by Rik Goodell:
Before calling contractors for a remodel project or an addition, do your homework so you’re ready when they get there. Talk it over with your partner (husband, wife, lover, live-in, significant other…these things were easier to write when I still thought “PC” meant personal computer). Make a list of what each of you wants the outcome of the project to be and look like (“look-like” is important!). Make a list of the “must haves” and another of the “would_be_nice_if_we_can_afford_it” items. Make copies of these lists so you can give them to the various contractors when they arrive to discuss your project (Yes, you will be calling several contractors). The better you do your job of documenting your wants and your vision, the better the contractor will be able to understand your dream. Also, with this list, all bidding contractors will be working off the same set of ideas so, when you get their proposals back, you will be getting bids on apples, instead of apples, oranges and eggplant.
For projects exceeding a thousand dollars, get at least three bids. I know it’s a lot of work, but it is not nearly as much trouble as the potential problems you can avoid by doing so. This will ensure you can see that at least two of the bids fall within a close price range. Be very wary of a bid that is significantly less than the other two (more than 20%).
Lastly, get everything in writing. This means written detailed plans, specifications, start date, completion date, cost, change order rules, who will haul away debris, who will clean up the site, who is paying for what, what is included, how are payments to be made and when, who is the insurance carrier for the contractor??!! Get it all in writing. Discuss, depending on the size of the project, how often the two of you should meet to talk about progress and workmanship. It will protect the both of you and help you to remain friends… and help you get the desired outcome.
Next: How to select the right contractor.