employees professional? Were the surrounding areas carefully protected?
5. What Professional Organizations Are You A Member Of?
Well established companies are affiliated with professional organizations. For the stone and tile industry, it might be Stone and Tile PROS, The Marble Institute of America, or the IICRC, among others. In all cases, these organizations only attract conscientious contractors interested in bettering the industry and in weeding out unprofessional contractors. In order to become a member, the contractor’s background and references are thoroughly investigated. While a new contractor may not be a member of any professional organizations, it is highly unlikely an established contractor would not be a member of at least one, unless there is a reason that he cannot join.
What are the risks? While the risks may be minor, there are contractors that just don’t belong to any professional organizations, they are the rare exception and the vast majority of substantial companies do belong, because they understand the benefits of continuing education and peer review.
6. What cleaning method do you use?
Ask each company what styles of cleaning they offer and if they use non-toxic cleaners and chemicals. Ask the company what they will do if the tile becomes damaged or if they cannot get the tile cleaned. Ask the company if they also offer grout or tile replacement and if they seal their work afterward. In addition to this, each company should present a cost estimate up front and also estimate the time necessary to complete the job.
7. What are your work practices?
It can’t be stressed enough how important this information can be to you. Ask questions such as how do they perform their work? What time do they start? How will they protect your carpets and surrounding cabinetry, etc.? How will the trash and debris be handled? The answers to these questions will give you a clear picture of what type of contractor you are dealing with.
Is their contract simple and straight forward? Simple doesn’t mean it is right, and complicated doesn’t mean it is wrong, but the bottom line is if you can’t understand it, or it is too complicated, make sure to get a clear understanding — in writing.
(The following questions apply to Color Sealing jobs specifically)
9. Does the Color Seal Product you use have constant acting mildewcides or is it a color/dye only?
If you are going to have your grout Color Sealed you want to get the best value and quality possible.
10. What kind of guarantee can I expect if I have my grout color sealed?
Don’t hesitate to trust your gut feeling—are you comfortable with the contractor? This is much more important than you might think.
And on a final note: According to Consumer Reports – The biggest mistake consumers make is “being seduced by the price alone.” Would you hire the cheapest surgeon in town to operate on you or a member of your family? There is a saying, “Some of the most expensive work you will ever pay for is cheap work.” Consider that your home is your biggest investment, and you should always think long-term. Consider the consequences of saving a few dollars now will have over 3, 5 or 10 years of living there.
Your most important tool in evaluating the cost of a project is the value of what you are getting for your money. Low prices are usually a trade off for cutting corners in materials, workmanship, warranty or adequate insurances. Remember that most average jobs can look good when completed. The true test is how will they hold up over the next 18 months, 5 years, 10 years? Did the contractor use a quality product or just paint over your grout lines and within a year the paint will begin to peel? These differences are usually the difference between a lower and a higher estimate.