Often when you start a project, no matter if it is new construction or a remodel, you are bound to run into problems or other unexpected expenses. These situations can be a boom for your contractor or a headache for the DIY guy. Before you hand over your checkbook and go along with whatever suggestion your contractor has devised, you need to consult a third party with no affiliation to your contractor. If you know anything about contractors, you know that we have one of the worst reputations among all professions.
To save yourself thousands upon thousands of dollars you should hire a consultant or even a couple of consultants to help you with your project. It isn’t beyond the realm of a contractor to suggest an alternative method to fix a situation that is more expensive than necessary. Before you agree to an expensive fix, stand back even if he says this will delay your project. It is better to wait a few more days to complete a project than to spend an extra five grand, wouldn’t you agree?
One situation that often comes up is rotted floor joists. Your contractor will usually suggest that you nail new joists next to the old ones, while this is the cheapest way, it sets up your new wood to rot twice as fast. Usually they wont address the actual cause of the rot, which is typically a lack of a moisture barrier on the ground or a lack of vents. If your not the type of person who does a winter/summer preparation for your home, install temperature controlled vents for your home. They are easy to install and could save you tens of thousands of dollars in the long run.
Another situation that comes up in remodeling is rotted boxing band or a rotted facia board behind the gutters. When contractors see this, they get all happy because they know that they can stick it to you. If you run into a problem like this, don’t just say, “Go ahead and replace them, I will pay you the extra costs.”. NO, NO, NO, if you have this problem, have the contractor give you a written estimate for the repairs with a breakdown on materials and labor. It isn’t that big a deal to replace either of these situations, but it sounds much worse than it actually is, don’t fall for that your house is gonna fall. Also, try to be there when they remove the bands or facia to see if there is rot behind boards, your floor joists or your trusses could have damage.
Often when a facia board is rotted it is due to a lack of a drip edge under the edge of the shingles. If your building a new home, insist on a drip edge, it is a cheap addition that will save you big. What if your contractor comes to you and says, “Your wiring is inadequate, we will have to replace all of the wiring in your home!” Oh, boy, that’s a biggie….. This happens more often than you think. Before you agree to replace all of the wiring, bring in an inspector from your local electric company and have him tell you the requirements for your situation. Often you can get by by replacing a single line.
If you run into a wiring situation and the local inspector says it has to be replaced then you need to get at least three estimates from companies that are not affiliated with your contractor. Also, have them come to do your estimates when no one else is on site. Often a contractor will say things to put doubts into the electricians mind which will inevitably run up his bid. When dealing with electrical contractors, have them give you a breakdown on the cost per fixture. Usually they will charge twenty five dollars per outlet and forty five per switch and so on. It also doesn’t hurt to visit a local electrical supply and see what the components needed actually cost. Some electricians will charge you more for supplies which adds to their profit margin but detracts from your budget.
Plumbing problems can often be daunting. When remodeling a kitchen you will often have to move the drain inside the wall. The plumber will often charge you ten to twenty times more to do this than the actual costs. This is not a hard job and if you have this problem, fix it yourself. It is a rather simple thing to glue PVC drain pipe together. If you have to move your water supply lines and don’t know how to solder, then get a couple of compression fittings (one named the “Shark” will work on almost any time of pipe) and change the supply line to pex. Your plumber will be able to connect the pex to your sink without any problem. If your plumber has never worked with pex or an equivalent, then get another plumber.
If you decide to let the plumber do the job, then get a written estimate broken down into labor and materials. Usually moving the drain and supply lines to a kitchen sink can be done in an hour. If he tries to bill you for four hours, question him as to why it would take so long when it can usually be done in an hour. I guess the real answer to problems that jump up in a project is to stand back, think a moment and act in YOUR INTERESTS, not in the interests of the contractor. Another tip is to give your contractor a time limit to complete a project, if it’s not done by a certain time then he should pay you LD’s or liquidated damages. This is typical in all large projects and if you want your contractor to take you seriously, then take yourself seriously.
Before you start any project, hire a consultant to help you write a contract, if your contractor wants you to sign a contract that he has written and wont agree to combine the two, then get another contractor. Another point to consider is that the cheapest bid isn’t always the best bid. If for any reason a contractor makes you nervous, don’t hire him or her. Another thing to consider is to request (put it in the contract) that one person (a foreman etc) be on the job at all times when other employees are working. This is the guy you will communicate with, don’t go telling his men what you want done, this will cause you problems as the employee is likely to resent it. As a whole, construction workers are good people, yet they are one independent bunch, remember this when working with them.
If you do your homework (which I always insist you do) then your project will go smoother and you can keep your costs under control. Remember you control the purse strings which means that you control the project. If your contractor has a problem with that, then you didn’t write a good set of specifications to go along with your contract. If you have any problems with a contractor and need a suggestion or help in any way, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will do my best to help you. I can also help you with specifications and contract writing if necessary. Thank you and always DO YOUR HOMEWORK……