Why Hire a General Contractor?

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It’s a classic question that comes up time and time again. Many DIY homeowners are used to doing their own renovations around the house and it’s natural for them to want to retain that autonomy by dealing with sub-contractors directly on bigger projects. In addition, one of their main motivations for going without a general contractor comes down to cost: why fork out extra money for a general contractor when I can just tell a sub-contractor exactly what I want myself?

 

What’s missing in that picture though is by focussing solely on cost, the value of what a general contractor brings gets lost. There are several benefits – both tangible and intangible – to working with a general contractor that are often overlooked, but are important to keep in mind:

 

Project management skills

Renovation projects – especially large remodels – are much more than just telling the sub-contractors what to do. There are many pieces to the puzzle like how long each sub-trade takes, the most time-efficient order to schedule them, and how best to re-shuffle priorities on the fly when unexpected problems crop up. General contractors have to understand how all these puzzle pieces fit together inside-out because if they don’t, it means wasted time that leads to unfair extra costs for the client and loss of future business for the general contractor. So the project management skills that general contractors draw on to keep a renovation project on track are built from the need to succeed in a competitive business; when push comes to shove during a crisis, the value of skills honed out of survival necessity will become that much more apparent.

 

Knowledge of current construction codes

General contractors also keep on top of all the current construction industry standards so you have peace of mind knowing that your renovation project is built to code. Individual sub-contractors may very well complete their parts of the project up to code in their trade, but a licensed general contractor will also consider the impact of sub-trades on each other and make sure that the combined product of the project is code-compliant as a whole.

 

Maintaining product warranties

One of the tangible benefits of using a general contractor is the fact that some construction products or materials actually require a licensed contracting professional to install them if you want their warranties to still be valid. This benefit alone would be a huge cost-saver if ever you have the misfortune of having to deal with a product defect.

 

Insurance and workers’ compensation

This is a mandatory cost of doing business for general contractors. What it means for you is that you wouldn’t be liable for any damages or injuries that occur on your property during the course of the renovation – everything would be on the general contractor, including the responsibility of making sure all sub-contractors are licensed and insured. If you’re managing sub-contractors yourself and just one of them actually turns out to be unlicensed and uninsured, you could be held liable for any damages/injuries as a result of that sub-contractor.

 

Industry connections

General contractors are always in the know of who the trustworthy tradespeople are as well as what fees are reasonable for their services. Another crucial advantage of using a general contractor is that they know exactly who to call and how to go about pulling permits quickly enough for your renovation project to stay on schedule. Often times, it’s the general contractor’s list of contacts that’s worth its weight in gold.

 

Quality guarantee

Last but not least, we get to the key benefit of using a general contractor: quality guarantee where if the renovation final product is not satisfactory, the resulting fixes/repairs would be on the general contractor’s dime.  Although many sub-contractors also offer quality guarantees, consider this scenario: if a sub-contractor’s repair requires taking out a different sub-contractor’s finished product, you will most likely have to suck up the cost of getting that second sub-contractor to re-do the work after the repair. If more than one trade gets affected by the repair, it could end up being a very costly domino effect for you. With a general contractor, of course, every repair and its repercussions would be borne by him/her.

 

At the end of the day, the decision on whether to hire a general contractor or not rests on how far people’s DIY comfort level extends to. Like any major decision though, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of both sides before choosing one – and you’re already off to a good start with this handy article on the value of hiring a general contractor!

How to Prepare Your House for Remodeling

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You’ve spent pretty much an eternity building up that dream home in your mind, you’ve got contractors lined up, and you’d like nothing better than to have your dream home just appear already. Time works a little differently outside our head though, unfortunately; that means we have to prepare ourselves to put in a lot of patience. Unless you have a magic wand, of course, in which case you don’t even need to read this. For those of us who don’t have a magic wand though, there are steps we need to take before contractors can start work on remodeling the house.

The simplest way to break down the remodeling preparation process is to group all the steps into three separate sections:

 

Scheduling

Some renovation projects are best done in certain seasons so try to schedule them during those times. For example, winter is usually for inside renovation projects only while outside renovation projects can be scheduled in spring, summer, or fall. There are some outside projects that should be done in a specific season though:

–    Window replacement and door replacement should be done in spring to fix any problems that came out of the winter cold

–   Deck-building, siding, and roofing work should be done in summer to minimise the risk of wet weather damaging your house

–   Chimney repairs and any projects to winterise your home should be done in fall so that your house is ready to withstand the coming winter.

Next, adjust your personal schedule to make sure you’ll be in town during the renovation. This just means not going away on vacation so that contractors can check in with you in person throughout the renovation process; it doesn’t mean you need to take time off work though as contractors will accommodate your work schedule.

 

People

Let your contractor know what communication method is the best way to reach you (i.e. phone, text, e-mail, etc.). Provide your contractor with secondary communication options as well just in case the first one doesn’t work. This way, both you and your contractor will have peace of mind knowing that you have open, reliable communication channels with each other. Next, confirm that the contractor will take care of the permit process for the renovation. Let’s be honest: the contractor has done this way more often than you so just trust your contractor to know all the ins and outs to streamline the process. Also, let the contractor know whether or not you’re okay with the renovation crew using your bathroom. Contractors usually bring a portable toilet for big renovation projects, but it may not be the case for smaller ones. If you have a spare bathroom, feel free to offer that up. At the end of the day, it’s really up to your comfort level to make that decision, but it does make it much more convenient for the contractor if you allow the crew to use your bathroom. Finally, tell the contractor which areas in the house are off-limits and that you’ll also tape the areas off with signs to identify them.

Notify your home insurance company about the renovation and ask them if they have any suggestions on what else you need to take care of before and after the renovation. Their suggestions are given often because they’ll affect your insurance policy so do your best to follow them.

The next people you need to communicate with is your family. Discuss with them how the renovation will change the routines for everyone in the house and come up with creative ways to work around disruptions. This is also a good time to highlight safety measures and precautions to take during the renovation period – especially if you have children in the house. Sitting down with your family to have these discussions is important because it reassures them that you’re all in this together, coming up with solutions to only temporary disturbances to home life; it’s what will keep the family sane and focussed on getting one step closer to the dream home, instead of letting the stress of renovation get the better of everyone.

Lastly, give a courtesy heads-up to neighbours on both sides of your house that you’re doing some renovation work on your house and ask them to please bear with you for the next few weeks. This step is optional and it really depends on your relationship with your neighbours. You’re definitely not obligated to notify them of renovation work, but it is a nice, friendly gesture that they’ll appreciate.

 

Possessions

Wrap all your antiques and fragile items with padded materials like bubble wrap or blankets. Store them somewhere safe away from the renovation site, maybe in an unused spare room that won’t have any renovation work done in there. Lock up all your valuables and jewelry in a home safe or, even better, a safe deposit box. Move all your furniture out of the renovation site and into that unused spare room; if some furniture pieces can’t be moved, cover them completely with plastic sheets, tarps, or cloths to prevent construction dust from getting all over them. Take away any remaining loose items still left on the site.

Clean up the site before the contractors arrive. If you’re doing your own demolition, finish that before doing the clean-up in advance of the contractors arriving. Last but not least, run tape across the entrances of all the areas in the house that you’ve identified as off-limits and stick “Off-Limits” signs to the tapes.

That’s it – you’re now prepared for the remodeling work to begin on your house!

What are some other steps you like to take to prepare your house for remodeling? Share the steps you took and tell us why it was important for you on that project!

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