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Hire licensed contractors for home projects

During this unprecedented time, each of us has been affected in such different ways. For many, employment and wages have diminished or stopped all together. However, for some businesses and jobs, things have been busier than ever.

While some are scraping to get by right now, some are able to afford to re-invest into their home and their local economy.

If you have a building job that you’d like to tackle this summer, if it’s in your budget, the work would be welcome to area contractors. It’s that kind of investment that gets money circulating in our community again.

Before you get going, make sure you use a written scope of work and written contracts. We at NeighborWorks of Grays Harbor can help you – free of charge – with some basic examples to get you started.


Whom should I hire?

Our county has plenty of solid, talented and trustworthy builders—and right now many of them are especially eager for steady work. However, sadly, 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—not to mention losing trust in your fellow man.

That’s why our mantra is to always hire licensed, bonded and insured contractors. If you feel awkward asking that straight out to a potential company, you can simply call Labor and Industries at (360) 533-8200 to check whether someone is currently licensed, bonded and insured. You can also go on the L&I website to look up a contractor and get their latest information.

Scope of work is critical

Before entering into a contract, it needs to be clear what you are asking the bidding contractors to do. Having that in writing is called a "scope of work."

Using a simple example, like putting down a new floor or installing a new bathtub, it should be made clear what the job entails.

It is relevant to detail whether tearing up and removing the old stuff is included in the price. It is also relevant 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 what about that old tub or other construction debris! Are they going to haul it away or is it up to you?

While this is a little 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 to do to get paid. A scope of work should be the body of any bid proposal and gets signed by both parties for 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 building 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: drawings, pictures or full blown prints. Do you need a designer or architect to best convey your dream project? They can save everyone involved a lot of headaches and maybe keep the project on time and in budget.

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.

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. In any case, having a “bid due date” will weed-out the casual bidder and show the others that you are serious.

Hopefully all competitive bids will come within 10 to 20 percent of each other. That typically indicates 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.

How do you know whom to pick?

You don’t have to always choose the contractor who bid the lowest, simply because the lowest bid isn’t always the best choice!

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 criteria you might use to make your best choice.

We like contractors who provide or are used to signing a written contract that protects both parties.

Written contracts key to success

Successful working relationships with most contractors are usually determined by being well prepared. That means good plans, a realistic and fully funded budget and mutual respect.

But even after a great plan and solid financing, the best of the legal glue that binds a well-intentioned contractor to the job is a detailed scope of work and a rock-solid written contract. That contract should at least describe what is going to happen, for how much, how long it will take and what will happen when either party fails to perform to the contract. Do you need legal help? “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.

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