Renovation Information – Hiring General Contractors Vancouver
The following information is designed to help homeowner’s make informed decisions about renovating their homes and hiring a general contractor or renovation company. It will help you identify critical information you need to know, and the questions needed to ask when evaluating potential renovation contractors.
The information is organized in sections to reflect the actual phases of a renovation project. It will help you understand what to expect during each phase of the process.
There are six critical phases of any remodeling project. They are as follows:
- Designing and Planning the Project
- Selecting the Right Contractor
- Comparing Designs and Proposals
- Understanding the Contract
- Project Management
- Enjoying the Finished Project
Understanding these 6 critical phases of renovating gives you the confidence to select the best contractor for your specific project and ensure your satisfaction.
Phase One: Designing and Planning the Project
The first decision to make is to decide if the primary objective is to increase the monetary value of your home or to improve your personal living space.
Financial Investment or Investment in Lifestyle
If the reason for the renovation is to increase the monetary value of your home, a few questions to make that decision may be:
- How much am I willing to spend on improvements in order to sell the home?
- Will my investment in renovating actually increase the market value?
- How long before I want to sell?
If the reason for the renovation is to improve your personal living space then you are probably interested in improving your home’s appearance and functionality for your own enjoyment. This is a much easier project to plan because an appropriate design can be anything you want and are willing to pay for. Involving a talented and competent design/build contractor is invaluable at this point to ensure your project is designed to meet your aesthetic and functional demands.
Knowing What You Want
Once you have decided on the type of project, it is time to determine exactly what you are looking for with the end result. Things to consider are color, textures, and styles, as well as traffic flow and functionality. A design session with the right contractor can go a long way towards helping you with a functional design. Looking through magazines and websites can give you some great ideas, and will help your contractor picture what you want.
Getting the Design You Want
The outcome of a successful renovation project depends on how well the project is designed and planned. Ideally, you should bring your contractor into the design phase. You need to get professional drawings with a corresponding detailed cost projection. This process can be very involved and usually requires professional assistance to design something that matches your aesthetic criteria with your budget. A professional design/build contractor has experience in design, planning and functionality.
There are three basic ways a contractor can handle the design:
- No design – You get nothing other than a price quote. This can be very risky for the homeowner as it is based on an understanding of all parties as to what the homeowner actually wants.
- Design to Bid – In this situation, you pay to have a designer or architect create the design and drawings. You then have the project bid based on those drawings. This situation is better than the previous, but problems often develop because of poor communication between the architect and the contractor once the drawings are complete. It is the responsibility of the contractor to interpret the drawings and then build the project. Misinterpretations of the original design can be frequent and pronounced, forcing you to manage and coordinate communications between both architect and contractor. If you choose this approach, be sure there is a good working relationship between the architect and the contractor. It will have a significant impact on your project.
- Design / Build – In this approach, the same firm will design and build the project. This virtually eliminates the problems associated with the other approaches and streamlines the process, and is the preferred method. All professional risk stays with one firm, and you will not have to mediate between the designer and the contractor. There is no need for you to be the “go-between” to address any issues. This is the best process for ensuring that the project is completed as it is designed.
Phase Two: Selecting the Right Contractor to Help You
Here are 9 questions you should ask a contractor when considering their services:
- Where are you licensed and do you pull all the necessary permits? A license means they are properly registered with the city and meet all legal requirements. If they ask you to get your own permits, or suggest that permits are not necessary when they are, then you need to move on to the next firm.
- Will you give me a final written lien waiver? A lien waiver protects you in case the contractor does not pay his suppliers or subcontractors. If this happens, you may be liable for any unpaid bills by the contractor.
- How long is your warranty and what does it specifically cover and not cover? Make sure you get specifics. A warranty is just a piece of paper in a file if they cannot or will not stand behind it.
- Do you carry at least $1,000,000 in liability insurance? What happens if a contractor damages your yard, home or furnishings? If he is inadequately insured, or not insured at all, you have to foot the bill for repair or replacement.
- Do you carry worker’s compensation? If an employee of a contractor or subcontractor is injured on your property, did you know that you can be held liable if the contractor does not carry worker’s compensation. Protect yourself by asking for a ‘clearance letter’ produced by Work Safe BC showing current insurance coverage.
- Will I receive a written contract? Always ask for a written contract that clearly defines the scope of work, the cost, and the period for completion. Surprises in the renovation business can be extremely expensive. Avoid problems by getting a written contract and be sure to review the contents in detail.
- Will you use an in-house designer and will they actually come to my house before creating the drawings? This is a critical question. So much depends on how the design is done. The best approach is to have the actual designer involved in the project come to your home, discuss and review the proposed project with you. This may take several meetings before the actual drawings are produced.
