Some Things Your Commercial Contractor Won't Tell You

Renovation and new construction projects start as a dream-- high-quality work done on time and within budget with just teeny tiny friction between you as the owner, and the contractor. However, there can be other times that a project is marked by mistakes, delays, and even frayed nerves. This is why it is important to hire a commercial contractor...

Renovation and new construction projects start as a dream-- high-quality work done on time and within budget with just teeny tiny friction between you as the owner, and the contractor. However, there can be other times that a project is marked by mistakes, delays, and even frayed nerves. This is why it is important to hire a commercial contractor that you can truly trust. Unfortunately, if you think that hiring a professional means you can just delegate everything to him and he’ll take care of it, then that’s where you’re wrong. This is a disaster just waiting to happen because a construction project isn’t just a task to delegate-- it is a task to manage.

So, if you’ve finally hired a contractor for your renovation or new construction project and you’ve done your homework, checked references and even have a written contract already, it’s now time that you ask the right questions up front, in the middle and all the way through until the end. Because no matter what happens on the project, you will be the one who needs to tie its ends once everything is done so demand nothing less than excellence. You probably already think that it’s easy now and you can just leave everything up to your contractor. Well, that’s where you are wrong! Keep in mind that even the most reputable contractors may not even remember warning you of the possible pitfalls of the construction process. Worse, an unscrupulous and dishonest contractor might even deliberately conceal them as a way to disadvantage you at the end.

You should prepare yourself for your next big project by taking a look at these 10 things that your contractor won’t tell you (that you absolutely need to know before you start a project!)

1. Paperwork is Your Responsibility, Not the Contractor’s

Any construction project requires paperwork such as permits and licenses. Here’s what you don’t know and you probably won’t know if your contractor won’t tell you-- when it comes to all the paperwork associated with permits and inspections for your construction project, it’s your job and not the contractor’s job. The majority of cities and states require building permits, inspections, and even approvals for plumbing and electrical in building projects. Moreover, approval by an architectural review board or homeowner association may also be required in exterior work. Also, it is imperative that you make follow-ups after a job is completed so that you can get a valid certificate of occupancy issued for all the work done.

2. Checking the Insurance

Your contractor won’t probably offer up insurance certificates unless you ask them for valid and legal documents. Take note that a contractor should always carry general liability insurance that covers property damage and injuries that may be sustained on the job. If workers are hired by the contractor for the job, they must also be covered by workers’ compensation insurance. You, as a homeowner or commercial space owner, could wind up footing the bill yourself in the event of accidents or injuries.

3. Experience Matters

This is another thing that your contractor probably won’t tell you-- some contractors will bid on a job even if it is not within their area of expertise. Before signing any contract with a contractor, determine how much experience your contractor has on a project that is similar to yours. For example, ask the contractor how many similar projects he has completed in his career. No one wants to wind up spending extra time and money on a prolonged project just because the contractor lacks experience in the same kind of work.

4. Inquire About Lien Waivers and Subcontractors

Do you have any idea what a lien waiver is? A lien waiver is a type of receipt for payment of services and materials. This is to ensure that all subcontractors and suppliers have been paid and that no liens will be placed on your property. One thing that you should also do is to make sure that the contractor has paid all subcontractors in full before you deliver your final payment for the job.

5. Even Remodeling is Messy

If you think that the best contractors will not make any mess on their job, we’re sorry to tell you that you’re wrong. Even the best contractors (with so many experiences on almost all projects) will still kick up a lot of dust, debris, and noise because that’s all part of the job. In order for you to minimize the inconvenience and the health hazards of debris, you can ask your contractor to “fence off” the construction area using heavy-duty plastic and run air filters while the project is ongoing. However, it will be a different thing if you can’t abide the sound of hammers and saws-- you might just have to vacate the premises during the day.

6. Always Expect the Unexpected

When it comes to remodeling or renovation projects, even the best-laid ones can go astray once the demolition of walls and tearing up of floors start. The simplest job can be complicated by irregular framing, substandard plumbing, bad electrical wiring, or even just asbestos. Before you start your project, it is important that you discuss with your contractor the possible roadblocks and how to solve them, and then make some room for these issues in your timeline and budget to ensure that you are ready for the little surprises along the way.

7. Avoid Issuing Change Orders

Always beware of dodgy contractors who make their money on change orders. What they will do is give a low bid at the beginning and then, later on, will nickel and dime you on any changes that may come up. In order to prevent this kind of situation, you should spell out the scope of work at the beginning of the project and then try to avoid unnecessary changes during the job. If you really need to make a change due to something unexpected like bad wiring or plumbing, then you should expect to pay for a change order.

8. Be a Material Witness

How sure are you that you are getting what you paid for? If you’re not expecting the materials used in your project then you might be missing out. There are scam artists who are known for using subpar materials when the contract calls for a different material or product. Also, beware of “discounted” products. These are typically substandard replacements and you should always be sure to spell out all the materials in the contract

9. Strictly Stick to Your Timeline

Ask your contractor to provide you with a valid timetable and then strictly stick to it. Build a financial incentive for finishing the work on or ahead of schedule. You should also include a penalty clause for substantial delays that may occur. Keep in mind that delays are often unavoidable in a construction project so before you start anything, talk to your contractor about how unanticipated roadblocks will be handled. Also, at the end of the project, always make a checklist of the things that you must ensure are done.

Collect Receipts

You probably don’t know that many types of home improvements such as roofing, replacement windows, and siding, come with a warranty-- well, they do. However, for the warranty to be valid, it typically must be registered and it’s your responsibility to get receipts from the contractor and make sure that all warranties are registered.

10.Documentation When the Project Is Done

Lien releases, marked-up plans on plumbing and other utilities, copies of inspection reports and many others, are often end-of-project paperwork. However, there may still be additional items that you may find valuable such as a full set of mechanical photos before insulation, operating manuals from the installed equipment, a list of subcontractors and their contact info, care for countertops and tiles, and even a well-marked electrical panel. You can’t wait for your contractor to offer these documents-- you should confirm that you will receive everything before you get started because this will help ensure that you will finish the project with all the information that you need.

Constructing a new building or remodeling is a huge financial (and emotional!) investment. It can also take up a lot of your time. That’s why it is important that you are closely involved in the decision-making and you can start by asking your contractor the right questions before you start. Remember that knowing what to expect before the project starts will help you prepare well for the construction process.

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