You’re starting to think about renovating your space, and like anyone who isn’t from the industry you might be wondering how to wrap your arms around the s#!^ contractors say to you during the estimation process. Here’s a brief guide on preparing yourself for your contractor conversations.
Your Project will cost <some unreasonable amount>
This is always the starting point for any renovation discussion. Contractors will throw out a number just to try to anchor customers with a large figure and leave some room for negotiation. What you should do at times like this is get extremely analytical and ask them to break down the figures in detail so you understand what all goes into it. E.g. break it down by task, discuss measurements, unit rates of labor, products needed along with their costs (BOQ).
I will use the BEST quality material, don’t worry
Compromising on product quality is an area where contractors commit the most fraud. It’s an easy way for them to make more money because you aren’t monitoring them 24×7. Ask them to make a Bill of Quantities (BOQ), containing the product list and prices, for your project. This will allow you to buy products on your own if you find a large cost difference. Note that when you provide the material, wastage tends to be higher because workers care less about how much material is used (they aren’t paying for it).
I will deliver on time 100% guarantee
Contractors almost NEVER deliver on time, so you will need to do two things. First, ask them to make a written commitment on the schedule and accept a monetary penalty for each day of delay. They likely won’t be willing to do the latter but its worth a shot. Second, be prepared for a 25% extension of the timeline so delays don’t hurt you as much. Finally, try not to change the scope of work too often and let them go about their business. The more you micromanage, the more likely they are to miss the overall deadline.
I can do all kinds renovation work not just painting
Be very careful of this one. A lot of contractors who specialize in one area (e.g. painting) will try to take on complete projects to make an extra buck. They will then try to find people to do the other tasks. However, teams who have not worked together before are at risk of making more mistakes leaving you suffering. Ask the contractor about their last few projects, the kind of work they did, what went well, what went wrong, pictures from site, and references of clients.
This wasn’t in scope and will cost extra
Scope discrepancies can lead to major battles between you and your contractor. Its best if you write it all down on paper up front and make him sign it. Later on he cannot come and add on extra costs saying that something wasn’t included in the scope of the project.
Please give me money (payments every other day)
Unless agreed on before starting out your project, contractors will arbitrarily come and ask you for money – sometimes when they have a cash crunch on another project. Create a schedule and agree to milestone based payments, this will also incentivize them to achieve their milestones on time.