Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Construction Check List: What, Why and How!

It is time to remodel. How do you get started? Like anything else, with a to-do list, of course. 

Here are some basics to consider for the next redesign project, a generic list that may need adaptation depending on how large or small your own project may be.

Why Are We Doing This

A remodeling project is going to upend your home or your business. What used to be convenient will soon be blocked off by tarps and dust protection. Speaking of tarps and dust, don't forget to look for a good skip hire for your project debris disposal. Make sure there is a good reason for getting into this in the first place.

If the answer is yes, proceed to question two. However, keep your project goals in mind and evaluate every step based on that. No sense calling the design a success if it does not accomplish what you set out to do.

It is instinctual for some, but for others, not so much. Do not forget to estimate the value of your home after you are done. After all, some projects take value away from a home, while most add to it.

Can We Do This?

Down the block sits a concrete home with an extravagant silo-looking tower in the front and a bunker-looking two story home behind it. And it has sat there for years, not moving forward or backward - a roof, but no windows, huge concrete blocks in place, but no move whatsoever toward completion.

Someone, evidently, ran out of gas. The funding got the project off the ground and substantial progress was made, but someone forgot to cross all the Ts and dot all the Is.
I wish I had a dime for every remodeling project that only got partway done before it was abandoned.

Cost Overruns

In the trade, costs that go above and beyond the allocated budget are called overruns. That means – phew! – you did not invent the problem of running into unsuspected problems part way through a project that added on to costs. As such, you should have a contingency plan to deal with this.

For starters, put aside (or borrow) more than you need to to get the project done. There is likely a formula out there for cost overruns – something simple like putting together a budget and then adding 20 percent just in case it is needed. Banks will certainly understand that strategy and lenders do not want an unfinished project anymore than you do.


It is quite likely you will need to schedule a project exactly a year after you first thought you should. This is to make up for the point that construction firms know the opportune time to start a major project is in the spring. Because of that, you may find out that builders are already booked one season in advance. If you dream up renovations this year, you might have another year to wait. In so many words: Get in line.

That said, if a project is largely or completely indoors, try to negotiate off-season rates. Many construction workers take a month or two off deep in the off season and workers for the most part would far rather make a paycheck than collect unemployment.

Line Up Your Team; Ask Around

Architects frequently recommend construction firms they have worked with in the past. Construction firms frequently nominate architects. But this should not stop you from conducting a solid reference check on anyone you hire. You are spending hard earned dollars, after all.

People in small cities or rural areas with a local pool of talent have no guarantee a contractor is honest, but they have a better chance of it. After all, if a local firm can survive year after year in one community, it is likely they have dealt fairly with their customers.

In bigger cities, it gets trickier. My father had a house built once in the suburbs of a major city and visited the construction site one day to find a worker painting the iron pipes a copper color. By the time he made a phone call to an attorney, the company had relocated to another state.

Insurance and Bonds

Deal only with companies that can show proof of insurance and have a surety bond. Sites like make it easy for contractors to obtain the necessary insurance online. 

If you need to, have an attorney check this out for you. You can also make inquiries at the surety bond company or with state regulators to ask about the history and current compliance status of a company.

While contractors need general liability insurance, the surety bond guarantees the contractor will complete the job according to the specifications spelled out in the contract. If the company cuts too many corners, fails to finish a job on time, or orders materials without paying for them, the surety bond covers this. 

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