Dealing with Contractors, General Contractors, and Subcontractors, Part 1

Now that we know how to find the right general contractor, we can begin to talk about actually dealing and working with them.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could just sign the contract, hand over the keys, and have the job done ahead of schedule with no follow-though required on your part?  Unfortunately, you almost always have to be pretty involved in the renovation in order to get the best result.  Here’s how to do it:

Organization Tip:  If you are being your own General Contractor, keep an expandable folder (“redwell”) with individual folders inside for each trade.  For example, I have an expandable folder for each house that I’m working on, and inside are manila folders labeled “Plumbing”,  “Electricity”, etc.

  • There is no substitute for being on the job site!  While you are there, check for things that you won’t be able to see after they are covered up.
  • This is an important technique to keep the job moving quickly:  Ask your Contractor what work is going to be done next and when he expects it to be done.  Check to be sure that it will be done on schedule and if it isn’t, ask the Contractor about it (see references below).
  • constructionPhotograph the walls before they are covered up with the boards of drywall.  That way, you can see if any jacks have been covered up, and you will know the positions of the electrical and plumbing elements for future reference.
  • Check the smoothness of the drywall before and after painting.  Put your head close to the wall and look along the length of it while shining a flashlight on it.  This will enable you to see any bumps on the surface that need to be smoothed out.  Mark the areas with a pencil or with colored masking tape.
  • If you are being your own general contractor and expect to use the subcontractors on other occasions, I find that the best policy is to use gratitude and appreciation instead of a lot of praise.  I find that excessive praise of a job well done tends to drive my prices up.  Again, there’s nothing wrong with expressions of sincere gratitude and appreciation.  My prices go up when the Contractor feels indispensable!

References:

Roofing Bixby

Associated General Contractors of America

 

 

Find Home Remodeling, General, & Subcontractors – Part 4

  • Of course, it is helpful to ask how long the Contractor has been in business.
  • Ask for references.  Sometimes I ask for three references and then will later ask for another three.  The second set tends to be more accurate!  Be sure the reference is not a friend or family member.  The Contractor should be able to provide you with names of RECENT satisfied customers.  Questions to ask the references:  “How was the Contractor with items that needed to be repaired?  Was the Contractor responsive?  Was the job done on time?”
  • pliersI find that the prices go up when the Contractors know that I am in a big hurry to get the job done.  I try not to disclose my desire to get the job done yesterday!
  • Here are some good questions to ask the Contractor during your first meeting:  Can you give me an exact date when you could start?  Can you give me a finish date?  Can I have your home phone and cell phone numbers?

Just like asking them to show proof of general liability and workman’s compensation insurance, the questions above are an excellent way to get a general idea of the kind of contractor you will be working with. If you are having any second thoughts or are not being given the responses that an honest general contractor should be giving, then it is probably best to move on.

Find Home Remodeling, General, & Subcontractors – Part 3

  • Be wary of Contractors who tell you that they are a “jack-of-all-trades” and can do any kind of work.  This usually means that they are not very good at any one thing.  I prefer to work with an expert who specializes in one thing and does it very well.
  • tapeTake this advice with a grain of salt:  I am speaking very generally here from my own personal experience.  I am cautious when a Contractor shows up to give me a bid and is driving a brand new red pick-up truck!  I have been burned three times by Contractors who fit this description.  I am not sure what the correlation is, but from my experience, the brand new red pick-up truck seems to be the vehicle of choice for inexperienced Contractors just getting started.
  • If you suspect that a Contractor may be trouble or may be in trouble, ask that Contractor where he buys his materials.  Call that supplier to make sure that the Contractor has been paying his bills.
  • Except for very rare instances, I only hire Contractors who carry general liability and workman’s compensation insurance.  I ask the Contractor to provide me with a copy of his insurance certificate before the work starts. If there is any hesitation whatsoever from said contractors in question, it is best that you move on to your next choice because this is something that any reliable and honest contractor should be willing to hand over at a moment’s notice.

