Specify the details – 5 Construction contracting tips

Sunday, October 2nd, 2011

Getting what you want from your contractor is dependent in your ability to communicate construction details to him.

Knowing what you want and getting what you want involves a careful attention to detail for every construction project. Every contractor has their preferred way of doing things, and that may not be exactly how you would like to have them done. The only way to get in sync with each other is for you to create a specification document for your contractor to follow. If you don’t give your contractor guidance, he can’t be expected to read your mind.

Here are 5 tips to help you get on the same page

1) Write down a list of your goals for the project

2). Print out pictures of design ideas that you would like to replicate

3) Call the contractor’s references and ask them if there were items that they were let them down by.

4) Provide model numbers and/or specific names of manufacturers. Not all products are equal.

5). Set up payment terms a d schedule deadlines in writing.

Getting what you want is a commitment on your part. Don’t expect the contractor to read your mind.

Be wary of “on-the-spot” construction estimates

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

Most construction projects have a degree of complexity.  In order for a construction contractor to fully grasp the project, they’ll need some time to work out the details for an estimate.

If you are meeting with a contractor, and they are able to provide you with a price during the meeting you should get concerned.  Every construction project is different, so a contractor can’t simply say a bathroom costs “X” dollars.  Using a bathroom remodel in Philadelphia as an example, the contractor will need to know the exact amount of tile that is needed, and what kind.  Also what kind of backer board behind the tile should be used.  These two items may or may not have been discussed during the meeting with the contractor, but even if they were, did the contractor actuall measure the area to determine the number of tiles that were needed, and then call his supplier for the price for the tile that was selected?

Using the similar example of a Bathroom Remodeler in Bensalem, counting tiles and adding up an estimate takes time to be accurate.  If it is done on the spot, chances are that the contractor has either missed some of the details, or even over estimated to compensate for his lack of understanding the details.

Be sure to stay away from quick estimates, they are usually inaccurate and a waste of your time.




The difference between a good plumber and a bad one

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

When you are looking to hire a plumber, you want to be sure that you find a plumber that is not only capable, but also responsive.  Sometimes these qualities can be found in one company, but more than often they are not because capable plumbers are busy plumbing contractors. If a plumber is overwhelmed with work, it is a sure sign that they are capable, and it may be worth waiting for him to get to you on his list of customers to service.  Of course, if it is an emergency, then you can’t wait.  In that instance you may be best calling a specialist 24 hour plumber, who will have trucks and employees standing by for your call.

These larger companies are good for emergencies, but you’ll never know which employee is going to show up at your house.  With a smaller capable plumber, you always know who you are going to get, and it is most likely going to be the owner of the plumbing business.  If you are looking for a plumbing company then you may want to consider this plumber in Philadelphia.

Planning a kitchen remodeling project

Monday, September 5th, 2011

Lets face it, your kitchen is old and tired.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have a nice new kitchen with all new appliances?  Getting from the ideas stage to sitting at your new kitchen table is a long process that is full of difficult decisions.

Step 1)  Make a list of your priorities.

What do you want from your project?  Is it a larger kitchen, or is it simply new cabinets installed in the existing space that is available.   Depending on the how the kitchen is configured, it could impact the construction cost considerably.  The location of the plumbing hook-ups probably has the most impact on cost.  If your new Kitchen stays with the same configuration, then you will save money, but the design won’t be transformed in the way that you may have hoped.  Try to figure out what you want more,  To save money, or to get a completly new design.

Step 2) Who is going to design the kitchen?

Many of the major manufacturers have showrooms and re-sellers that offer design services.  Some of them can also perform the installations as well.  If they cannot do the installation for you they may be able to recommend a Kitchen Remodeling contractor that would be able to install the kitchen for you.  Getting a plan prepared is a combination of you describing what you want to the designer and the designer actually understanding your vision for the project.  It is sometimes best to speak with a few designers to get a sense of who you may click with, rather than perserveering through a project with someone who does not understand what you want for your kitchen project.

