In a perfect world, one could decide an upgrade is needed on the house. A reliable building contractor is found the next day, plans are put into motion within a week and the project is completed, to everyone’s utmost satisfaction, within a month or two.
In the real world, that is highly unlikely to happen. Home renovations and/or additions are meticulous undertakings with many factors to take into consideration. As well, communication between client and contractor needs to be crystal clear.
Therefore, a client should anticipate up to three or four months lead time before work actually begins.
Chris Niezen of Guelph Building Supply outlines the steps that should be taken to ensure a project proceeds as smoothly as possible and garners the best results.
First and foremost, the client needs to find a reputable contractor with whom he or she can both communicate and establish a rapport with. The one thing all good contractors have in common is that they’re busy and a client can expect to wait awhile before one is available.
It is common knowledge that a perspective client should compare a number of bids before entering into a contract. What Chris recommends, though, is that the bid be for the basic project, only. If there are any additional frills the homeowner may be mulling over, they can be discussed at a later date with the successful bidder.
Not only does this approach give the client a good idea of how much the project will cost, it also makes sure that each contractor is actually bidding on the same job. When recalling past jobs his company has bid on, Chris maintains that “history tells us that nobody really knows exactly what they want, up front.”
For the sake of explanation, let’s say a client is considering having a patio built in the back yard. After one contractor bids on building the patio, the client tells the next bidder that he/she is considering additional lighting for it. (A contractor may suggest different options, so give the opportunity for add ons or upgrades).
The second bid will obviously be higher, and the client does not have a clear vision of what that bid would be if the lights had not been included. It is confusing for the client and can be unfair for the bidders who, as Chris puts it, end up “comparing apples to oranges to plums.”
When accepting a basic bid, the homeowner should then speak to the contractor about potential extras. The contractor will provide a realistic estimate on what they will cost and the client will decide whether they fit the budget.
Speaking of budgets, the client might decide on less expensive materials to keep costs down. While that makes perfect sense, the old adage that you get what you pay for comes into play.
By scrutinizing the cost breakdown, clients may discover that going with better materials is not as high an additional cost as they first thought.
Getting back to the hypothetical patio project, the cost of the stone could widely vary from around $2 a square foot, to as high as $10. The latter could be better quality and more stylish, but it’s likely not necessary that the more expensive stone only be used.
An experienced and savvy builder is able to deploy less expensive materials in certain areas where the good stuff isn’t really necessary and still achieve the aesthetically pleasing results.
The client should also take into account that, in the overall scheme of the project, the cost is not just the patio stone. It also includes the installation and that will cost the same, regardless of material price.
“You can have a nicer product for not much more (money),” points out Chris. “The real cost is in the labour.”
Regarding the costs, a payment schedule should be worked out to best ensure that both the client and contractor are protected. Chris suggests that a good rule of thumb is to pay ten per cent up front to get on the contractor’s schedule, another 30 at starting point, another 30 at the midpoint, and the final 30 when the project is complete.
When considering a project, having a budget and keeping within it is vitally important. What is equally important, however, is to have a builder that you feel you can trust and communicate with.
You may have to be patient. A good contractor is worth waiting for and the final result will be a pleasure for years to come. It is always good to plan ahead and be patient for the best contractor to achieve the best result.
Written by: Dan Pelton | Resources: Guelph Building Supply and Orangeville Building Supply