Get Your Money's Worth with a Good Contractor
Whether replacing a broken front step or building a family room addition, most homeowners
realize that any improvement requires spending money. However, savvy consumers also
want value for every dollar. To ensure that your money is well spent and that your
project is a complete success, heed the following advice:
- Plan well. A finished project will only be as good as its design. Without appropriate
planning, problems can arise that will lead to unanticipated expense.
- Establish the level of quality you desire. A contractor needs to understand your
expectations regarding workmanship and products to be utilized. If possible, show
him or her a completed job, similar to your own, which you admire.
- Create a detailed contract. This should include the scope of the project, including
the materials and, where applicable, hours of labor that can be anticipated. This
document should also explain the timetable and payment schedule as well as include
the types of products that will be used with make and model numbers. The responsibilities
of the contractor and any subcontractors also should be covered.
- Get several bids. You can request bids from three contractors. Be sure to compare
"line" items against each other. For example, the cost of labor, materials, and
products should be differentiated, not lumped together in a bid. Don't necessarily
be tempted by the lowest bid. Remember: You do get what you pay for.
- Ask your contractor to assign his best workers to your job. And, request, if possible,
that they stick with your job from start to finish. Your job will proceed more smoothly
and subcontractors will do better work if they feel "ownership" of their part of
- Make sure the bids include allowances in dollar amounts for items such as light
fixtures and appliances which you will purchase yourself. This will help you be
aware of the complete budget.
- Have your contractor go to his "high volume" resources for products, if you are
not buying them yourself. He or she might know less expensive vendors than your
architect or designer, if you have one.
- Replace existing fixtures in kitchens and baths, if possible, rather than relocating
them. Moving plumbing, electrical, and gas lines is labor intensive and requires
- Select kitchen cabinets carefully. It has been estimated that 50 percent of the
money you invest in your kitchen will go toward cabinets. Those that have received
the seal of certification from the Kitchen Cabinets Manufacturers Association must
have passed nearly 60 tests for quality.
- Avoid unnecessary change orders. Once the contract is signed, it is expensive to
make changes or additions. Any work not specified in the original contract results
in extra costs. And do ask for a cost estimate in writing for each change or addition,
before you give the go ahead for the work in .
Fun Fact: When remodeling 78 percent of homeowners hire a pro; 18 percent
do the work themselves. A small percentage, 4 percent hire a contractor but then
buy their own materials, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
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