Friday, May 18, 2012

Now That I Have A Contractor

Congratulations, you have selected a contractor for your project!  Now what?  Well, there are some details that are important to know in this next phase.

Here are some questions and things to ask and consider:

1.      What is your budget?
Contractors generally tie their costs and expenses to the materials and features selected, labor costs, timeframes, also known as deadlines and the level of quality you expect.  You should be up front and candid about these so that your budget remains within what you can afford to get your project done. Also plan on a contingency fund of 10-15% to cover unforeseen expenses.

2.      What features of the project is primary, secondary and just wishful thinking?
Remember, there is a fine line or rather The Continental Divide between what you want and what you can afford.  Be practical when figuring out what you really need and can swing financially done versus what you would like yet is way out of your budget.  Both you and the contractor will be happier in the long run. Remember something can always be added at a later time when the funds become available.

3.      What can or should I expect with a bid proposal?
In the cases of contractor proposals, brevity is not a virtue.  A professional and responsible contractor will include all of the details with the actual steps needed to be taken in a bid.  Further, the responsibilities of all parties involved (the home owner, contractor and subs) need to be clearly defined in writing.  And, the necessary prevention steps to protect your home from any dust or other unforeseen damage should be included in the bid.

4.       How many bids should I get and which bid do I chose?
If you have worked with the contractor before or have experienced their work one bid may suffice.  Otherwise, my recommendation is getting a maximum of four bids on larger projects.  One bid will be a goofball who really isn’t interested in the project.  There is usually a significantly higher bid as well as an extremely lower bid with other bids somewhere in the middle. Those contractors with little interest in your project will often bid higher just to cover their costs and see if anyone “bites.”  Low bidders are often appealing to cost-conscious clients who may not be aware that the contractor has left out certain features or will recoup his profits with substituting sub-standard products and labor, leading to excessive and expensive change orders when the client is up against the wall during the construction phase.

What you need to look for are those bids from quality, competent contractors.  If you have done your research on which they are, you should know that they are reputable and their bids should be within the ballpark of the others. Smaller contractors are usually in better control of job costs and will produce a fairer bid without the costs of higher overhead and profit margins.

What is their process for change orders? Changes are inevitable. It is important to know how, when, at what cost and who is responsible for the changes that need to be made.

By following these suggestions and asking some important questions, your project will operate that much smoother and both you and the contractor will know expectations, costs and timelines.  Communication is the most valuable component in any remodeling project.

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© Architecturally Speaking 2012

Monday, May 7, 2012

An Easy Guide to Selecting the Appropriate Contractor for Your Next Remodeling Project

You’ve decided that your remodeling project needs to get done.  Now you need to determine which contractor is the best man or woman for your needs.  Making sure that you do your homework and take the time to follow some simple guidelines will result in a successful relationship for you and the contractor.

Following these simple steps can save you time and potential aggravation:  

Who are your friends using or recommending?
Word of mouth referrals from friends or family are at the top of the list when choosing a contractor.  If they like their work and you have seen what their contractor has done, this is a huge testament to the contractor.  Chances are high that if your friends or family liked them, you will too.

How long has the business been around?
Another important question to ask is how long has the contractor been in business?  Do they have a credible website?  You want to make sure that their history is solid and what they purport it to be.  Check for onsite testimonials.

What type of car does the contractor drive?

Yes, I said to make sure what type of ride the contractor has.  Hopefully he or she is driving a late model van or pickup truck which is common since reputable contractors need to house their tools and supplies in their vehicle.  If they drive a Hummer or something as impractical, you may want to think twice about handing over a hefty down payment that may be spent on something else other than your job.

Check your local Chamber of Commerce or other community organizations

Your local chamber of commerce can be a tremendous resource for credentialing your potential contractor as well as finding one to use.  Most established contractors are members of local organizations like a chamber of commerce.

Check out the insurance ($0, $150K or $2 mil)

It is important that your contractor is insured.  In the event that anything should happen, you certainly don’t want to assume any liability, or worse, not be able to get it corrected because the contractor carried no insurance.  Insurance amounts can range from $150K to in excess of $2 million.  What’s your house worth? It is your responsibility to make sure that they are insured and have the valid documentation to prove such.

Make sure that you can review a portfolio of recent projects

If the contractor has a credible website, they should have an updated portfolio of their recent projects.  By viewing their work online you can have a better sense of their work and how the finished product looks.

In some cases, contractors may be able to take you to past clients’ homes to see their work.

Make sure that your contractor is certified

As simple as this seems, many people make the assumption that the contractor that they are working with is certified and trained.  Ask to see their credentials.  Certification indicates additional training and continuing education insures current knowledge of the contractor. Architecturally Speaking has the following credentials:

  • NAHB - National Association of Home Builders
  • CAPS - Certified Aging In Place Specialist
  • NAHI - National Association of Home Inspectors
  • CRI - Certified Residential Inspector
  • Illinois State Licensed Home Inspector
  • Degreed Architect
Taking the time to follow these steps when selecting a contractor can make a significant difference in the end result!