What to Consider Before Starting Construction


So you and your designer have settled on a plan for your remodel or your custom new-build home. You can already envision gathering with family and friends to cook delicious meals in your new chef’s kitchen. Or even feel the warmth of your new steam shower. But before all that can come to fruition, you must embark on what many homeowners say is the most stressful, undesirable process of a major home project: construction. As with most things, the more prepared you are, the better you’ll be able to manage problems when they occur. (And they will occur.) Here are a few things to think about:

Selecting a Contractor

What to Consider Before Starting ConstructionThere is no foolproof process for selecting a contractor. Trust is a good starting point for the decision-making process. If you trust the people you’re working with, you’ll likely cut down on hassles and cost overruns. Of course, some people can be too trusting and therefore be taken advantage of, so don’t bet all your chips on trust.

Value for money, experience and referrals are all elements to factor into the sometimes complicated calculations when you’re selecting someone to take your project from design to reality. This is someone with whom you will likely be interacting closely for an extended period of time, so choose someone who fits with how you and your team like to work.

A Bid Is Not the Whole Picture

Although on paper competitive bidding seems to be a foolproof way to get what you want at the lowest price, there are challenges with that approach in real life. If contractors were bidding on something they understood 100 percent, and there were no differences on how they delivered the finished product, then competitive bidding could be a good solution.

But just as the same meal turns out different when prepared by three different chefs, the same set of drawings is interpreted differently by different contractors. We have had clients insist on choosing the lowest bid on a job without considering other critical factors, such as experience, reputation and trustworthiness.

Fixed Bids or Time and Materials?

A fixed price implies that the contractor will charge you X dollars at the end of the job — end of story. But most contracts have provisions stipulating that latent conditions (for example, things that are unseen, such as termites in existing walls or large underground impediments to excavation) will add to the price.

Another potential issue with a fixed-price contract is that it tends to put homeowners across the table from their team member (the contractor), as quality decisions are often dictated not by the scope of the project but by the budget. This means that compromises are made in how certain elements are delivered, due to cost implications (such as removing wall finishes like tile) or deleting elements altogether.

Bids: What’s in Them and How to Compare

Your team should help you confirm that what is in the drawings correlates to the bid, so the contractor doesn’t miss anything. It is sometimes hard to do this without experience, because one thing on the drawing may imply several steps in construction or a different way to do things than the contractor might be used to.

As part of the bidding process, what we like to do is go over areas that contractors should spend a bit more time on right off the bat in a meeting, so they cover all the items that are required. Remember, we all want the contractor to give an accurate bid, so he doesn’t get frustrated during construction by having to go back and redo elements of the building. As much as we advocate for our clients, contractors are running a business too and have bills to pay.

Credit: Houzz