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Adhering to some common sense practices, building an addition, or constructing a new home, can be a fun adventure, instead of an out of control nightmare !

There are additional things to consider when dealing with a large project. The premier issue when getting estimates will always be the price. On a large project, there are many ways to arrive at a price. If you're not aware of the pitfalls, you will get into a ton of trouble before a single nail is driven. There will be many choices to make regarding selections of fixtures and finishes.

Some contractors, in order to get the job, will "low ball" the initial estimate. This deceptive practice will take a homeowner "off the market". The homeowner believes they are getting the best deal, eliminating all other competitors for the job. They tend to focus solely on the price, and forget to consider a variety of other important issues.

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A homeowner can be at great risk when dealing with a contractor

Here are some key elements to consider:

  1. Beware of the "CHEAP PRICE" - Many contractors work with little or no capital. They contract a job, get a deposit, and start the job. Many times they underprice the job! Several days into the job, they realize they can't finish. They have to find, and contract another job, get a deposit, then using that money to complete the first job. Many times, this shell game catches up and ultimately puts them out of business, leaving the homeowner, an unsuspecting victim,with an unfinished project. Homeowners can spend 25 - 50% more than they anticipated because they have to hire another contractor, to complete the original job. Most contractors hesitate to accept these unfinished projects. A good rule of thumb is to get three estimates. If one is extremely low, or extremely high, throw that one out, and work with the other two. You're not buying a car. The materials will cost the same when comparing apples to apples, but the quality of the labor will be the variable. Good mechanics will get paid more, which will cause the price to be a little higher. Cheap prices tend to predict poor workmanship, cutting corners or taking shortcuts.
  2. "Low Ball Prices" - A low price is either intentional or incompetence. Either way, the homeowner is in trouble. EXAMPLE - You get a price to do a kitchen. It's $6000 lower than your other estimates. Here's why - The contractor most likely figured all "builder's grade" finishes and fixtures. Unless this job is for a rental property, most homeowner's want better than "builder's grade" materials. As the homeowner begins to make selections for cabinets, appliances, countertops, flooring, backsplash materials, lighting fixtures, etc., the contractor reveals that he only priced in builder's grade materials. Upgrades from there will create additional cost. Extras add up in every category, ultimately increasing the total job cost, to well beyond what was originally quoted.
  3. Time Frame - When a contractor gets into financial trouble on a project, in most cases, the project takes a lot longer than originally planned. If the projects stops and the exterior finishes aren't complete, exposure to weather can harm the materials already installed. If a roof is incomplete, a roof leak can develop, doing damage to the interior. A job that drags out, is a major inconvenience for a homeowner. A good contractor, plans, coordinates and executes in an efficient, and timely fashion. Ask if the contractor has his own employees, or uses sub - contractors. Subs are independent and make their own schedule. In most instances, they slow the work down, since the contractor has little control over their schedule.
    Waiting for each phase to be performed by a sub (i.e. masonry, framing, electric, plumbing) could add days, weeks and sometimes months to the project. Firms with their own employees will be more efficient. The employees are told where to go each 
    day, and are not independents. 
  4. Budgets - When accepting an estimate from a builder or a home remodeler, insist on a pre-construction conference. Give the builder or contractor a good idea of what you want for finishes and fixtures. If you were doing the kitchen we spoke about above, you would tell the remodeling contractor what grade of cabinet you want (i.e. standard cabinets or solid wood), what type of flooring (i.e wood or ceramic tile), laminate or tile backsplash, what grade of appliances (i.e. white or stainless). By getting specific before the estimate is completed, the price will more accurately reflect your wishes and virtually eliminate cost overruns.
  5. Warranties - If possible, when checking references, determine if the contractor services his work when needed. Often, a contractor, after receiving final payment, vanishes into thin air, never to answer his phone again! Typical is a one year warranty on labor, and each product used has an individual manufacturer's warranty. Make sure it's in writing. We offer a 10-year labor warranty. If the work is done properly the first time, you never have anything to worry about.
  6. Contractor Complaints - Never rely solely on the BBB. Most homeowners are unaware that the BBB charges contractors a membership fee. The motivation of the BBB is tainted at best. Check with the local "Consumer Affairs" office for more accurate information on a specific contractor. Ask the local building supply houses for  feedback. Check with the local construction officials. If you follow these steps, you will greatly increase you chance of a successful project. 
  7. Contract - Make sure the written agreement is "very specific" regarding the scope of work. It should include what is to be done, and what is not to be done. The agreement should have a price, a payment schedule, a start and completion date, warranty and insurance information and a right of recision form.
  8. Workmanship - This may seem obvious, but believe it or not, when a homeowner gets a cheap price, they forget about the quality of the work. Checking references, past customers of the firm you plan to hire is equally as important. Get at least (10) names from the contractor.
    Then go and look at the work and talk to the customer about the experience. Contractors can fake a few references.​

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