Step 3)  Hiring a contractor

If you live in Philadelphia, you should consider hiring a Philadelphia based kitchen contractor.  Before you get a price for the kitchen, you will need to have a detailed design that specifies the cabinet manufacturer, the cabinet model and finish.  It is also helpful to have the countertops selected and the plumbing fixtures picked out too.  If you don’t have the answers to these questions, then your contractor will only make assumptions.  If your contractor is making assumptions, then you are probably going to be let down because a kitchen is a very personal space and what your contractor thinks and what you think may be two entirely different points of reference.


Understand the scope of work in the contract

Sunday, September 4th, 2011

Preparing a list of the items that you need performed by a contractor is a very important step in the contracting process.  This is best performed by you (the homeowner) along with the contractor that you intend to hire.  By first outlining the items that need to be done, you and your contractor can have a meaningful discussion about the nuiances that may arrise once the work begins.  The scope of work should be a collaborative process with suggestions and clarifications coming from both the homeowner and the contractor.  If your contractor does not want to spend the time to prepare a scope of work for the construction in this manner, then you are probably better served by finding another contractor.

Your scope of work provides an easy way to acquire multiple bids for your home improvement project

By having a definitive list of items to refer to, you can send this list to multiple contractors for them to provide you with a price that will be “apples to apples” with the other contractors.  Getting bids to be apples to apples is the key to getting the most value in your project.  If bids are not apples to apples, then it is not a fair comparison of bids and you may get stuck with a contractor who had a low price, but did not have everything included in his price.  This ussually happens when you do not have a written scope of work.



Written Estimates are crucial to a successful Home Improvement Project

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011


There are so many things that can go wrong during a construction project especially when it comes to communication. The most important form of communcation is a written estimate without this crucial starting point, there is no way know what materials or, what work is to be performed by your home improvement contractor.

The more detail that is provided in the estimate is better for the homeowner because it will allow for an easy discussion of what was included in the original price. It will also serve as a benchmark if their are any changes to the contract.

That way the items in the original estimate can me qualified and quantified. It is always recomended to have any prices put in writing, and for a scope of work to be included that talks about the quality and quantity of items that will be supplied. If you don’t get this key document from your home improvement contractor, you are doing yourself a disservice. Be sure to get it in writing.

How to spot a reliable Handyman

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

Finding a capable handyman is difficult because there are so many guys in the business that don’t play by all of the rules. A good handyman will always:

1) A handyman in should carry the appropriate insurance policies (including General Liability coverage of at least $1,000,000, as well as suitable an umbrella policy)

2) Bring the right tools to the job, so that the work can be accomplished during the same visit (as to not incur additional costs to the homeowner)

3) Have a charging/pricing structure in place to allow for fair compensation for the work.  An hourly rate of $35 to $55 is typically appropriate.  Any less than this and you need to question whether the company carries the appropriate insurance, because guys need to charge at least $35 to cover their overhead costs.

4) Find a handyman service that is local.  If you live in Pottstown, you should find a handyman in Pottstown.  If the handyman has to travel far to get to the job, you are likely to be charged more, and the service that you receive may not be as reliable as your local Pottstown handyman.

5) Be sure that you see the receipts for any materials that are purchased for your job, so that you can be sure that you are getting charged appropriately for the work that was done.  If there are any concerns about the cost reimbursement, you should start looking for another handyman.

5 Reasons to hire a licensed contractor

Monday, August 29th, 2011

Hiring a general contractor can be a complex process. There are many things to consider when choosing a general contractor, one of the most important considerations is to hire a contractor that is registered as a home improvement contractor with the State of Pennsylvania.

By law, every contracting company in the state of Pennsylvania is required to register with the State if they intend to perform construction for a home owner on Pennsylvania.  This license then needs to be renewed on an annual basis.  Here is the list

  1. Double check that they are registered first.  Here is the Goverment’s list of licensed contractors
  2. Contractors that are registered are more likely to also carry the appropriate insurance policies
  3. Having regard for the licensing scheme, also indicates that they will have more regard for your project
  4. By hiring a reputable contractor, you also avoid giving any work to the “cowboy” contractors who really give the industry a bad name
  5. You can be confident that your contractor is authorised to work in your home by the State of Pennsylvania.

Be sure to check any local laws too.  There are many other contractor licenses that may be required in the many municipalities throughout Pennsylvania, such as Philadelphia.