12 tips for working with contractors


Image by Amelia Bellows http://www.flickr.com/photos/bellowsa/ Note: The tips are geared towards contractors and clients in Greece. Some things are probably different elsewhere.

1. Carefully select reputable contractors.

Ask friends for references. Do not pick contractors you found from the Yellow Pages, the Internet or outdoor ads. Do not pick contractors solely based on a low bid.

2. Go with specialised contractors.

Convenient though it seems, choosing one person who will do everything (electrical installation and plumbing and flooring and drywall) is a good idea only if that person employs specialised subcontractors. Avoid one-man shows as their workmanship is usually sub-par.

3. Ensure that the contractor understands what you want and can actually do it.

Before getting the job, a contractor may assure you that they can do everything. Ask questions to make sure that they know what the project requires and that they have the skills to carry them out.

4. Ask for a detailed bid in writing.

An estimate is not a bid. Do not start construction before securing a bid and don’t assume impliciteness about anything. Ensure that the bid includes descriptions of all work to be executed as well as the quality of materials to be used (if any materials are to be provided by the contractor). Clarify whether the total includes VAT or other charges. Finally, discuss the procedure of change orders.

5. Agree upon the terms of payment.

Will you pay anything up-front? Will you pay as you go along? Will there be a lump payment at delivery of the work? These things need to be agreed upon.

6. Stipulate a schedule of construction to avoid delays.

Contractors often have numerous projects that run concurrently. Your project’s schedule must not depend on the contractor’s desired schedule or there will be a lot of stalling.

7. Agree about construction waste.

All construction works produce waste–usually more than you expect. Ensure that each contractor disposes of the waste he produced and leaves the site waste-free. If there will be a large amount of waste, you will need to discuss how it will be disposed. Will you need to rent a bin or hire a specialised contractor?

8. Sign a written contract, even a very basic one.

A written agreement is no empty formality. Even a very simple agreement will protect you from problems and misunderstandings. A large project needs a contracts drafted by a lawyer. A smaller project still needs a contract which will include at least the following: the contractor’s bid; the schedule of works; the terms of payment.

9. Supervise during all stages of construction.

No matter how capable and experienced the contractor, without supervision on your part, the result will not be good. Ensure that the contractor follows your instructions and don’t rely on him taking the initiative. If you cannot supervise yourself, consider hiring an architect or designer.

10. Immediately point out any faulty workmanship.

Do not wait to compile a list of faults. As soon as you notice something is amiss, point it out and demand its rectification.

11. Ascertain whether “cannot be done” actually means “impossible”.

It often means “I don’t know how” or “I’m too lazy to do it”. Persist by asking questions until you get a clear picture.

12. Treat contractors kindly and with a spirit of cooperation.

You are on the same team: Carefully listen to their suggestions and ideas (even if you end up rejecting them), facilitate their work as much as possible, take care for their safety and buy them a cup of coffee or a glass of water (especially in the summer)!

Illustration: Amelia Bellows


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This article was written on 04 / 07 / 2011, by Natalia Alexiou, and is filled under interiors, remodelling.


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