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How to Deal With Contractors

Posted by By at 6 April, at 17 : 29 PM Print

BE PREPARED — Building a house is lots of fun, but it’s a huge time investment, too. There’s a ton of paperwork and planning, so it’s essential to establish a system to stay organized. You may have collected articles, paint samples, roofing samples, etc, etc. over the past few months (or years, depending on how long you’ve been dreaming of this!) that you want to incorporate into your new house. A see- through plastic bin is handy for keeping your miscellaneous items in, so you can sift through them every so often. Sometimes it’s a good way to keep your goal in mind if you periodically look at the items in the box, as a little reminder of what you’re going for.

Keep a good filing system. You’ll be getting a lot of quotes (a word to the wise: don’t get too many quotes for each job – establish what a reasonable rate for the job at hand is, then settle on a contractor you’re comfortable with. Remember, the cheapest guy isn’t always the best, and neither is the most expensive one, necessarily…). Quotes that require a lot of detail (Framing, Foundation, Drywall, Mechanical, Cabinetry, etc.) should be kept intact.

Make a copy of the original quote, then block out the prices and use that for the new quotes. That way, you’re comparing apples to apples, oranges to oranges. (Word to the wise — Dwight insisted on this going in, although I don’t agree with it. I have found that just asking for a Complete Quote, stating the exact same information, will give me a much better ‘feel’ for the Contractor. You can tell right from the beginning if the guy is trying to pull the wool over your eyes — stay away from this type — it only gets worse. This kind of guy will give you a quote that seems very reasonable, but often leaves out crucial components.

We had a number of situations like this during this Build — the first quote for the Basement — and it was extremely detailed — was $20,000. higher than the other quotes. I know — craaazy! You gotta watch out and stay on your toes! The Cabinetry quotes were all over the board, and the Drywall for the Garage alone varied from $2,500. to $9,500. Our house cost was cut down by at least $40,000., just by shopping around and really reading the quotes.) It’s not fair to get two different quotes and one includes the cement for the foundation and the other is only for the cribbing… asking for a complete quote might eliminate this situation, but being careful from the outset will save you a lot of bother, later.

Sometimes, you may notice that you’ll get very different ‘complete quotes’. We have found that the quote you get is often a ‘forewarner’ of the work you’ll get. If it takes a ridiculous amount of time to even get the quote, and you can’t get the guy to return your phone calls, that’s probably what it’ll be like when he’s actually working for you, if you give him the job. If the quote is sloppy (we call them ‘napkin quotes’, since they’re scribbled out on a napkin from the restaurant, so you have to look through the coffee stains to see the numbers, or on a crumpled up piece of paper!), the workmanship might be careless, too. Keep in mind that prices go up over time, so if the quote is old, it’ll need to be up-dated before any work commences.

Also, mistakes happen, so go over your quote to make sure that it is relatively accurate – you should never be responsible for knowing exactly how many screws will be required for the project (how are you paying for this?! Ha,ha,ha!), but you should check the windows and doors, what’s included in each package, to make sure it’s actually for your house!

Be sure to go over the Check List of every step that must be followed. Missing a step (like permits!) can cost you time and money (jail time in some States, if you haven’t gone through the right authorities to make sure you can build what you want – be especially careful with this if you live in an historical neighborhood).

BE DECISIVE — It’s important to have a clear idea of what you want in your home before you start to build, or even draw. The more you decide early, the fewer distractions and delays that will happen later. This is not to say that you can’t or shouldn’t make changes throughout the project, but be prepared to make quick decisions on those changes. Fence sitting or being wishy-washy will drive everyone crazy.

Keep in mind that if your contractor asks you more than once or twice about something you haven’t made your mind up on, he’ll probably head off to another job, and you may not see him again for a while! The reality of a contractor’s life is that he’ll have many projects going at the same time, so don’t think he’ll wait around and hold your hand while you decide on a tile… it ain’t gonna happen. Be decisive and clear – you’ll save time and money.

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