Every wonder why all renovation projects are so stressful? BECAUSE THEY ARE! There are many moving parts from designers, contractor(s), clients, finish selections, engineer(s), Green Energy, Geotech, soils report, budgets, permitting and the list goes on. I always tell my clients, each project is like taking flight where you can expect turbulence and no one knows how much turbulence and for how long- but definitely brace yourselves- BUT, when you get to your final destination, that is all that matters.
Here are some expert tips on how to make your life easier when renovating your home with less turbulence and an experience worth cherishing.
1. Be sure that the design planning is complete prior to engaging with a contractor for pricing to maximize your chances for a more accurate bid. Sometimes you can engage a contractor mid design to get a check up to see if you are within the ranges of your budget before wasting money on design than your budget can realistically support.
2. Always get a minimum of 3 bids and cross-reference them to see if numbers are low because someone forgot to include a line item, or included a higher allowance or contingency than the other. This also gives you an insight into how the contractor thinks and how organized he/she is.
3. Seek to nail down a final budget in advance so that you refrain from getting swept up in an endless sea of decisions that need to be made while losing track of how much has been spent causing you to overspend in the end. It is important to let the budget be known up front that way the contractor has an opportunity to respect your budget and take conscious measure to adhere to it. Also, plan to add a contingency of 2% -5% especially, on renovation projects. Things can go wrong, like discovering rotten wood, termites or a leak. Additionally, never pay a contractor in full and up front. If paying cash, we recommend paying 25% or 30% at a time as work progresses while leaving a good chunk of it to motivate them to complete the final punch list items and not leave you hanging.
4. Check their credentials. A lot of general contractors are not formally trained and rely on their subcontractors for the execution of the work with little knowledge on how to tell if the work being performed is being completed correctly. The state of Texas does not require licenses and anyone can become a contractor by filling out a form and paying $25. (Source: Dallas Builder's Association) So, when considering who you want to handle your most expensive asset, your home, be sure to vet them with scrutiny.
Look for acronyms behind their name that prove their due diligence and commitment to great work. Like their degree. In the same way a doctor has MD, your accountant has CPA and your architect has AIA, so should your contractor! Look for a degree in construction management, cost estimating, Inspections and or construction administration.If your contractor is not degreed, look for ones that have taken enough training and credit hours at The Dallas Builder’s Association who have met minimum requirements.In order to verify a contractor's credentials nationally, look them up on The National Association of Home Builders.Make sure you get the value you deserve with your project, especially when they all want to charge the same. If they are not listed on any of the above, I do not recommend you put your most expensive possession, your home, in the hands of someone who has not proven what it takes to handle your asset in a responsible way.
5. There is no such thing as a perfect contractor. We like to categorize contractors into 3 categories: quality, time and budget. Some contractors have strengths in providing excellent quality and craftsmanship, some are known to deliver your project on time, (if you are trying to host for the holiday, they will get you moved in on that date), and others can get the job done for a better price. We advise that you determine which 2 of the 3 are most important for you prior to interviewing contractors so that you can find one that matches your needs and ask the right questions to excavate that information.
6. Make sure they have insurance. –ask for it! Contractors need to be Licensed, Registered, Bonded and Insured - no exceptions! Remember, homes are the LARGEST purchase you will ever make, so it is imperative that you find someone that meets these MINIMUM requirements.
7. Hire your Architect or Interior Designer to perform Construction Administration services. This service allows your designer to keep a pulse on the project after design and drawings are submitted and once construction begins to ensure that the project is being built per the client approved design intent. This is critical for anyone who is not familiar with the design/ construction process and especially for those who are too busy to check in with their project.
8. Make sure you are not cutting yourself short. Select a contractor who is on board with current technology by using productivity and communication tools like Builder Trend or Co Construct and a few others you can read about here. Miscommunication can get costly, so avoid it all together by making sure your selected contractor is on board with these tools.
9. Check to see what the contractor specializes in. You want to select a contractor is proficient in what you are asking them to do. There are many different kinds of contractors and you want to be sure you are inviting the ones that are the best fit, and qualified, for your project.
· Commercial vs Residential
· Large scale vs small scale
· New Construction vs Remodel
· Modern Style vs Traditional Style
· For renovations: Bathrooms / kitchens only vs. full gut renovations
· General Contractor vs. sub contractor
10. Be sure you like your contractor because you are stuck with them for the next few months. You should feel comfortable having a conversation with them, they should be able to answer your questions directly, be knowledgeable, instill confidence, and be responsive. We have a contractor grading criterion sheet that lists all of the qualities you should look for that makes is easy for you to ask the right questions and know what to look for when vetting.
Now that you are equipped with these pro tips, you should have smoother sailing.