There are a couple questions we’ve been getting a lot we felt would be perfect to address together on the blog: How do you choose a general contractor or home builder? And what makes one home remodeling company different from another? These are both very broad, but we’ll address them in five parts: 1. Vetting your contractor or other home improvement expert, 2. Being flexible, 3. Property Inspection and what to look for, 4. Contracts and 5. How you can expect contractors to charge for their services.
Vetting Your Contractor
You want to have trust in your contractor, but you also shouldn’t be afraid to speak up. They’ll be working for you so be sure to address any concerns or additional services you may want/need prior to signing a contract.
Here are a few of the questions you’ll want to have in mind when vetting your contractor:
- When can the contractor start and do they have enough resources/bandwidth to commit to your job?
- Do you like this person?/Do your personalities jive well together?
- How long has the contractor been working in this industry?
- How many projects have they worked on and what type of projects?
- Has the contractor attended any type of formal training or continuing education?
- Is the contractor licensed to practice as a general contractor?
- Does the contractor have a valid workman’s comp insurance policy for their employees that will be on your site?
- If the contractor only employs subcontractors, do they have valid insurance and licenses?
- Does the contractor have insurance in case something in your home gets broken in the renovation and/or construction process?
- What is the projected timeline for the project?
- What happens if the construction goes past the stated finish date?
- How often will the contractor or his project manager stop by to check on the progress?
- Does the contractor plan to work on the project personally or assign a supervisor?
- How often should I be updated on progress?
- Who pulls the permits for a project?
- Who meets with the inspectors?
- What hours should I expect a contractor to work?
- Has the contractor been involved with any legal disputed following a previous job?
- Has the contractor previously operated as a contractor under a different name? I
- What is the payment schedule?
Knowing your schedule gives you a big-picture view of sequencing and deadlines- Are you planning a big event at the house, a wedding, an anniversary party? Is a new baby on the way? It’s already stressful to plan an event, not knowing if you’re going to make the deadline is adding unnecessary stress. Be mentally prepared for things to be delayed.
If someone tells you nothing will go wrong, hire someone else. Something always goes wrong in construction and the best defensive is a good offense. If your contractor can think on their feet and feels confident problem solving, they will work it out. Ask if them what the most challenging aspect of a project has been, and how they worked through the challenge. Have they ever worked on the problems they see occurring at your project?
Contracts with Your Home Remodeling Company
When the scope of work changes the process starts with what is called a “change order.” Change orders are a reality throughout projects because it’s likely you’ll change your mind about
what you want, add things or the project or financing takes a turn. Have a very clear clause in your contract about how the contractor will record, handle and bill for the change orders.
A contract is a good communication tool to make your project run as smoothly as possible, as it is a written understanding of what is expected from each side. It should be referred to throughout the process. Common contracts include elements like: a detailed work scope, line items for materials, the cost, and a termination clause. Any special requests, concerns or agreements should be written in the contract.
What are the termination terms? Either party, you or your contractor, should be able to stop work and a good contract will have written terms as to how this plays out.
How Contractors Should Charge
Once the contract is written, you and the contractor will work out a payment schedule that will keep the job moving forward and meet your financial capabilities.
A good contractor should be able to give you some very broad ranges of what past projects with similar scopes cost, but will not be able to give you an accurate estimate until you provide a specific set of plans from a designer or architect detailing exactly what will be done and what types of materials will be used. If someone gives you a firm quote without seeing plans, be careful. You could have a lot of change orders in your future, which will cost more time and money.