Secrets Your Contractor’s Work
- by Luke Jansen
You have consulted friends and compared their recommendations. Then you choose your favorite contractor, check references, and perhaps even perform an online background investigation on the business. Now you are confident that you have chosen a top-notch professional to help you with your home improvement projects.
Keep in mind that their goal is to get your signature on a contract. So these are the things you need to know about protecting your bottom line before you make a decision.
1. They’re not the only thing in town
Even if you think you have found the best contractor, you should not hire them unless they are the right fit for your project.
Before you hire a contractor to make your home improvements, solicit at most three bids. This will allow you to make informed hiring decisions by comparing costs and methods.
What should you do when you are asking for bids? First, give each contractor the exact project details. This could include the materials you want to use as well as floor plans. Cost should always be a significant deciding factor. However, scheduling and communication style is important.
2. They’re going out to farm out the work
General contractors rarely do the actual work. They could have been plumbers or carpenters but are now entrepreneurs and have retired their tools.
Their job is to schedule subcontractors, manage budgets, and sign clients. Contractors can be a bit vague about their involvement in winning your business.
You can ask the job foreman who will be at work on the job site. Jay Rhind of Stockbridge, Mass. contractor, says that meeting the job foreman is a good idea. “You want to make them feel at ease.”
TIP: Do not underestimate the power of kindness. It will keep your contractor or crew on task and improve the quality of their job.
3. A Large Deposit is Not Necessary and Could Be Illegal
A deposit is required when signing a contract. However, the warranty is not used to pay for the contractor’s set-up and initial materials.
If the business is financially sound and in good standing, they don’t need to pay upfront. Many states limit the contractor’s advance. For example, California’s maximum deposit is 10% of the job price or $1,000, whichever comes first. For more information about the law in your community, contact your local or state consumer agency.
What you should do: It is reasonable to deposit to get started on a project. However, the amount of work to be completed should dictate the payment plan. If work isn’t completed according to schedule, then payments may be delayed.
TIP: Make sure to charge it when possible. Federal Trade Commission suggests that homeowners use credit cards to pay for home improvement work. It can help homeowners protect themselves in case a project goes sour. After working with your contractor to resolve any problems, consumers can withhold payment to the extent of the outstanding credit for the purchase. This includes any finance fees or charges.
4. They’re increasing not only the cost of labor but also the cost of materials
Contractors may not want to discuss this, but they will mark up all they pay for your job. It’s their way of paying overhead and their salary. However, keep in mind that the 50% markup might also apply to labor costs and materials.
What you should do: If your ability to handle purchasing items such as plumbing fixtures and countertops, cabinets, countertops, or flooring, you can ask your contractor to include them in their bid price. Make sure you agree on the exact numbers and quantities of what you will purchase and have the items at the job site when you need them. On average, you can save anywhere from 10% to 20% on the total cost of your project.
TIP: Salvaged materials are a way of saving money on building costs. Be careful with upcycled material, so it doesn’t devalue your home.
5. They are not the Design Whizs They Claim To Be
Contractors can have excellent design skills. However, they may be spending more time running their businesses and less time designing.
What to do: Your project may require a team of professionals depending on its complexity. Do not expect a contractor or designer to create a space for you and add sophisticated details.
Ask them about their contractor’s design skills. For example, hiring an architect to plan the entire project is possible, while a kitchen and bath designer will handle the details.
You have consulted friends and compared their recommendations. Then you choose your favorite contractor, check references, and perhaps even perform an online background investigation on the business. Now you are confident that you have chosen a top-notch professional to help you with your home improvement projects. Keep in mind that their goal is to get…
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