Heritage Restoration, Inc.

A Great Project Starts with the Right Contractor

How do I get the best project for the best price? And how do I avoid choosing the wrong person to do it?

Too often projects get out of control, taking too long and costing way more than expected. Success starts with good planning (no matter how big or small), research on methods, materials and people, as well as a well-designed execution. Here are some guidelines in getting the most out of your project, the team and your money.

Part I — Planning

• Identify physical and philosophical project goals.

• Define how it fits into overall needs.

• Create a project timeline.

• List the impact work will have on the house and your daily activities.

• List potential project team members, by name or profession.

• Create a scope for each team member, or have it created for you.

Part II — Your budget

The budget should be both baseline and for contingencies. You may need a professional to help you. You can even share the budget with prospective bidders. Crazy I know, but it helps contractors develop an effort that works for your budget.

Part III — Team building

Define your place in the project, either as liaison or project manager. A good project manager is crucial for a project’s success. The project manager could be you, an architect, general contractor or another responsible party. The project manager sets the schedule, communicates well, revises scope, anticipates needs and assists each team member from start to completion.

Part IV — Team selection

A well-seasoned project manager typically has multiple, prescreened team members to suit each project. Yet assembling the right team for the first time can be difficult. First is how to find them. Take each resource with a grain of salt, check references and go with your gut.

Within the building trades, there are big, small and everything in between. Be persistent, some have offices and some have trucks. The best method is to call, call again, then again.

• Newspapers, journals and other periodicals

• State agencies

• Suppliers

• Ask around

• Business groups and trade associations

• Internet

• Phone book

Part V — The right person for the right job

A name is a name, but a reputation is everything. Checking references is essential. Here is how to qualify a professional:

• Meet them

• Do they present the right image

• Do they understand the scope of the project

• Get qualifications and/or a resume

• Past five completed projects and references

• Who will be doing the work

• Follow up on references, asking:

• Overall impression

• Would you hire them again

• Were they the lowest, middle or highest bidder

• Start and finish on time

• Show up on time

• Legitimate change orders

• Workmanship

• Clean work site

• Visit completed projects

• Check their state contractor’s registration

• Get copies of liability and worker’s compensation insurances and ask to be an additional insured. Also check your homeowners policy to see if there are any gaps in your coverage relating to construction work.

Part VI — Contracts and payments

Proposals should have the contractor’s name, contractors registration number, detailed scope, cost and payment terms. Deposits are OK, just do not let the payments get too far ahead of the project. Be prompt in your payments.

Let both the contractor and project manager know when a “change order” is appropriate. The better the scope, the fewer change orders. Understand guarantees and warrantees.

Part VII — Selecting the Team

If you get multiple bids, the average is usually the most accurate. Really low may mean they missed something, have low work expectations, misinterpreted the scope or will hit you with change orders. High may mean they are expecting more than you see, have high work expectations, which equals more time, or have more resources and overhead than the others.

So pick wisely, ask questions, and remember, those with adequate time, resources and defined expectations will give you the best job.

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