Be Careful When Comparing Construction Bids
If you bid your project out to multiple contractors, make sure you are accurately comparing the bids on an "apples to apples" basis (this is when you'll find how important good architectural documents are!). Chances are that the contractors may qualify their bids in ways that won't allow you to just look at the bottom line. Ask a lot of questions to make sure your apparent low bidder has everything included in their price.
A Caution About Square Footage Costs
Some homeowners shop for general contractors based on a contractor's estimate of "cost per square foot" in order to obtain the lowest price. This is generally a bad way to select a remodeling contractor because each remodeling project is unique, and costs per square foot will vary dramatically from project to project. You are always better off getting a fixed price for a complete scope of work that has been detailed in your blueprints and construction documents.
Get a written agreement for any work, including design work and small repairs to be done on your home. Make sure anyone doing work on your home visits your home, lists the scope of work on the contract, and gives you a bid in writing.
Make sure the contract is dated and indicates the length of time the contract price is valid.
Make sure you have a clear understanding of the payment terms of the contract. Avoid large deposits and make sure the contract gives you the right to withhold payment for items not completed.
The contract should list all of the issues regarding the construction project. This includes the scope of work to be done, the agreed upon price, the payment terms, the specific products to be used, how the items are to be installed, and the timing of the project. If blueprints are being used, it is very important that you understand these documents, as these document what you are going to receive for your money. Don't assume anything - insist that the blueprints, construction documents and contracts specify exactly what you want to have done.
Once your contract is signed any changes to be made in products or installation must be made through a document called a change order. Be aware that change orders often involve extra costs on the part of the homeowner; therefore, it is essential that you make decisions early in the process, before your contract is signed.
Most projects take longer than you think, particularly the design and planning phase, but the time spent early in the process pays off later by setting the stage for a more cost-effective project with a shortened construction schedule.
Staying on Schedule
Keeping a construction project on schedule is a joint effort by both the homeowner and the contractor. As a homeowner, you can do your part by planning ahead and being decisive as changes and questions come up during the project.
One key to staying on schedule is to avoid the temptation to rush into the construction phase of your project thinking that you'll decide later about finishes because many construction materials, particularly finish materials like tile and cabinets, can take weeks or even months to be delivered.
Staying On Budget
Once you have done your research on how to finance your project, allow for unexpected construction costs. A general rule of thumb is that you should allow 10% - 15% of the estimated construction costs for unexpected expenses and changes you may want to make.
Change orders are changes to the construction contract which usually involve either an increase or decrease in the contract value. Change orders can be items of additional work requested by the homeowner, work deleted by the homeowner or the result of unforeseen conditions (see next section).
Remodeling projects may run into what are known in the industry as "unforeseen conditions". Unforeseen conditions are existing building conditions that were not planned for because it would have been difficult, expensive or even impossible to determine the condition existed prior to the start of construction. A classic example of an unforeseen condition is if the contractor uncovers termite damage during the demolition phase of the project. Chances are the unforeseen condition, which was not planned for or priced into the job, would result in a change order to repair the damage.
Hiring an Interior Designer
You should apply the same careful research to hiring an interior designer as you would to hiring an architect and general contractor. Unless you are working with an interior designer who is part of a design/build company and included in the contract, you will pay additional fees and have a separate contract with an interior designer. It is important to hire an interior designer early, preferably before or early in the architectural design phase of the project.
Share your Budget with the Architect and the Builder
Often people are afraid to reveal the amount they have budgeted for their project because they are afraid the builder will adjust or inflate the price based on the revealed budget amount. If you are afraid to tell your architect or contractor what your budget is, you should probably find other people to help you.
The architect needs to know your budget so a design can be developed that meets your needs and your budget. If you are honest and share your budget and goals with your general contractor, he may be able to offers suggestions and alternatives that could meet your goals and help you stay under budget.
Copyright Notice Copyright 2003 Gardner/Fox Associates, Inc. All rights reserved.
For non-commercial, private use only. No part of the Planning Your Project,
Maintaining Your Project, Resources or Cost of Moving sections may be reproduced
and/or distributed without written permission. Gardner/Fox Associates, Inc.
takes no responsibility for any and all products, services, or information
provided directly by any of the independent companies, organizations, or
individuals referenced herein.