Are you suffering from anxiety about working with a contractor? Are you afraid of giant overages? Will the finished space actually be done to your specification or will the contractor have robbed you and your clients of your vision by going over budget and making decisions without you?
Worry no more. Here are 8 tips on how to make your experience the best it can be.
#1: Make sure you are working with an honest contractor.
"You cannot make a good deal with a bad person." (Zig Ziglar). No matter how good the sales pitch sounds, make sure your contractor is honest. It may sound like a scare tactic, but it is a simple hard fact that contractors can take advantage of a large, detailed purchase such as a home, not to mention simply taking your money and running.
#2: Make sure your contractor is a good communicator.
Many HONEST contractors have surprised their clients with extra costs at the end of the project simply because they didn't communicate what a change would cost. You don't want to be told "You're doing fine." and then have extra cost at the end. Get specifics. Along with communicating well with you, a contractor needs to be a good listener. In the end, you want your vision is executed. Make sure your contractor is a good listener.
#3: Make sure your contractor is organized.
An organized contractor is more likely to have accurate cost information when you ask for it, and is prepared to help you make decisions on time. The best contractors have master lists of all the decisions that need to be made so you can simply work down the checklist.
#4: Make sure your contractor is experienced.
Does your contractor know HOW to build? How long has their company been in business? Are their subcontractors experienced? Experienced contractors can deliver a better product, and if they are honest and organized, they can deliver it on time and on budget.
#5: Understand that your contractor has to make a fair living.
Construction work of any sort is tough work. No contractor can afford to lose money, even honest, clear communicating, organized contractors. It is not in your best interest for them to feel they are donating parts of the home to your worthy cause. Contractors who are able to make a fair living will be more likely to put that "something extra" into your project, less likely to cut corners, and more likely to take care of you when service is needed after the sale.
#6: Be organized yourself.
Have decisions made well in advance of each stage of the construction process. A decision about grout color seems like a small thing, but consider this. Special colors have to be ordered in advance. If the subcontractor is scheduled to start monday, and finds out too late that the grout color is going to be different, he may have to wait several days for it to be delivered. Since he was ready to start, he may have his crew already loaded for or on the job. He also may not have his next job prepared. Your lack of preparedness may have cost him the opportunity to make a fair living on this day, or it may have caused your price to increase because of the money he spent doing nothing. Even if you have a set price on his work, it is in your best interest to work with contractors in a way that they can make a fair living. If they begin to feel pinched cost-wise, they will be tempted to cut corners, and will certainly become less willing to put that "something extra" into your project. Being organized helps your contractor complete your project on time and make a fair living, which leads to a better built product that everyone is proud of in the end.
#7: Choose honest allowances.
There is something intrinsically flawed about developing a plan for a wellbuilt, stylish space with all the personalized creature comforts, and then putting the plan out to bid with multiple contractors. Each contractor wants the project, and so they will bid in $3 per square foot for floor covering, $50 per light fixture, etc. In the end, you will be forced to sacrifice what the client really wants, or go over every allowance in order to get quality features.
#8:Inspect the project yourself.
Be proactive. Build time into your schedule to stop by the project on a regular basis (daily or every other day) during times when the construction is active, even if it means giving up evening activities during the time of your construction. You will be the first to notice if a wall is in the wrong place, if a window got missed, or if they didn't wire properly for your double oven. In addition to catching mistakes, you can make sure that the project is staying on schedule. The squeaky wheel gets the oil. This is true. And you can be a squeaky wheel without being a jerk by simply asking "Where is the drywall crew today. You had said they would be here today. When should I really expect them." Even honest, communicating, organized, and experienced contractors will miss details and fall behind schedule. When mistakes are caught early, and the project stays on schedule, it is cheaper for everyone involved and the result is more satisfying.
By Trent Schrock
Photography by Gabriel Blaj
For more information on this and other related topics, visit www.paragonlandscaping.com. Trent Schrock is the Founder and President of Paragon Landscape, Inc., a full-service landscape company providing Landscape Design, Construction, and Maintenance for fine homes, parks, and corporate settings in Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio. For more information or a free estimate, visit http://www.paragonlandscaping.com.