- Will you do a pre-construction logistics walk through? Making sure the flow of people and equipment is well thought out might minimize disruptions to you and your neighbors.
- What specific precautions will you take to protect my floors, furnishings, and landscape? Thousands of dollars of damage can be done to your home if proper precautions are not taken to protect it.
Phase Three: Comparing Designs and Proposals
Once you have used the questions from the previous section to help narrow the field, you will have an opportunity to consider different proposals.
Start with the end in mind. What do you want your project to be when it is completed? How do you want to use it and when do you want it done? Do the drawings reflect what you want to end up with? Does the design blend seamlessly with the existing structure? Do the rooflines match and are they of the same style as your existing roof? Will the exterior walls have the same finish and will the stones or brick match? You cannot be expected to make this decision without detailed drawings and you should not assume that what you see in your mind is what a contractor sees in theirs. If you are making an addition, you do not want it to look like an addition. You want it all to flow and match.
Cost of Project Considerations
Too often consumers select a contractor using price as their main selection criteria. They get three bids from various contractors and then choose one using an arbitrary formula like going with the middle, or taking the lowest bid. We have seen it all. This happens when price is the only understandable information they have. Using price as the primary selection criteria can have a lot of risk. Use the questions in the section on selecting a contractor to help you get enough information to identify a contractor you can trust to give you an accurate bid, and how to tell the difference between one bid and another using all the pertinent data, not just price.
Phase Four: Understanding the Contract
Before you let anyone loose in your home to start a renovation project, you should have a written contract that clearly defines the scope of the project and the cost. There are three major sections you should see in any renovation contract:
The specifications are the detailed, written descriptions of what will occur and what materials will be used for every aspect of the project. This protects you from getting inferior products or workmanship. You will want to review these to make sure they match the plans and that everything is included in both the plans and the specifications.
The plans are a visual and graphical representation of what exists now and what it is supposed to be when the project is completed. The plans should match the specifications detail by detail. You do not want to leave anything up to interpretation.
Terms and Conditions
The Terms & Conditions are specified by the contractor and establish the agreed to conditions that govern the agreement you are making. Payments and change order management should be included as specific line items.
Review all the terms and conditions carefully and ask specific questions about anything you do not understand. Always read contracts carefully before signing. Your contractor should be willing to review the document line by line and explain any part of the contract.
Phase Five: Project Management
So now you have a contractor you are comfortable with, your design is exactly what you want, you know what you will be spending, and the contract is signed. Now what can you expect? Here are some critical issues to consider:
Communication between you and the Project Supervisor and Project Manager becomes essential so you can stay informed throughout the process. Hopefully, you and your contractor will have already designated a communication center on site where you will be able to find any pertinent, up to date schedules, changes or other bits of critical information. Cell numbers and office numbers of your Project Supervisor and Project Manager with your appropriate contact information. Try to exchange email addresses as well.
Safety and Security
Be sure to get keyed locks or lock boxes for safe and easy access. You want to be sure the contractor only allows approved personnel in your house during the agreed upon times. Workers should show-up on time and only when scheduled.
Protecting your landscape and furnishings. Make sure the contractor is aware of valuable furnishings or plants you want protected. Demand they take special precautions as necessary. Make sure all flooring, drapes and other coverings are adequately protected or removed. If possible, remove any items from the area to a safe place not affected by construction. This should be part of a pre-construction walk through.
Site cleanliness and neatness
Require that the site be cleaned daily. Workers should sweep the site and remove waste and materials whenever possible. At each major stage of the project, there should be an overall site cleanup.
The Project Supervisor should be visiting your site on a daily basis to ensure things are going as scheduled so there should be minimal, unexpected schedule changes. Ask for regular written updates on scheduling so you can prevent any un-necessary surprises.
Phase Six: Enjoying Your Finished Project
Whether you wanted a new kitchen, bathroom, game room, bedroom or an entire second floor addition, the final result is what really matters. Taking your vision and building it into a finished reality is what a qualified contractor lives for.
If you have followed our recommendations, you should not be surprised at the end result. It should be exactly what you wanted, on time and on budget. But before you make your last commitment and sign off on the project, have the Project Manager take you through the entire project for final review and approval. This is your last chance to catch anything out of order or not to specification. Make sure every little detail is considered.
If you have taken the time to review this document, you should be well on your way to getting exactly what you want, with minimal headaches and hassles.
If you like the approach you have seen in this document, then Bloom Construction might be the right contractor for you! We invite you to contact us by email or phone. We trust this information will help you in making the very best decision for you.
If we may be of service to you or anyone you know, please give us a call. We are general contractors Vancouver.
We would love to add you to our list of references after we complete another successful project!