Preparation is the key to succeeding with your project. Spending some time analyzing your project before you begin will go a long way as the project begins and is completed. Even for the seasoned remodeling veteran, starting a new remodeling project can be daunting and enter an area of "uncharted" waters. To help our clients, we have prepared some useful tips for our client's as they brainstorm their project, select a contractor and manage the project.
- Have a good idea of what you want accomplished. If possible, put together some sketches of the remodel or addition. Let the design simmer in your mind a few days and make mental revisions and revise your sketches. Talk to friends who have remodeled their homes and find out what they like and/or wish they could change. There are many magazines showing different designs too. You may want to enlist an Interior Designer or an Architect to design your project.
- Be aware that most cities are going Green with their codes. For example, the shower fixture you purchased last year may not comply with current codes. More information can be found at your city’s building inspections website on Green requirements.
- Know your district. If you are in a Historical District, normal City Codes may be overridden by each Historical District and therefore more restricting. For more information on your Historical District, you can often find the information at your district’s website.
- Do some research on the materials you want to incorporate into your project and get an idea in your mind the cost of these materials. Most of this can be accomplished simply over the internet while searching home improvement store websites.
- Now that you have a good idea of what materials you want to incorporate and have at least a good mental picture of what you want to do, it’s time to get ready to bid the project. Make a list of the items you want incorporated into the project and get specific. One reason there is a lot of anxiety in remodeling is each contractor’s quotes usually don’t mirror each other. Very often you end up comparing “apples to oranges”. Having a specific list allows the contractor to quote exactly what you want and eliminates most of the guessing game on your end as you compare quotes.
- Before the project begins, discuss up front how communication will work. Rather its email, text message or phone calls at 10am each day, effective communication is needed to ensure the project goes as seamlessly as possible.
- Get everything in writing - everything. For larger projects of $10K or more, don't work off a signed proposal, instead, insist on a contract which protects you during and after the project. Email communication is legally binding but text messages are not always.
- Construction is expensive and your contractor will need to be paid in a timely fashion, so be sure your construction funds are readily available when they are requested by your contractor.
- As the work begins, monitor your contractor's performance based on what he says. If something is supposed to be complete that week, it needs to be complete that week. If its not and he has not effectively communicated a reason why it’s not complete, this should be a warning sign.
- Construction is full of processes which come one after another. So when you are inspecting your project, don't assume that if something is not completed yet that it will not be completed at a later date. However, don't assume it IS going to be completed. Make a note of it and follow up with your contractor by asking when it will be completed.
- Don't expect to discuss financials or schedule with your general contactor’s subcontractors on site. More often than not, the person to whom you are speaking is not adequately able to answer. Keep these conversations for your general contractor. As well, if you want something changed, always contact your general contractor first as they will know more about the overall effects of the change as it affects both contract price and contract schedule.
- Expect to have some obstacles to overcome during the project. Whether an unforeseen circumstance should arise (like a rotted subfloor) or a city inspector's requirement that an area be brought up to code, if you expect these things to happen, it will be easier to cope with if they do happen.
- Change orders are commonplace in construction. Have your contractor explain the costs he proposes for change orders before you authorize the work and get it writing. The change order should include the cost of the particular change order and include the new contract price (original contract plus change orders). This will help you track the overall cost of the project.
- As the project nears its end, begin compiling your punch list for the project. Presenting a punch list in a timely fashion will help ensure the punch list will be completed in a timely fashion as well.
- When the work is completed, its time to make your final payment to your contractor. Your final payment can be used as leverage to insure all work items are complete, but remember, the amount of money you withhold should only reflect the value of the work outstanding. For example, if $5000.00 is due on the contract and your contractor has material totaling $300.00 on order, you should only withhold the cost of materials and labor. In other words, you should only hold back enough money so you could hire another contractor to finish the work should your contractor default.
- For any contract, especially contracts over $10K, a notarized Lien Waiver form is a good idea to get from your contractor. The form shows the amount your contractor has been paid and waives the contractor's right to place a lien on your property. Get this form prior to issuing the payment.
Whew, and lastly, enjoy showing off your new home!
- When selecting your contractors to interview for the project do your research. The internet will probably be the starting point of your search, but don’t forget to ask your friends if they know a good remodeler they’ve used. Projects rarely go exactly to plan, but how a contractor worked through any issues is a great indicator of their professionalism.
- Set up your consultations and show the contractors your sketches and list of materials. Be specific about how you want things to look. Some contractors need to write down every detail they see while some may only take a few measurements. This won’t be a good indicator to judge the contractor, instead, listen for them to give examples of that type of work they’ve performed similar to your project and how the work came out.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for references, but don’t expect to be able to tour a previous client’s remodel. Instead, ask for pictures of previously performed projects.
- General contractors in the State of Texas do not carry a State License. Therefore, there is no testing required for a person to act as general contractor on your project in Texas. Look for proof the contractor is stable and committed to their work. Limited Liability Companies, Corporations, Partnerships and State Registered companies must remain in good standings with the Texas Secretary of State and is a good indicator about the contractor. Remember, your contractor is warranting their work for at least one year and will need to be around to honor the warranty if needed.
- Know if your contractor is insured. If they are, have them add you as “additional insured” on their policy and get a copy. Not all work necessarily is risky enough to require liability insurance though. As well, many contractors boast that they are bonded in addition to insured. Don’t feel your contractor needs this endorsement. Bonding is reserved almost exclusively for performing city paid improvements or performing large scale commercial projects.
- Give the contractors a specific date as to when you want their quote. If they showed up late to your consultation and take a long time to get your quote to you, it’s usually an indicator of how the project will be run.
- When you are reviewing the quotations, be sure to compare what is included from quote to quote. Your list your compiled during your Prep Work will come in handy as you review them.
- If you like a certain contractor but they are more expensive than another contractor’s quote, don’t discount them. Call up the contractors whose quotes you like and go through them item by item. This will help you understand what is included and the level of finish included. Ask the higher bidders what can be done to lower their price. Often times a less expensive alternative is available for select activities in your project.
- In the remodeling and contracting business, “money talks”, but you also “get what you pay for”. Your final contractor selection should not be based on the lowest bidder, rather, the lowest qualified bidder. This can sometimes be the same contractor which makes the decision easier. Remember, you will be allowing the contractor into your home and will need to maintain effective communication throughout the project, so be sure you are comfortable with the contractor from day one.
Unless requested, most general contractors will not quote the furnishing of appliances, specialty light fixtures and plumbing fixtures. The reason is the vast array in prices for these items. So you should prepare a budget for yourself to provide these items to your contractor and add this to your contractor's proposal to reveal the total project cost.
“Matt was professional, conscientious and open from the get-go. He helped with every aspect - from the loan docs with the bank to the design of the addition. Most importantly, he kept the subs in-line and did a lot of work himself. He and his crew were on-site every day by 7 and often did not leave until 6 - working most week-ends as well. My neighbors were amazed at (1) how beautiful the house looks and (2) how fast the work was done. All in all, I lived through the experience (in the house) and could have only done so due to the fact that Matt was always super clean and respectful of my needs. I also have to say something very important when choosing a contractor - honesty and integrity are necessary. They are infrequently found when dealing with the building trade. Cutting Edge however has cornered the market on these two principles.”