If you are looking at building a new house or at a remodel to your existing property, working with a contractor can have its ups and downs. While dealing with a professional contractor can be a great experience, hiring a shady contractor can end up in a bad situation. The general rule-of-thumb for building is that materials usually account for about 40 percent of the total bid cost. The remaining costs encompass overhead and profit margin (which is generally in the neighborhood of 15 to 20 percent). Here are some items to consider when hiring a contractor:
Choosing the Right Person for the Job
Always do some background research before just hiring any contractor. Ask to speak with past clients, see testimonials or go online to see any reviews on popular building related associations or other related websites. While a contractor may give you an inexpensive bid, it may be that cheap for a reason. Make sure that the contractor is reputable within the community and has an excellent network of sub-contractors to work with. Financial references are always good to verify too. Check in with banks or lumber stores that the contractor works with to verify that they are in good standing financially. The Better Business Bureau and also the state’s Consumer Protection Agency should also be contacted to see if any complaints have been filed against the contractor. Additionally, you should ask a variety of questions when interviewing a contractor. Here are some examples:
- How many projects do they currently have going?
- Do they take on projects like yours?
- If new construction, you can usually find out a rough estimate of cost to build per square foot
- How long have they been in the construction industry?
- What is their philosophy for working with sub-contractors and clients?
Once you have narrowed it down to the top 2 or 3 contractors on your list, ask to visit one of their current job sites or explore past work completed. This will allow you to see the quality of their work and also if it is a job site, how neat they keep it.
Prepare for an Allowance
No, we don’t mean the kind of allowance that came from completing your chores when you were young. Rather, a contractor will put allowances in the bid for you to choose materials and products for the project. An example may be an allowance for kitchen cabinetry or a master bathroom shower. Obviously, you can spend less than the actual allowance, the full amount of the allowance or go over the allowance. An allowance basically serves as a placeholder in the budget until the finishes are chosen.
Keep an Open Line of Communication
A lot of things can happen throughout the construction process. Therefore, it’s important to have a good line of communication with a contractor to be kept in the loop with everything going on. Make sure that you are kept up-to-date with frequent progress reports to ensure that the project is on time and on budget.
While it’s the last thing that you probably want to do, documenting the process can serve not only as a journal of sorts, but also to refer back to in case anything comes up. If something comes up that the contractor asks for more money or time, then you need to be able to document it.
It’s important to frequently visit the job site to ensure that the project is not only on track, but everything is being done according to the construction plan. By monitoring progress, you can ensure that doors, windows, etc. are in all of the right places according to how you wanted them installed. Additionally, it also allows you to check in on the quality of the craftsmanship and that everything is up to your standards.