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Critical Steps To A Successful Home Remodel

Apr 25, 2008
If you have ever signed a contract for a home remodel, then you know how frustrating it can be when working with a general contractor and his entire team of subcontractors. As a former contractor in the Los Angeles area, I know exactly what you are up against when you hire a builder to work on your house.

The contractor ultimately wants to turn a profit while the homeowner wants his or her house built or remodeled exactly as they want. Both parties want something but ultimately the homeowner usually ends up paying a lot more money by the time the project is finally complete.

Additional construction costs usually occur because the initial contract was not detailed enough and didn't cover potential construction issues. Ultimately, it's poor communication that is at fault when the final bill far exceeds the original estimate. This article will discuss a few proactive methods a homeowner can take to avoid additional costs during their construction remodel.

The very first thing you can do when choosing a subcontractor is to try to find a local builder. And when I say local, I mean within 10-15 miles from the construction site. This isn't always practical but if you can swing it, I would definitely get bids from contractors who are geographically close to your construction site (your home).

There are many benefits to choosing a local contractor. One benefit (and perhaps the most important), is the contractor is most likely familiar with your city building officials, planners, and inspectors. This lends to a more accurate, initial bid from the contractor because he or she will foresee potential building and inspection problems that a non-local contractor will miss altogether in the bidding process.

Another good reason to choose a local company is it makes it easier for the builder to inspect the job site and keep close tabs on his construction crew. Imagine being a contractor and having one project a few blocks away and another that is a 45 minute drive. Which are you going to visit more often?

Yet another benefit from choosing a local contractor is more than likely the contractor has a close network of local companies that he or she works with. This will lead to quicker response times and more efficient service.

Before you sign the dotted line and agree to a construction contract, ask your builder about their subcontractors. Are they local? Are they union?

Although union contractors are more expensive, their workers are usually more reliable and experienced than a non-union contractor. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. The point is you should be well informed about each of the subcontractors who intend to work on your home. You should request a meeting with each subcontractor, and discuss the project details with their job site foreman.

In case you didn't know, subcontractors typically finance every one of their projects. It's true. The builder will sign a contract with a subcontractor (such as a plumber) and then only pay the plumber after the completion of the project or at significant percentage intervals. This could be anywhere from 30 days to 180 days before the plumber receives a nickel for working on your home. Meanwhile, the plumber has purchased material, paid their workers, and possibly paid for necessary permits.

Essentially, the subcontractors are the bank! Why does this matter to you? It matters because if one of the subcontractors doesn't get paid in a timely manner by your builder, you could very easily end up with a disgruntled crew working on your home. Or, even worse, a crew that refuses to show up to the job site because the builder is late with their payments.

To help facilitate payments, it's always a good idea to maintain a relationship between the builder's superintendent and the subcontractor's individual foremen (the men in charge of their respective crews).

I'll forewarn you: the builder will get upset if you try to maintain contact with their subcontractors. The builder loses a little bit of control when you are communicating directly with the subs. By communicating directly with the subcontractors, you will have a direct hand in the building or remodel of your home, and you can easily avoid costly mistakes made during construction.

If you really want to take control and make sure the subcontractors are happy, you could cut checks directly to them and avoid paying the builder altogether. You would need to prearrange this prior to signing the contractors estimate. When this happens (and I've seen it a lot), the subcontractors tend to work in favor of the homeowner and will put the extra effort into giving the homeowner exactly what he or she wishes.

While there are many tips I can give you for working with your builder, the above listed ones are probably the most effective for maintaining a productive environment for your home remodel.
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