How many times have you hired a contractor without first checking up on credentials? Have you asked for references? Seen their work? Checked google reviews? Ask for proof of License and insurance? Far too often customers get scammed by fly by night contractors simply because they didn’t do their homework. We want to put an end to that! Although for smaller projects there is obviously much less risk (at least monetarily), as jobs get bigger so do the responsibilities of the contractor, which is why you need to check credentials!
WHAT IS A CONTRACTOR?
Every time you sign your name on a dotted line, you are signing a contract. A contract is a legal document that guarantees products or services between two or more people.
Plainly speaking, a contractor is anyone who fills the responsibilities and requirements of a contract. When you hire someone to paint your house or someone to install a sprinkler system on your lawn, you are hiring contractors. The contractor then legally binds his or her name to the specifications of the contract, and so do you.
Most contractors are good, honest men and women who want to fulfil the specifications of the contract to the best of their abilities. They have families, they have lives just like you and I. They want you to be happy with the work. It’s the lifeblood of their business. Which is what most likely feeds their families and keeps roofs over their heads. Every contractor has had positive and negative experiences with them homeowners he/she has serviced. Because of those experiences, contractors rely on the written contract to resolve any dispute on what was agreed.
WHAT KINDS OF CONTRACTORS ARE THERE?
In a large-scale remodel (say remodeling an entire home) there are two types of contractors, the general contractor and subcontractors.
A general contractor is responsible for the overwatch of the project in its entirety, while subcontractors are responsible for their specific tasks on said remodel (plumbers, electricians etc.). For a home remodel, the general contractor will meet with the homeowner to go over all the project details and specifications, estimate the cost of the project, draft the contract and hire the workers to complete all the tasks on the remodel. At Iron & Oak, we do all the carpentry ourselves (any framing or wood working, finish work, tile, trim, windows, flooring etc.) and sub out the mechanicals and depending on the size, drywall, and paint.
A subcontractor is a worker who is hired by the general contractor to carry out the specifications of another contract. Subcontractors are usually hired to perform a special skill or special type of labor on a specific project. Subcontractors work under the general contractors and are paid by the general contractors.
Most homeowners have hired handymen to replace a toilet, fix a door, fix a ding in some drywall etc. But they may be less experienced when it comes to hiring someone to do a larger scale remodel such as remodeling a kitchen.
Big jobs can easily become complicated. Specialists (subs) will need to be hired to complete their work and in a proper order. All the subs need to be managed and coordinated with. That is the general’s job instead of yours.
A general contractor will assess the jobs needs based on discussion with the homeowner and inspection of the work that is needed. He or she will then devise a plan for subcontractors and the coordination needed for that specific job. General contractors guide the job all the way through from start to finish.
Seasoned contractors (Iron & Oak has over 25 years of experience) have a strong grasp on every aspect of home remodeling and at worst, if they don’t know something, they know someone who does. They can answer any questions such as what types of building materials needed to difficulty of project details to timeline it will take to get the job done. A good contractor always meets or even exceeds building code.
General contractors get paid by taking a percentage of the overall cost of the project. This includes all the costs on the project such as labor, materials, permits, admin costs etc.
Basically, the general contractors’ job is to act as day to day operations manager of the project while maintaining constant communication with all parties involved. As clients that have been through major projects can attest, this can either go very well or very badly. The most important thing a homeowner can do is hire the right contractor not based solely on cost, but on what he or she needs from the work and make sure the contractor understands 100% what he or she wants from the project.
Hiring, an honest, experienced contractor is a good first step but if you haven’t worked with a contractor (specifically a general contractor) before, you may not be aware of what is expected in the contractor- client relationship.
If you haven’t worked with the contractor before are simply wanting to do better or know more read the following:
1. Be very clear about what you want and don’t be afraid to speak up: Any contractor will tell you homeowners with realistic goals and a relative understanding of the process are usually the best to work with. Make your expectations clear during the bidding stage. When the contract is submitted, read it carefully and ask questions later if anything needs to be ironed out. If you have any questions or are unhappy with any aspects of the project bring it to the attention of the contractor immediately. It’s your most prized possession, your home, your money, and your project. One of the most frustrating things to a contractor is when they get started and then the homeowner says they meant something else.
2. Be available for an estimate, meet face to face: It depends on the size and involvement in the project you want estimated, but it may take anywhere from on the spot, to a couple of weeks to get a proper bid delivered to a customer. This is because It takes time researching the cost of the materials, getting the costs of the subcontractors needing and estimating time and other costs. As a customer, the best thing you can do is make a true effort to be available when the contractor tries to get ahold of you. And don’t be late. Driving to the site, speaking to the customer about his or her desires, preparing a written estimate, all cost the contractor time and money. Nobody likes to waste those things. A “free estimate” isn’t free to the contractors, its an investment they take on.
3. Inform rejected contractors of your decision: Most homeowners get several bids for the project they are going to do. It is important and extremely helpful to the contractors you don’t use to let them know you won’t be using their services. Although the bid was free to the customer, the contractor takes time, effort and money to meet with you, provide you the bid etc. It is only respectful to let them know via a simple text, call or email that you will be rejecting the work.
It’s also very helpful to let them know full disclosure why you did not choose them. That way they can better serve the market later.
4. Make payments on time: As the customer, you are responsible to pay the payments outlined in the contract. You would be frustrated if your employer paid you late, and so would contractors. You are essentially the contractor’s paycheck, so it is only fair you pay them so long the services are being carried out. The best thing you can do to maintain a healthy relationship with your contractor is be proactive in the payment process. This shows the contractor you appreciate their work and incentivizes them to complete the job in a timely manner.
5. Have some trust: You’ve done your homework and checked their credentials. You have now chosen your contractor. At this point, unless you made your choice on price alone, there is no reason to not trust your contractor. Therefore, you should never make your decision on price alone, DO NOT ignore the writing on the wall in favor of a lesser price. If all the credentials check out, you should trust the contractor’s ability to carry out the work. If your contractors have proven to be able to provide a high quality of work, try to avoid being around the jobsite. It will slow the progress of the job and probably make the contractor believe you have no faith in their work.