Starting a new project in your home can be an intimidating process. At Studio Wellington one of our top priorities is making sure our clients are well informed about the construction process and the ends and outs of building and design. Working with a contractor or builder can be a complicated process made easier by finding the right fit.
Here are a few questions you should ask your contractor to really understand if they are the best fit for your project.
1. Do you know others who have used them?
Take the time to research your contractor. Read reviews and if you know someone that has used them before ask them how their experience was. Did their project get finished on time? Was the job site kept clean? Did their contractor do a good job of managing their subcontractors? IF the answer to any of these questions makes you wary, listen to your gut. While there are amazing contractors out there, simple things like a clean job site (especially if you're living in the house) can make all the difference to creating a more zen experience.
2. Does the contractor need design selections to make your bid?
If you are looking at comparing bids from contractors, try to pick out some of your design and finishes ahead of time. Different levels of finishes for your project can seriously impact your construction time and budget. If you can let your contractor know more of these decisions up front you’ll be able to get the most accurate bid. Take a bathroom project for example; Do you want marble tile or porcelain? For the shower tile, was there a specific pattern you plan to use? (Herringbone is more expensive to lay than a brick lay). Did you want to order from a specific lighting company? Did you want painted or stained cabinets? Custom or prefabs cabinetry? Will you source your mirrors separately, or should they include mirror in the glass quote? All of these questions make a difference to the ultimate bid from the contractor.
3. How does the contractor typically make a bid?
If your contractor isn’t asking for the above finish details, how are they making their bid? Generally, they will use construction grade items and basic finishes for their bids unless otherwise specified. If you’re looking for a more custom or high end design, letting your contractor know ahead of time avoids problems down the line and possible expenses for change orders. Getting more specific ahead of time can save you a lot of headache (things becoming too complicated) and heartache (spending more than planned) later.
*Shameless plug:Working with an interior designer can help save you both time and money before the process even begins.
4. Does the contractor have a preferred Interior Designer or Architect?
If you are looking for an Interior Designer or Architect for your project to pick those important design finishes we just talked about, ask your contractor! Many contractors have relationships with designers and architects that they have worked with on other projects. Using a designer that has worked with your contractor before can help keep the project running smoothly, but don’t be afraid to look around. If you don’t like the style of the interior designer they suggest, choose a different designer! The design of your space needs to be personally connected and unique to you! The best designs come from designers that can understand who you are, how you live, and what story you want to tell in your space.
5. Does the contractor have preferred vendors? Or can you select any vendors for your project?
Many contractors have working relationships with vendors that they prefer to deal with. This might be for a number of reasons, successful past projects, trade discounts, or community ties. It’s important for you and your designer to know where you can make selections, and how important it may be to select your own vendors. If a builder or contractor has a hard line
opinion about using select vendors, they may not be the right fit for you. Before signing a contract do a bit of research on their selected vendors to gain an understanding if this is someone you can work with.
6. What is the contractor's policy on change orders?
This is an extremely important question. You can plan out your project to the very last nail-head and there will always be something that you didn’t account for. Change orders can add a lot of unnecessary expense to a project, but are sometimes unavoidable. If they have an expensive change order policy, getting your finishes and materials selected ahead of time become even more important. Remember though, it is necessary to be flexible during the construction process. Not every problem can be seen until walls have been opened up (for a renovation) and sometimes the best solutions can impact other areas of the project. Try to leave room for a few "happy accidents" to happen. Depending on your builder or contractors change order policy, you can get together a plan for how many of those "happy accidents" you can tolerate.
7. Is there a penalty for builders taking more time/days late?
It could be due to weather, unexpected issues, or manufacturing/shipping problems, but ultimately there will be delays. Many changes have happened in the construction industry after COVID, remember that changing policies in countries where raw materials are sourced, can affect material availability for many aspects of your project. Have a conversation ahead of time with your contractor or builder about their experiences with material shortages and how they plan to avoid issues. In some contracts there may be a penalty for a contractor going over a set date, however in this post COVID world, you shouldn't expect it.
8. Are you going to have a supervisor on site on my project?
Knowing how your project is going to be managed is essential. How does your contractor manage their subcontractors? Is there going to be a supervisor on site everyday? Make sure you understand who is going to be responsible for managing the small issues that happen daily while managing a construction site. For Example: Trash can pile up quickly so make sure you know who is responsible for removing it and keeping the site in order, this can add to the headache of living through a renovation.
Have you worked with a contractor before? Did you have any issues?