What to Expect When You are Expecting a Contractor
Looking for a commercial or residential construction company can be exhausting. You want to ensure that whoever you hire is the best company for the job at hand.
Know What You Want
As the client, you are the one driving the process. Before speaking with Contractors, spend time thinking about your goals for the project -- what it might look like, the amenities you want, and so on. If you don't know how to translate your goals into specific features or products, hire a design-build firm that can offer that service too.
Why Contractor Quotes Vary Drastically
Contractors cannot offer a correct fixed price because there are too many unknowns about the job, so try to eliminate as many of the unknowns as possible. For example, have them open up a wall to examine the skeleton of your house where the add-ons would happen.
Request to define the project specs to include only what he expects to do with the mutual understanding that if additional work is needed, you will get a change order — a written mini-bid for new work after the project has been started. This is common in the construction industry and it is the reason quotes vary by thousands of dollars. The cheapest quote also means they are not being conscientious of the realities that may come later to blow your budget when you were not prepared for unexpected expense(s).
Costs for all of the various elements of the job should include:
- Demolition and hauling trash
- Electrical work
- Tiling and floor covering installations
- Lighting fixtures
- Drywall and painting
- Finish carpentry
- Clean up
Contractors will often give you a fixed bid, but some work may be on a "cost plus" basis, charging you for materials, time/labor, and an administrative or overhead fee for their time managing those aspect of your project. “Cost plus” is sometimes a legitimate alternative, but it should have a cap or some provision to contain cost overruns that exceed your max budget.
Reputation Has More Value Than Price
Reputable and therefore trustworthy Contractors in trade locally for five or ten years will have an established network of subcontractors and suppliers in the area and a local reputation to uphold. That makes them a safer choice.
Ask for a business card with a real street address, not just a post office box, and get references from one or two early projects and some current customers. This will help you verify consistency and honor.
You should also vet their background by verifying their credentials and insist on a detailed contract before making a hiring decision.
Personality Is Prettier Than Price
You’re going to be spending a lot of time with this contractor, so when you make your decision, think about whether you feel comfortable with their personality, background, methods, and communication skills. Is everyone clear about the project at hand and on the same page? If not, you could end up disappointed, frustrated, and possibly out several thousand dollars beyond what you budgeted for.
Set Job Site Boundaries
Let the company know you expect routine precautions. Also, establish some ground rules about parking, bathroom use, smoking, and other issues that might concern you.
Have A Resolution Strategy
Any contractor you hire will become part of your life for at least the duration of the project. Make sure you pick someone with whom you can communicate, and trust your gut if first impressions leave you feeling uneasy. Reputable professionals will insist on clear written agreements in order to protect both parties.
During initial meetings, ask how unexpected issues or differences might be handled. This can include change orders (these should always be in writing, with cost issues directly noted) or more serious disputes, such as unintended damage or a failure to meet legal or reasonable standards.