IT TAKES WORK!
The number one reason folks get into trouble with their contractors is that they just didn’t bother to thoroughly vet them. And by that I mean doing all the necessary background checks, understanding the permit process and whose responsibility it is, what their state laws require of contractors, understanding what legal requirements and protection clauses to include in the contract and down payment requirements, just to name a few. The other common misnomer is believing that because someone is licensed intimates that they are law abiding, ethical individuals. BIG MISTAKE. Some may be, but these people have personalities and perhaps dark sides that licensing doesn’t take into consideration but a background check for $40 or $60 dollars may just save you from a nasty experience.
Though the greatest challenge and often resulting problems for homeowners begin with choosing a contractor, it must be noted that having detailed plans that have been given much forethought for your particular project, makes a world of difference and will help clarify the correct path when deciding various options to consider in your project. Add to this, the need for a well-written contract with supporting legal clauses to protect you against the unknowns and keeps you out of a no-win court battle. Though there are no guarantees that all will be smooth sailing – regardless of the work you do – you will be in a stronger position and empowered to make smarter decisions and respond to situations rather than react with frustration or panic.
To get you going in the right direction, you need to start at the very beginning – before you even think about a contractor – by hiring an architect or draftsman, depending on the size and design challenges of your project. They can help to create the scope of work and specifications needed to bring your vision into reality and fulfill part of your contractual agreement with the contractor. This is such an important step and it’s not quick and easy. You’ve got lots of design ideas, wants, needs and a budget to stay within. And whomever you choose to design your project has to be someone you can communicate with and who “fits” with your project design goals.
But do you hire an architect or draftsman to draw up your plans and what are the pro and cons? And what about those design/build firms – are they a good fit? This is yet another part of your research that’s key to the success of your project and can save you from having problems with your local building department. The more complex the project is, including the use of a structural engineer, may have you leaning towards an architect. We’ll explore choosing an architect versus a designer under the Specifications and Plans core lesson with questions to ask the architect/designer included.
With that said, you should begin to avail yourself of the information that your local building department has with regards to remodeling and building. Some municipalities have websites where you can download brochures that will give you guidelines on what you can and cannot do, building and height restrictions, setbacks and a whole host of items that the department regulates. You’ll also get a better idea of what your city or township’s requirements are for permits. I have found that many people don’t have a solid grasp of what permits entail and you need to bring yourself up to speed on your responsibilities and the costs involved.
At the end of the Permits lesson, you’ll find a link that will take you to the various building departments around the country so you can do further research. DO NOT rely on your contractor to inform you no matter how terrific you think he/she is. This is about you taking control, getting educated and managing your project with the necessary knowledge to do so.
In this section, we’ll go into the importance of you being in the know and involved in the permit process but NOT obtaining the permit yourself; that’s for the contractor to do and we’ll explore those reasons as well.
From there we’ll go through construction contracts, sample clauses, deposits, installments, insurance requirements, bids and estimates, legal notices, lien waivers, contractor questionnaire, evaluations and more. All of it designed to get YOU, the homeowner engaged and invested in managing and controlling your building project. We simply cannot do enough to protect ourselves and at the very least putting these lessons into play will get you thinking more carefully about the way in which you go about managing your project and hiring a contractor. Take notes, download the various sample forms and guidelines, spend time on the Internet doing research (don’t forget your contractor background checks) read the articles we’ve linked to and review the lessons as needed.
Read through each topic carefully and in the order they are presented. You will have some downloads and links to other websites to review as well. Most importantly, do the work it takes to have a complete understanding of what you need to do to ensure your rights are protected, that you understand your state’s contractors laws and what’s expected of both parties.
Most importantly, stay engaged throughout the lessons and take that same attitude into managing your project from start to finish. The goal for you is to maintain control of your money, your project and your contractor.
Finally, after you’ve thoroughly gone through the entire course please feel free to connect with me regarding any questions or comments you may have. I’m here to help in any way I can.
Your Home Renovation Planning Coach,