1. How do you choose a contractor?

Looking for someone to build your new home or remodel your existing home can be a scary task.  We would like to give you a few tips when selecting a contractor.  Make sure the builder you choose is licensed and insured.  Ask for references of past customers and go see their work in person.  When it comes to the bid, select a bid proposal over an estimate.  Some contractors will give a verbal estimate that is cheap to get the job, then, come back with extra charges.

2. Why is licensing important?

The contractor you select needs to be licensed.  Being licensed means that they have been certified and approved by the state to build.  To be licensed, the contractor has to prove monetary stability, as well as, having taken and passed tests the state has issued.  Knowledge of codes, building practices and laws are required to pass a state exam.  If someone is not licensed by the state, you don't know if they will have the knowledge and experience to build or remodel your home.

3. What insurance should a contractor have?

Insurance is an important factor in the building or the remodeling of your home.  If the contractor is not insured and a mishap occurs, whether in the construction/remodeling of your home or to a worker on the job, you will be responsible for the repair of the project or the injury to the worker.  The builder should have Worker's Compensation Insurance.  This insurance is for bodily injury that may happen on the job to a worker.  The builder should also have General Liability Insurance.  This will cover any number of things.  The builder could be liable for damage to the home or public.  Ask for a copy of the builder's insurance certificate, this way, you can verify he has the appropriate insurances.

4. How to check references?

Ask the builder you are speaking to for references.  Get the references name and phone number and call to set up a time to speak with them about the contractor and to see the builder's work.  Ask for references concerning the quality of the job performed.  Ask if the workers were there when they said they would be.  Ask if the builders and workers were trustworthy and on time and any other questions or concerns that you may have.

5. The difference between an estimate and a bid proposal:

An estimate is a rounded guess or estimate of what the job will cost.  A bid proposal is a contract proposed amount that the contractor gives that states the contractor will do the job for the proposed amount.  It is not a good comparison to compare an "estimate" to a "bid proposal."  One is a guesstimate and the other means that the job will be done for a set price.

6. What does turnkey mean?

Turnkey is a term that builders use when talking to you about your project.  This term means that the contractor will build your home or remodel your home from start thru to the finish detail of turning the key to open the door on your new project.

7.  Cost Plus Vs. Contract:

A cost plus contract is a contract where the builder will build your project for the cost of the project, being labor plus materials - plus any cost necessary to complete your project - plus a set percent for the builder's trouble.  If done correctly, this could be a viable option.  The problem is, many builders will throw out a low ballpark number to build, then, when the bills start rolling in and the project goes over budget, you have no recourse.  Many builders are not motivated to complete the job quickly because the longer the job takes, the more it will cost and the more they will make.  Consumers need to be very careful if choosing this kind of contract.  A contract with a set dollar amount is as it sounds.  The builder will agree to build your project for a set amount.  This is typically safer for the client, however, several precautions should be taken.

  1. Make sure the builder actually is willing to go to contract with the proposal they give you.
  2. Make sure all aspects of the project are documented in the proposal or on the plan.

Many builders will not list aspects of the project and then come back and add the cost at the end of the project, making the total cost run over budget.

8.  Compared Apples to Apples:

When it comes down to comparing one builder to another, look at all aspects to make sure you really are comparing apples to apples, not an apple to a lemon.  Make sure both builders are licensed by the state, licensed by the county, have Worker's Comp Insurance, have General Liability Insurance, have good references, have examples of work similar to the work you want done, make sure both are giving firm bids, look at each proposal to make sure all aspects of the project are listed out, check allowance amounts to make sure they are the same, check the quality of materials figured on, check to see if the company represented has enough man power and resources to complete the project.  If they line up, then ask yourself if you feel comfortable with both companies you are comparing.  If you truly compare apples to apples, normally, one company will stand out in front as your builder of choice.

Helpful Hints for a Successful Remodel:

  1.  Make prompt decisions: The more decisions/selections that can be made before work begins the better!  For every decision not made before work begins, work progress will be affected.  Waiting on a decision to be made or waiting on products to be ordered all slow down/stop the job from progressing.

  2. Don’t change your mind:  Every time you change your mind, it will result in a Change Order.  Any time a change order occurs, other costs occur, even if it’s only the time to discuss it.  Changes can dwindle down the line, affecting scheduling, which will also delay the job.

  3. Don’t buy your own materials:  Yes, builders do mark up materials but builders also get a discount on the materials as well.  We have vendors that we work with for our job materials.  These are trusted vendors with a long history of working with us.  When they receive your ordered products, they are responsible for any damage in shipping, counting, etc., as well as, re-orders.  This saves time and money by letting them handle getting the materials in and to the job.

  4. Don’t live in the home:  This may be ok for a small bath remodel where you have another bath to use or for a kitchen remodel as long as you know it is going to take a while and not be done overnight or in 2 days.  For major remodels, a person living in the home slows the job considerably.  The builder has to consider the owner’s schedule, as well as, his own and his subs.  When someone is in the home, the builder has to stop work early everyday to clean up the work area when this time could be spent on the remodel itself.   Dust WILL be created during construction.  If you are living in the home, dust is very hard to contain totally.  Please keep these things in mind.

  5. Keep kids and pets away from work area:  Construction areas are dangerous areas.  There are tools out that the carpenters need to use and kids can get into things fast.  Pets get underfoot and cause tripping hazards.  They can also be a distraction to take away from work time.

  6. Don’t be a distraction:  

    Most construction crews are friendly people, however, they are there to do a job.  Some don’t mind you watching but it can be a distraction for others.  You trusted the builder to do their job so please allow the carpenters to do their work without interruption unless necessary.

  7. Don’t work without a contract and design:  It is vital to have design/drawings and a contract to go by.  This protects you, as well as, the builder.  You will both be on the same page and know what to expect from the job with designs/plans and a contract stating what the scope of the work is, what the builder will supply and what your material allowances are.

  8. Don’t stress over setbacks:  Not very many remodels go smooth as butter.  Many times there are material delays (Material may come broken or the wrong item sent), there are weather delays (Rain/Snow delays outdoor work) and life happens (People get sick, workers quit).  Your job will be finished but be aware and understand that the builder cannot control all circumstances surrounding your remodel.

  9. Enjoy!