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You get what you pay for

Twice this week we have gone out to give estimates on jobs partially completed by another contractor. Not everyone who calls themselves a General Contractor (GC) knows what they are doing. They aren’t always lying, sometimes they are just overestimating their skill levels. Not everyone does full, correct, estimates of the time and material needed to complete a job. It takes years of working, writing estimates and post-job review to learn how to make a complete proposal. A lot of time. That is why their estimate usually comes in lower than a Pavolony estimate.

A written Pavolony estimate will include everything from demo to finishing touches with a comprehensive pricing schedule for each step. We don’t like to give verbal estimates because even if we say all that will be covered, the homeowner won’t remember everything but the bottom line. So when they get the other number from another contractor they won’t see that they didn’t include the same list of specifics, just that their number is lower. Getting a written estimate takes some time and too often homeowners want numbers right now. Some times they just want a ballpark number so they can decide if they can even afford their caviar dreams. But without a comprehensive written proposal how can they actually compare bids? Lower isn’t always better if it doesn’t include the same steps and items to complete the job.

Another problem can be, when the contractor isn’t fully trained in reading a blueprint? Mistakes happen when a contractor doesn’t fully understand a blueprint and doesn’t have enough experience to realize something just isn’t right.There is a huge difference between a floor and ceiling. They require different sizes of lumber to handle the load (the actual weight allowed on the surface). An experienced carpenter should see that there was a problem using the wrong materials and go back and review the plan. FYI The plan was correct and labelled correctly. It might have been placed on the paper awkwardly to save paper and maybe should have been on separate sheets but an experienced GC should be able to interpret it correctly. Now to correct this there will no doubt be wasted lumber and many more manhours to rip out the wrong materials and then re-do it correctly. Who should pay for this? Do you allow the original GC to correct their mistake or do you just start over with another GC? Is it worth suing the original GC? Do you just cut your losses and go forward to get the job done? When you are in the middle of job sometimes it’s just easier to move forward and figure out what to do with the original GC later.

More importantly how can this be avoided?

Do your homework. This is your home. Probably your largest investment and what you need to trust in to keep your family sheltered and safe. Check out BBB, Angie’s List, their own website, Facebook etc… Ask for recommendations from friends & co-workers. Ask for references. Trust your gut. Get written proposals and compare them item for item.

If there is a large discrepancy between your bids ask for clarification. There should not be a big difference in the price of materials so make sure the bids match on amount of materials to be supplied. The difference in labor is different depending on the experience of the crew. A crew of teenagers or day labors will certainly be cheaper than a crew of experienced workers over 30 years old. A young crew can be great if they have common sense and basic skills that will listen to directions. They are perfect for speed and hauling materials. But do they know the difference between the size of a piece of wood for a wall vs floor vs ceiling? Can they make adjustments on the fly or do they need instructions every step? How are the communications between all members of the crew? Are they all understanding each other or is there a possibility of miss-interpretation or translations of instructions? Have they been working together for any length of time? It all matters on how effectively they work together to build your project.

Hire an experienced GC. They may cost more but you are getting years of experience and accountability. Get a written contract. It protects both of you. The days of doing business on a handshake are over. Contracts are admissible in court.

Get a payment schedule in writing. Pavolony supplies a payment schedule that will include a deposit no more than 20% of the job. It might be larger if there is special order materials that require a deposit and we will put that in writing. But certainly don’t pay for half of the job up front. Our payment schedule is tied into completion milestones in the project. Roof on = payment, windows in = payment, passing on specific inspections = payment etc…

Document the entire process. Take pictures of every step. Keep a calendar noting when they come on site and leave and what they did on those days. Let the GC know immediately of any behavior you are concerned about. But also don’t spend to much time chatting with the workers. It’s nice to check in with them and to be polite but don’t tell them about the neighbor for a half hour and then complain that they didn’t get more done. Water and/or coffee are always welcome. A port-a-potty is usually part of the contract for long projects.

Keep communications open. Pavolony has an office and staff to help you in this process. The bookkeeper can keep you on your payment schedule so there are no surprises on when payments will be due. They can help with allowances which are written into the contract but can be credited if you make the purchase yourself. IE $1,000 is in the contract for a kitchen sink. You decide to purchase a farmhouse sink from IKEA. Pavolony will credit you the $1,000 regardless of how much you spent. Conversely you ask us to purchase the same sink and it’s $1,250 we will issue you an extras bill for the $250 immediately which can be settled right away or moved to the end but will never be a surprise at the end. The staff can answer questions by email during office hours. The staff can offer suggestions on where to purchase materials like sinks, lighting fixtures and flooring. Does the other bidder have an office staff? Or use email?

As with any relationship good communications is the lynch pin on how successful the entire partnership works. From the first inquiry call to the final payment Pavolony Construction will be there for you to guide and assist you regardless of the size of your project. So give us a call, 973-663-0558 or email us today pavbuilt@optonline.net.

 

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