In the summer of 2015 we took on a renovation project that was quite stressful. I had to coordinate with several general contractors as finishing the project in a short time frame was extremely important. In 2014 to 2015 I also worked with over 7 contractors for different projects for 1 of our clients with several buildings in Boston. So because I had a tiny little experience I thought I was ready for a bigger project so I took the role of project manager to do a full rehab in 3 months. I worked with an electrician and his employees, a 2 plumbers, a couple of contractors and even some odd person I found in home depot to fix a fence (which ended up costing me more because we had to undo his work and fix it properly!) and so much more – the list is too long!
I was going to pull my hair! I knew I was too stressed when during a doctors apt I asked the physician for a stress pill. The conversation lasted for a few minutes before my pcp proceeded to prescribe me 10 pills to help with the stress. After I read the side affects and the fact that the pill was for individuals with epilepsy I decided to find another way to deal with my stress. But going back to the contractors…I was so stressed because I was coordinating all the projects, working with an engineer, dealing with the city to approve permits, etc….just thinking about it gives me a headache. The whole point is that I learned some key lessons!
Remodeling or making any repairs to your office building is an important financial investment. And if you don’t have experience it could be a health issue too (wink wink)! If you plan to hire a general contractor to complete your project you should know what to expect before the project gets started in order to help you better prepare for the process. A general contractor takes full responsibility to get the job done for the bid price; he purchases the materials, manage budgets, and schedule a cast of subcontractors to get the work done. But at the end of the day you still need to manage that work-relationship with your contractor. So here are a few tips to help you establishing clear expectations.
Tip 1: Establish a schedule
Having a schedule that outlines not just the start and end date but also the tasks and timing; this way you will have a big-picture view of sequencing and deadlines for everything. An accurate schedule will give you a benchmark so that you know if things are slipping by a week or two.
Idea: Perhaps a team meeting to go over the schedule with all contractors involved would help to get everyone on the same page. Getting the contractors together also was a major problem – most of the time for me..they didn’t show up when they were supposed to! I just didn’t understand – but I noticed the same issue for all the contractors not just 1 or 2! So having a clear expectations in writing and checking reference to ask about how good they are but also how were they in regards to communication is important.
Tip 2: Accurate bid estimating
Make sure to use an RFP with very detail info so you choose the right contractor. Effective project estimation is one of the most challenging and important activities when working with a general contractor. Accurate project planning and control is not possible without a reliable and detailed estimate. A dependable estimate explains every detail about the job on a line-by-line basis. Make sure you have a basis for comparison when requesting bids by providing to each contractor with the same project details. For example, if you know which materials you want for which area let the contractors know so they all bid on the same requirements.
Tip 3: Check the Contractor’s Reputation
Ask for references and contact them to check on the services provided, including quality assurance and problem solving mechanisms. A well-established company should be able to provide more than three references.
A better idea would be to stop by in person to check the work done by the contractors bidding on your project.
Tip 4: Insurance
Although this may be super obvious -trust me, we’ve heard and experience first hand so many horror stories: Make sure the company is licensed and insured. You can request to see copies of insurance certificates, or in case of an accident you could be held liable for any injuries and damages that might occur during the project. You should also find out how the general contractor controls access to your building.
Note: Ensure to post the workers compensation insurance certificate for all your visitors and employees to see in case of any injuries.
Tip 5: Get a Written Contract & Get Visual – Ask for drawings plans if possible
The proper drafting and negotiation of contracts are imperative. Make sure the contract you sign is clear and concise and includes every aspect that has been discussed. Before you sign on the dotted line, make sure it also includes who is responsible for purchasing the materials that are going to be used.
Keep it in mind that contractors will mark up labor and materials so ensuring that you got the quote for the appropriate materials is also key. I had several major increases because the contractor bided on cheaper materials than what we ‘assumed’ he was bidding on –obviously this caused several conversations and unpleasant moments. Don’t Assume Anything! Make sure you get everything in writing and if at all possible request samples and all details on material types / colors / sizes, etc. Even if its your best friend doing the job, getting everything in writing will make the job easier and pleasant.
Spending time upfront to find a reliable and knowledgeable general contractor that perfectly meets the requirements of your project can save hours of time and lots of headaches.
Side note: I noticed that several of the employees of the contractors loved to curse! Yes, cursing was their thing and it drove me crazy because all these people were supposed to be professionals. So I had a team meeting with all of them and required in writing too that there would be no further cursing in our facility. Immediately they stopped!