As an Interior Designer, my scope of work involves interacting and collaborating with construction professionals. In my ideal world, I would get to advise my clients and recommend a crew I trust and value. Unfortunately, I don’t always have the final say on who the homeowner decides to hire.
To all the homeowners out there who are considering hiring a General Contractor (GC), I’d like to share my experience and a bit of friendly advice:
When a homeowner chooses to tackle a remodel or home improvement project, there is much to consider: Design, Quality, Details, Time Line and so forth. What typically is most preoccupying? The answer is cost, naturally.
As would the captain of a ship, homeowners often only see the tip of the iceberg. Under the water often lurk more ominous factors that require acute attention. This is why hiring the right crew can make or break the outcome of a home improvement project.
A qualified and professional General Contractor will ensure that common challenges and frustrations won’t mushroom into downright nightmares. Although contractor bids can vary, there usually is reason for concern when a bid comes in significantly lower than most. It can be very tempting for a homeowner to choose the most cost efficient bid. Unfortunately, the old saying will most likely prove to be true, “you get what you pay for”.
Contractors who quote low-ball bids usually take on any job coming their way to stay afloat and/or profitable. They often spread themselves thin and are not able to provide the type of service and follow through that every homeowner should expect.
When a contractor does not make adequate time for a project, it inevitably causes a snowball effect. Every professional involved incurs obstructive delays and additional fees, which most often are passed on to the homeowner.
One of the most frustrating scenarios is the “missing in action” team. A contractor who is spread thin and over promises will ofetn avoid communication with homeowners and designers. He and his crew will fail to show up on the job and leave everyone in limbo regarding the status of the project. The project schedule is then compromised and completion dates get pushed back over and over.
A low bid also frequently translates into a lack of foresight on the General Contractor’s part. Consider whether or not the contractor performed an on-site survey with the subcontractors. Discuss his opinions on room transitions, finishes, existing challenges, quality of materials, consistency with the rest of the house, and proposed construction schedule for completion. Confirm weather these items are congruent with his bid. Homeowners may find that when these items are not accounted for in the original bid, costs mysteriously creep up as the project gets underway.
Quality can also greatly suffer in the process. If the contractor fails to consider the aforementioned items, the end result will be less than satisfactory. Additions will look like afterthoughts and materials may deteriorate. Poor craftsmanship will stand out like a sore thumb. It is perfectly reasonable to ask the names and qualifications of the subcontractors your General Contractor is proposing. The last thing you want to do is pay to have work redone or “fixed” because of poor quality construction.
In hiring a contractor, homeowners should ask themselves what kind of service they expect. Quality contractors will take the time to cover furniture and protect adjacent rooms during construction. They clean up at the end of every day. They provide constant communication on construction progress. They visit the site daily to provide quality control on the subcontractor’s work. Reliable contractors also stick to the plans the designer and architect supply and work with the team to solve any unforeseen challenges. Problems arise on every project. How the contractor works with the team to resolve them is a true indicator of his worth.
So while that low bid may appear tempting, homeowners most often find that the lowerst price ends up costing them more in the long run in terms of money, time and stress.
In summery, when hiring a general contractor, a homeowner should look at the contractor’s experience and track record. A qualified and professional contractor will anticipate all costs in the project. He will be thorough in giving a bid. He will pay attention to details, transition and quality. He will be in constant communication. He will provide skilled subcontractors. He will work closely with designers, architects and other members of the trade involved in the project. He will be concerned with the time line and project completion. He will have impeccable follow through and make sure the punch list is addressed. He will care to respect the design intent despite of any challenges that may arise. He will respect the homeowner’s home and possessions. He will update all involved with his progress on the job.
While this level of service may look like a bigger investment at the beginning of a project, in my experience, the price to pay for a cheaper bid might turn out to be much more than you bargained for.