The big box home improvement stores have empowered many people all over the country and taught many that performing home improvement projects and repairs are simple and always save you plenty of money. These same stores conduct "how to clinics" that show how simple installations and repairs can be. These "clinics" are conducted by store employees who show customers everything you need to know for a safe reliable installation. Really? Thirty-seven years in the construction business and one thing I have learned, I'm still learning! Yes, changes in technology, construction codes, material and labor have all created an open canvass in order to learn more. Can a Saturday afternoon "clinic" provide the knowledge and years of experience a tradesman learns over many years in order to provide you with a truly safe and reliable installation? I have often made the analogy that preparing your own taxes instead of paying a licensed professional could potentially cost you thousands or more in money you may be entitled to. That pain you're experiencing in the back of your mouth is there a "how to clinic" to remove that tooth? of course not, sounds ridiculous, but performing work in your home doesn't have the same reaction, why? Two very obvious reasons, a homeowner will hire a "so-called" contractor and have a very bad experience, so what do they have to lose doing it themselves next time. Secondly, the desire to save money diminishes their belief that something dangerous could be created doing it themselves. In each case, the homeowner or business owner needs to remember, "You don't get something for nothing!
I suggest a homeowner or business owner educate themselves on just how to hire a professional contractor and get the most for what they are paying. I suggest following these steps will prevent many of the pitfalls associated with a bad experience with your upcoming project and the hiring of your contractor.
- Define the scope of work needed to be performed - write down exactly what work you need done and be ready to convey that to the potential contractor
- Research for those contractors in your area that perform your scope of work
- check the internet and obtain a list of 6-8 contractors in your area who perform this work
- ask your friends and relatives for recommendations
- search contractor websites for listings and reviews, houzz.com, etc.
- check your city's website or call to verify licensing and any disciplinary actions exist
- if they don't call back in a timely manner, cross that contractor off your list!
- ask the contractor, "are you licensed to perform work in your area and do you hold the license?
- Do you have liability insurance and worker's compensation insurance?
- Describe your scope of work, Is this something you can perform and get finished?
- Are you overwhelmed with work? I would like to start next week is this possible?
- call the prospective contractors and book an appointment to meet
- describe your scope of work to the contractor during your interview
- listen to what they say and recommend, is this consistent with your scope?
- have you performed work similar to what I am asking you to perform?
- can you provide names and numbers of folks I can speak to you performed work for?
- will you be filing and securing a permit and inspection for this work?
- ask for a written proposal, with payment terms, start and completion dates
- does the proposal show license numbers and qualifications?
- does the description of work match the scope you have defined?
- make sure you fully understand everything on this proposal.
- are the price and terms agreeable? Important, pay as he performs!
- make sure in the proposal, a procedure for extra work approval is described and you agree
- does the price match the scope as you described?
- is the time frame acceptable? Start and completion dates?
- are you comfortable with the payment terms? Payments must match the milestones of completions!
- call the contractor and ask questions, are you, contractor comfortable with the time frame?
- will you provide me with a written guarantee and adequate sign-off indicating that the inspection has passed?
- insist on a minimum 10% retainage, payable only upon successful completion and sign-offs
- if the contractor provides a rather lengthy document, ask a lawyer to review the contract
- if required, get a copy of the permit
- obtain a certificate of insurance with you as the certificate holder for GL, Disability and WC
- keep your signed copy of the proposal or contract
- define a start date and what will take place as work is performed
- discuss how you will communicate as the project progresses
- document your progress with pictures and notes
- is the contractor on schedule? Is he communicating reasons for delays?
- is the contractor on site to monitor his employees and progress?
- are you satisfied? remind contarctor daily for the need to complete on specific date!
- obtain the necessary signoffs or city approvals for inspection
- obtain all product manuals, maintenance documents and paperwork necessary for your safe keeping
- with the mutaully agreed completion obtained, pay the retainage, 10%
It's unwise to pay too much, but it's worse to pay too little.
When you pay too much, you lose a little money, that's all.
When you pay too little, you sometime lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do.
The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot - it can't be done!
If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run, and if you do that, you will have enough to pay for something better.
- John Ruskin
Kevin J. Breen ©