If you are concerned about how hired projects turn out at your house, carefully consider “the who” you plan to hire before you begin. Often, when the decision is made to move forward on a project we’ve been hoping to tackle for a while, many of us are so eager to begin that we want to simply jump in and get ‘er done without considering some very basic logistics.
Unfortunately and too often, projects are started without a written plan or the basic management tools to assure success. We respectfully submit the following advice about reducing risk, using written scopes of work, hiring qualified contractors, using written contracts, managing the construction budget and payouts.
WHO YOU HIRE MATTERS
Grays Harbor County has solid, talented and trustworthy builders and sub-contractors like roofers, electricians and plumbers. However, we do hear evidence of some who are neither trustworthy nor competent. If you hire the wrong person or company you can risk losing money, time, and sometimes even your house when projects are done poorly.
ALWAYS LICENSED, BONDED, INSURED
When hiring contractors, always check that they are currently licensed, bonded and insured. It is important for your safety and for theirs! You can call Labor and Industries at (360) 533-8200 to check on a contractor’s current credentials and status. Online L&I access to contractors and subs is easy and printable. Without proof of being a legitimate contractor, in the event of an accident on the job, you could be held liable as the employer!
CREATE A SCOPE OF WORK
Before entering into a contract, it needs to be clear what you are asking the bidding contractors to do. Even in a simple example, like putting down a new floor or installing a new bathtub, bids will be wildly different and useless if all the details aren’t spelled out.
It is relevant to detail whether tearing up and removing the old stuff is included in the price. It is also key to know who is expected to move out the furniture, appliances, toilets, hot water tanks and the like and how much that will cost. Don’t forget about who gets to put it all back and who will deal with that old tub or other construction debris and if dump fees are part of the bid. Is the contractor going to clean up and haul away the debris or is it up to you?
While this may be a small job, you can see by the example that the devil is in the details and the details should be made known and put in writing so everybody knows what must be done, before any checks are written. A scope of work should be the body of any bid proposal and should get signed by both parties for even small jobs like this example.
For more complex jobs, such as adding a room or fixing a foundation, you should develop a more detailed, written scope of work. It should outline exactly what you want done, even what materials and name brands you want used, colors and texture choices, etc. should be spelled out clearly.
Getting code handouts and permit advice from your building department can help you understand what the contractor must do to meet code requirements. It will also familiarize you with the terms used when describing the work and defining the finished product. Use whatever it takes to convey your dream project and secure permits: drawings, pictures or full blown prints. Do you need a designer or architect to best convey your dream project? They are experts at converting your dream project into a buildable reality. They can also reduce unanticipated changes to the work and therefore avoid expensive change-orders. Keeping the project on time and on budget is a matter of knowing as much as you can know before the work begins. As we always say, “you have to know what’s right to know what’s wrong.”
Once you are in control of the “what-I-want-built” part, you will have something that each contractor can bid upon, equally, meaning they have the same description and specifications, time constraints and conditions.
Before you start searching online or in the phonebook, check with neighbors, friends and relatives in the area for their recommendations of whom you should ask to bid. In any case, having a “bid due date” will weed-out the casual bidder and show the others that you are serious – it might also help the price be something closer to your budget if contractors know others are bidding the project. Ideally, you will want to secure two or three qualified bids, or maybe you have a great history and satisfaction level with a contractor and only need the one.
Hopefully all competitive bids will come within 10 to 20 percent of each other. When that happens, it usually means that the scope of work was clear and that you represented yourself and your project the same to each contractor. Now you are ready to make your choice.
DOES LOW BIDDER WIN?
The lowest bid isn’t always the best choice. A great price is nice, but the timing of the work, the best job referrals, the most complete, detailed and organized bid, willingness to work without a cash deposit, cost per man hour for hidden damage and even your first impressions and inner comfort with a contractor are a few of the other criteria you might use to make your best choice. We like contractors that provide their license, bond and insurance information from the L&I site and use a written contract that protects both parties.
CONTRACTS KEY TO SUCCESS
Successful working relationships with most contractors
are usually determined by being well prepared. That
means good plans, a realistic, fully funded budget, mutual
respect and one more thing.
After a great plan and solid financing are agreed upon in
principal, the best of the legal glue that binds a
well-intentioned contractor to the job is that detailed
scopeof work built into a rock-solid written contract.
That contract should at least describe what is going to
happen, for how much, how long it will take, changes to the work scope and what will happen when either party fails to perform to the contract. Do you need legal help? Depending on the job sometimes having an attorney write up the contract is helpful. You know the saying, “An ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure.”
We believe strongly that doing just this much preventative management will greatly increase the chances for a successful project.