Choosing the Right Remodel Contractor & Running Your Own Bid (Part 5 of 6)

(. . . continued from Part 4)

Does something ‘lurk’ behind the shininess?

24. Does the contractor have a safety program in place?
Again, a safety question here.  It’s also a regulatory requirement.  I have had a safety program in place since

25. Does the contractor have a couple of good ideas when you first meet?
The first meeting is not to pick his/her brain so you can use the ideas and go elsewhere to get a better price.  Or, so you can find out if something that you’re thinking of doing is reasonable or even possible, and then going to the ‘big box’ store to buy what you need to do it yourself.  This can get you into real trouble (besides being unethical) as the contractor may think something is possible, but doesn’t have the view of the inside of a system, for example.  Let’s say you want to remodel a kitchen and you want to take a wall out.  You call the contractor to meet you and start asking for ideas, and ask if removing the wall is possible.  It may appear not to be a bearing wall from the outside, but once you’re into the wall the contractor would have seen that it’s a bearing wall and it has shear paneling on it.  You may not know the difference (that’s why you contacted a professional to ask) and you remove the wall based on his superficial assessment of the situation.  He was not there to assess whether you can remove the wall and may not even know if that’s reasonable without calling the engineer.  Now, you’ve compromised your home based on an assumption that was never intended.  Remember the word ‘assume’ can also mean something else!  So, now do you call the attorney, the contractor, the building department, or just close it up and pretend it didn’t happen?

A note here:  If you have a cousin ‘Sparky’ that wants to do the electrical work on weekends, the contractor may tell you that you’ll have to wait until his/her work is completed first.  And, that your cousin needs to get his own permit for that work.  The reason is that the contractor can’t be expected to buy the liability for your cousin’s work, nor can he/she know what to expect when your cousin is done with that work.  There is a good reason we develop professional relationships with others that we prefer to business with.  (We know the outcome and the process.)  Is your cousin going to be around the day the appliances need to be installed and you have two large guys waiting for a hook-up in the cabinets that Sparky didn’t do because the cabinets weren’t installed yet?  And, who will be responsible when someone else has to make the hook-up?  Expect the contractor to act professionally and tell you, “That will not be an option for this project.”  Let’s say you want another friend to install tile in your shower.  The work is done and now it’s time for the plumber to install trim, and the shower door is ready to be installed.  Now you find out that the wall has more thickset mortar behind the tile than what the plumber anticipated and the wall that the door’s hinges mount to is slightly bowed.  Who will pay to make all of this correct?

Okay, if you’re still here with me . . .

After the bidding is complete, and if you have run the bid properly, ask yourself about the quality of the presentation of the bid or proposal:
Is it detailed enough and professional enough to get a sense of the work that the contractor may perform?
Was it presented on time, at the right place, and clearly enough to be able to compare?
Do you fully understand it?
Were your bidding instructions followed properly?
Don’t discount a bid because it’s not the ‘shiniest’ package, but it should be professionally done.  Not everyone has access to the best computer system or the best packaging to ‘wow’ you.  Sometimes a straightforward package is better than the shiny one.  (Does something ‘lurk’ behind the shininess?)  It’s important to remember that when you prepare your bid package it must give enough time to put a proper bid together, and you must not deviate from it unless you deviate with all bidders equally, and for good reason.  If you do not do this you will likely be setting yourself up for some form of failure in the process of bidding and of construction by allowing things to slide with someone that just can’t ‘get it all together’ in the time frame that everyone else can.  (Even if you don’t select the contractor that may be late, or has requested a change in the bidding requirements that seems unreasonable, the one that you do select may have a bad feeling about you going into the project.  Remember, this is all about relationships.  Building your remodel is merely a way to establish and develop that relationship.)  Always ask why a change is requested or a bid is late, and honor those that put the effort in to honor you in the process.  If you deviate in this, you are saying that your time frame for the construction is also not a ‘hard-and-fast’ requirement.  (It’s just like raising children in a lot of ways; you have to be consistent and refuse to budge or you lose in the long run.)  You may also find it expensive or emotionally trying to deal with later when the selected contractor may start to request favors or early payment on amounts owed.  This kind of behavior is not acceptable; a reputable contractor will not do this to you.  Don’t let it happen and then ‘bad-mouth’ remodelers because you wanted to be a ‘nice guy.’

(continued in Part 6 . . .)

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