Find Home Remodeling, General, & Subcontractors – Part 2

  • During your initial visit with a Contractor, incentivize him/her with the hope for more work in the future.  Contractors prefer to establish relationships for repeat business, so if you plan to do more renovation in the future, by all means, let them know about it.
  • Be wary when encountering home remodeling Contractors who are not busy.  This may mean that they are inexperienced and are just starting their business.  Or, it could mean that they have a bad track record with little repeat business.
  • levelTake this advice with a grain of salt:  I am cautious when a home remodeling Contractor comes to give me a bid and is not dressed in work clothes.  This may mean that he/she is not hands-on and is more of a supervisor.  I would prefer to work with a hands-on Contractor who does at least some of the work himself.  At the very least, the Contractor needs to be ready to step in if there is an urgent situation to get some work done.
  • Be wary when you get a home remodeling estimate that is very much lower than the others.  This may mean that the Contractor is inexperienced and is trying to get started in the business or simply does not know how much things cost.  Or, in rare instances, it may indicate that the Contractor is in financial trouble and needs work/money fast.  (This has happened to me before.)  You get what you pay for, so do not necessarily jump for the lowest bid.

Contractors with ridiculously low prices reminds me of the old joke about not wanting to join any club that is dying to have me as a member!!

Find Home Remodeling, General, & Subcontractors – Part 1

In order to follow my previous 5 tips, take a look at how to find the most trusted and reliable contractors for your renovations.

  • Word of mouth is the best way to find a good home remodeling Contractor.  Ask your friends, family and acquaintances for good references.  The best contractors do not advertise.  Their good work is their advertisement, and they can rely on a steady supply of referrals.
  • crane2Other sources for home remodeling Contractors: materials supply houses, home builder’s association directory (it may be worth joining your local association just for this).  Also, if you have a good Contractor in one trade, ask him if he knows of any good workers in another trade.  Often the good ones know each other.
  • I like to keep a running list of home remodeling Contractors who work in my neighborhood.  As I drive around, I note the phone numbers from trucks and signs.  I also note the address where the Contractor was seen
    working in case I want to ask that person how the Contractor performed for them.  (You can do reverse address telephone number searches on the internet.)
  • If you are working with or know a residential architect, ask him/her for a good referral.
  • Be sure to get multiple bids for each house renovation job.  Expect wide price variation.  Be wary of Contractors who may be “fishing” and hoping that they will find someone to fall for their exorbitant pricing.  These “fishing” Contractors already have more work than they can handle, but they’ll fit you in if you’re willing to pay their very high prices.

Home Remodeling Tips – Top Five

1)When getting house remodeling cost estimates, try to schedule the contractors to come to the job site around the same time so that they will see each other.  Nothing lowers your estimates like some competition!  I have had Contractors say to me on the spot, “I will beat the lowest price that you get from any of those other Contractors.”

shower2)Local building codes require a certain number of electrical outlets in a room.  However, some electricians will slap the receptacles into the walls in an unattractive configuration when you consider where the phone and cable jacks are going.  Tell your electrician exactly where you want the outlets and jacks to be (and how high you want them as well).  This is especially true if you have an idea where you want your furniture to go and you want to hide the outlets and jacks behind the furniture.

3)Here’s one of my favorite home remodeling tips that’s easy to forget: Be sure that your painter saves you some paint in the cans for touch-ups and duplication later.

4)Before the plumber (or any contractor, for that matter) digs into the ground, you need to call your local utility locator service to come out and mark the underground utilities.  This will prevent your contractor from accidentally digging into and damaging the existing services.  If you neglect to have the utilities marked, you could face very large repair bills that the utility companies will require you to pay.

5)One of the classic home remodeling tips is to maximize resale value by spending  your money “where the water is”.  This means kitchens and bathrooms.  Also, having a good trim carpenter install fine crown molding, etc. can really dress up your house.