Your Home Remodel: Working With Contractors

A room addition just might be the solution to your space needs.  Less than moving away, more than refurbishing existing space, room additions suit the needs of many homeowners, both in terms of space and costs. Here is some sound advice on building a room addition.  

Even Contractors Want You To Get 2 or 3 Other Bids
Though it may sound preposterous, most contractors do not want you to hire them for your enterprise if you are not 100% certain.  If you jump on the first contractor that comes your way, you may get cold feet later on.  Contractors do not want to be the first one that you choose, instead they want to be the chosen result after all of your careful research.

The prudent homeowner might do well to interview 6 to 8 contractors, and then check the last several projects the best candidates have completed. One should also check with the California contractor’s licensing board for any complaints there.

Too Many Bids Can Be Too Much
In developing your shortlist of prospective bidders, bear in mind that soliciting more than 5 bids is counterproductive. From the contractor’s perspective bidding is a time consuming and costly process. Particularly on a small remodel, contractors may consider it a waste of their time when 6, 7 to 8 contractors bid on the same job. In considering whether to bid, contractors will weight the odds and, if their odds of winning the bid are not sufficiently high, they may elect to take a “pass” on your project.

Good Bids Will Be Closely Clustered
If you have chosen your bidders well, most of the bids will fall fairly close within the same range, with a 5-10% spread as reflective of a solid bid.

Learn to Think in Terms of Square Footage Cost
Room additions are complex. The only way to make sure you are comparing contractor estimates on a level playing field is to compare them on a dollar-per-square-foot basis. You’ll want to check carefully that all contractors are bidding on the same thing, or your square footage cost comparisons will be all wrong.

Realize That You Are Building a Mini-House
A room addition involves all of the same things that you find in new home construction: foundation, footings, framing, HVAC, flooring, plumbing, electrical, new windows, etc. The list goes on and on. Even if you are building a great room or living room (i.e., a room addition without services such as plumbing), you still have other services that you cannot avoid (electrical, heating, cooling, and more). Recognize that these will be part of any responsible bid, and anticipate that what might be visualized in your mind as easy-peezy and therefor low cost may exceed your exceptions once the bids come in. That said, also recognize that a responsible bid will include line items for each of these costs, thus allowing you to evaluate and, if necessary, find ways to manage (term: “value engineer”) the line items costs associated each item.

Be Careful With Those Really Low Bids
When you get that too-low bid, this may be an indication of a problem. Hopefully it simply means that the contractor doesn’t fully understand what you want and is bidding based on a scaled-down idea of your vision of your project, in which case you will need to interview them extremely carefully to see why they are so far out of the range. The very last thing you need is to hire a contractor who is “low-balling” the job since is inevitably a recipe for disaster.

You Must Be Able To Work With the Contractor
With a room addition, getting the contractor right is essential. Your relationship with this contractor hinges on how well your personalities mesh.  But do not expect to become great pals during this project: this is primarily a business relationship. After their pricepoint as reflected in their bid, in evaluating who to pick your main reliance will be on the contractor’s reputation and your feel about him/her e.g. your “chemistry”. After all, that contractor is going to become almost a family member for weeks if not months depending on the scope of work. So having a contractor with a great reputation and, after that, checking in on how your personality meshes with their is more likely to result in a successful project for all concerned.

Remove Emotions From the Process
It is very easy to lose perspective on one’s emotional perspective during the remodeling process. After all, one perceives (rightly) that this is an event involving the expansion of one’s most cherished belonging, their home and castle. However, inasmuch as it involves a transactional relationship with a builder, it’s also fundamentally a business investment. Losing sight of your businesslike approach to the project can lead to many problems, including cost overruns due to over-investing emotionally (and therefore financially) in cost-related decisions during the course of construction and tension between spouses as they sort out each of their emotional attachments attending to various decision forks during the course of construction. They can also cloud their relationship with their builder leading to tensions which may erode the relationship, thus in turn making the remodeling process more difficult.

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