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We were going to delete this section from the page, however, it seems folks continue to be blinded by price and cool talkers…… so we left it in.
More often than not, this means poor workmanship, inferior material, and lots of grief. The job MAY look OK to the untrained eye if and when completed, but likely won’t last, will cause problems and is not well finished.
“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price”
As much as you would expect people to understand this concept thru experiences with familiar things such as furniture, cars, clothing, etc., etc., thinking they are saving a dollar over rides their senses.
“You ONLY get what you pay for” is true almost all the time and that goes for both materials and workmanship. There are some pretty smooth talkers out there and as you would expect, all comers will say they have the best product and are professional. What else would they say?
Because of this you have to use your own reasoning coupled with some research. With regard to materials. often you can just look at a product and tell if it is poor, especially if you have others to compare.
Get other opinions from friends, family or neighbors.
Trying to determine professionalism is more difficult. Don’t depend entirely on references, these can be arranged. Checking with the BBB helps but not always, they do not vet their prospective members enough in my opinion.
Other considerations are: Is the contractor or sub-contractor local; how long in business; member of local organisations such as BBB, Chamber of Commerce or professional organizations and if you can, physically look at some jobs the contractor has done.
Determine if your contractor is going to use sub-trades, if so check them out in the same way. This is important because contractors will cut costs here to improve their bottom line. Look at and ask for details on the materials and methods being used. If the contractor provides references, make sure they are legitimate.
Don’t depend on the contractor entirely. The contractor is NOT an expert on everything and may have different tastes, but get their advice and YOU make the final decision. Is the contractor complying with building standards and bylaws?
Don’t be talked into bypassing a permit or try to save money this way. There are some instances where permits are not required, but, a permit may be your only assurance, like buying insurance protection.
Talk to the inspectors when they come by and make them understand you are keen on getting a good job. They are only human and will generally discuss any of your concerns and will often offer constructive ideas and suggestions.
Although you may have hired a general contractor, get involved and don’t be afraid to ask questions even if you think they may be stupid questions. Contractors can be hired to “do it all” so to speak or can be hired to do certain things. A lot depends on how much control you want which is directly related to how much time you have, your budget and how much confidence you have in the contractor.
A very popular method is for supervision only which includes the contractor getting all the estimates in for your final decision. This works well and is recommended because the contractor knows the trades in the industry and can get a good cross section of estimates.
Once you have the estimates, samples and background on the sub-trades, you can make a decision with input from the general contractor.
Then there is a contract that includes everything. Here it is very important you know exactly what your getting. Know the minimum’s and or maximums and make sure you communicate with your contractor regularly. Surprises after the fact can be costly.
Remember, no matter what their experience, they are all human and their tastes may differ from yours dramatically.
Most contracts should require no more than 25% deposit. 35% or more may be asked for if a lot of custom made material is required for the job. If more than 50% is requested, a red light should come on. Now you really need to know what you might be getting into.
More safe guards need to be considered. Talk to more people who know the contractor. On large jobs, the assistance of a lawyer would be worth while. Make sure your contract has a finish date for the job and outline remedies should this not be complied with. Nothing ever runs according to the best laid plans, so an extension is OK for anything you deem reasonable. ie. weather, strikes, design changes, etc.
Most deficiencies show up in the first 30 days from finish, so unless you are completely assured of the integrity of your contractor, a HOLD BACK of 10 to 15% is prudent. Any good contractor wouldn’t object to this.
If your contract includes supervision, make sure things are clear about what is to be done before each payment period.
The following payment schedule is common:
- foundation completed
- home is framed including, building paper, rain screen, interior stairs and buttoned up (windows, doors are in and roof is completed, decks waterproofed)
- gutters/soffits, cladding, fireplace, rough wiring, rough plumbing, rough heating, insulation and drywall complete
- trim, finish paint, cabinets, finish electrical/plumbing/heating, floor coverings, driveway/sidewalks/stairs/railings completed
- occupancy permit