When to Choose a Contractor

    Selecting your contractor is a critical step in beginning the building process. Start interviewing builders that you would like to construct your project before starting to Design Your Addition. Builders will provide valuable input based on their expertise in the trades. A design and build approach with an owner, architect and builder team all working together from the beginning will produce superior results for your project.

Do your Homework

    Once you have some references, visit projects completed by each contractor that are similar in size and scope to the one you are planning. If you can’t reach someone by phone, drive by on a Saturday morning and introduce yourself and ask for a tour. Most people are only too glad to show you their project especially if they are happy with the work.

Right click on this link for more information on Choosing The Right Contractor.

Factors to Consider

    Does the builder have the manpower and resources to complete your project on schedule? You probably won’t get the personal attention you require if they are handling too many projects at once. What is the chemistry between you and your spouse with the contractor?


    Remember, depending on the size and complexity of your job, you will be “married” to this person for perhaps several months or more. There must be a level of trust so if any miscommunication arises, your concerns will be addressed in a timely and professional manner.

    Above all, an honest individual with integrity will accept responsibility for all phases of the job and the final product.

The Bottom Line

    Select a competent, reliable company whose work you admire, and engage them in the Design Process right away. By doing so they will have a good understanding of your project goals and also a feel for the level of craftsmanship and quality of materials you expect. Work with an architect and contractor team to fine tune your job costs. based on a well thought out and budget driven design.

    Armed with a clear and concise set of Construction Documents, you should ask your contractor to prepare a detailed and thorough bid for your consideration. You should be aware that a bid is not a “free estimate” and if done properly takes a great deal of time and effort to prepare. Once you have a bid in writing, avoid “bid shopping” by disclosing the prices you receive to other contractors in order to get a lower price. This is a sure fire way to end up with change orders and cost over runs from a contractor who secured the job with an initial low price.

    When getting a price from two contractors, inform each of the bidders that you are considering only two parties to perform the work and no more. Since each bidder has a fifty percent chance at landing the job, you can be sure they will each “sharpen their pencil” and in doing so provide you with a competitive price for your project.

    Many times it is not easy comparing two contractors' bids side by side, depending upon the size of the project. In general their prices should be fairly close to each other and not vary by more than about five percent. If one bid is extremely high or low, it is not based on an “apples to apples” comparison of the work to be performed. If both come in slightly over your budget, you may decide to revise your product and/or material selections to bring the costs in line.

    Assuming both bids come in close to one another, you choose the low one of course, right ? Wrong !

Selecting a contractor by price alone is the best way to go over budget and end up with a job that does not meet your desires. Choose the contractor that has been the most involved in the Design Process. They have the best understanding of your job and what your requirements and expectations for a successful project are.

   Above all choose the company that you feel comfortable with and trust the most.

Entering into a Contract

    Once the contractor's bid hits your target for the project, you are ready to enter into a formal construction contract.  The most important part of the contract is the drawings, and it should read that “all work will conform to the Construction Documents as prepared by __________________ on ______ date”. Included should be detailed specifications for building products (materials, brand names, grades, etc.). Ideally, finish product selections such as fixtures, cabinetry, lighting and flooring etc. would be chosen first but most often they are figured as allowances within the contract. Include a reasonable start and completion date which allows for unseen delays. Contractors usually are reluctant to lock in a definite finish date but most should agree to a rough time frame for job completion. A schedule for payment should be clearly laid out, including a deposit when work begins to cover materials and startup costs.

Types of Contracts

In the most often used Lump Sum contract both the final cost and the project scope are fixed upfront. This arrangement works best when there are few if any changes by the owner and no hidden conditions exist, since the contractor is in control of all of the costs. A Cost Plus Fee contract includes a not to exceed cost plus a fixed percentage or rate. The benefit for the owner is a maximum price, the chance to keep savings and more control over the finished product.

The contractor also knows what his profit margin is going in and will be more willing to handle any difficult changes.

Other Tips and Suggestions

    The Contractor, not you, should obtain all required building permits. Get a certificate of insurance and ask for a statement of warranty on the work. In most cases the homeowner should not try to save money by purchasing materials themselves. Builders can buy materials at a discount and are entitled to a reasonable markup for handling and coordinating delivery and installation. A good example is buying a large spa tub yourself, where a delay in delivery might slow down a project, since it must go in before the framing is completed. Any warranty problems that might arise after it is installed would then be on you!

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