Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Lessons from Hiring a General Contractor

Flashback one year ago today, I was gathering bids for a masterbath remodel. I hadn't planned to remodel anything major in the house until the kitchen was morphed into this decade. I brought in general contractor after general contractor to "do the drill" of job estimating for time and materials.

By the time I settled on hiring a this contractor, I spent three months interviewing and pricing the project. Cracking and shifting tiles in the master shower, made the shower pan take on water. Water meant mold lurking in my walls. It had to be redone, and I had to find the right contractor to do it. Since this project was not my focus, I didn't want to throw a ton of cash into it. My eye was set on the kitchen, so I hired the contractor that gave me a competitive labor price, who said we could do a "partial" remodel and keep costs down.

That was the beginning of a 7 month long battle with said general contractor to get the job done to an acceptable level and blew the entire bath budget as well as the kitchen budget. In the end, we had to completely demolish my masterbath three times for shoddy workmanship. Sure, all the references checked out, the insurance checked out, BBB checked out, and I was in renovators' hell. Since this is a flashback, I can now list all the things that I learned from this project...

1. I will never again attempt to hire out any remodel that involves the word "partial". Tile is like icing, you can't partially tile a cake and have it look right. You can't blend two different types of icing and have it look right and you can't add old icing to new icing.

2. I will research, get information on the internet, from friends, from the trades, and books. Educating yourself on the entire remodel will keep you from being "had" and it will also keep "change orders" to a minimum which in turn drive up the cost of the project and delay an already undercalculated timeline.

3. I will never give a "draw" for something that isn't totally complete and to my satisfaction.

4. The draw schedule will match the job schedule (yes, this was an issue)

5. My sales guy will never be my general contractor again, a guy who knows sales does not know construction.

6. My next general contractor will babysit the subcontractor that he hires to perform the work, I will not babysit on my dollar and my time.

7. Always budget for it costing twice what you think it is going to cost, inevitably, something goes strangely wrong and ends up costing more money.

8. Shop my own materials, if the contractor gives me the name of somebody to use, he is getting a kickback and I never get a discount.

9. Put everything in writing in a contract, study the contract, apply the contract, and have the contract in hand every time there is a conversation with the GC.

10. Never accept the words "we'll just do this...to patch that" NEVER.

And finally...

I learned I can do a better job and for a lot less money if I do it myself. ;-)

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