A guide for homeowners doing renovations.

Specifically - Hiring Contractors, How to Save Money and Disaster Prevention.

Showing posts with label Designs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Designs. Show all posts


It's not enough that you can trust them(ie: your contractor)  which is why I think this article will save you thousands of dollars.  It's applicable to all combinations of renovations involving bathrooms, kitchens or multiple trades.  Any time you're selecting from materials or look to make changes "on the fly".

Let's start with a given project...say a bathroom renovation - because they're among the 

Take your time, work with your contractor on a budget and a plan.



The first question you're going to ask yourself is:  

On average, how much does a bathroom renovation cost?  

You'd probably ask the same thing if it were a kitchen, garage, addition or house.

It's next to impossible to answer.  I've done a lot of bathrooms and they're all different - but that's only part of the problem.

"It's not like picking a car with features to select from, bathrooms are more like picking vehicle parts and seeing what kind of vehicle you can get."

Make sure you have a budget
AND plans.


The problem is there are TOO MANY VARIABLES

 Contractors can't predict:

  1. What is in the walls 
  2. If "Smoke & Mirrors" by a previous owner/contractor was used to do terrible work
  3. If you are going to want to change your mind and when.
  4. What it is YOU want unless they spend a ton of time with you. 

To mitigate this we use what's called "padding" on our quotes to cover contingency funds.  This is standard. 

HOWEVER, with bathrooms and other multi-trade projects, this isn't ideal.  If you add all the padding up and it to your costs, then the price, or quote, might not be competitive compared to contractors who are using proper methods.  


If you do think you are getting a good price, you are likely getting "Smart Quoted".  

If you aren't getting "smart quoted" and you trust your contractor, then it's only a matter of time before the quoting will catch up with them.  Arguments, tension and unpleasantness will ultimately be associate with your reno.  Unless you're really lucky or they are really lucky.

Why quoting is a terrible idea

Bathrooms and other multi-trade projects are prone to problems and none of them you're going to be able to mitigate.

  • They use up contingency funds (unless you're lucky)
  • Multi-trade jobs are highly susceptible to trade cost fluctuations
  • They are prone to having warranty issues.
  • Price creeping happens with the selection of fixtures and materials.
  • Don't scale well.
  • Therefore, are extremely prone to going over-budget
I would say you have a 90% chance of going over your budget! 

OR not getting what you want. OR not getting your job finished and that's if you hire a contractor.  It will be even worse for YOU if they smart quoted you or if you decided to do the project management yourself.  

Problematic Scenarios

Part of the problem is if you want to change your mind on the fly(maybe you see a deal) on a counter top or floor (or whatever it may be).  This is when it will hit you and discover that you should have done more research.  You'll realize that things get messy fast.  And your contractor is going to put up a resistance to any changes that are expensive OR they will be thrilled that they charged you a change-order hourly rate - better hope it was low! (hint: it never is because change orders are also inefficient)

Now, let's talk about project management.  
There's 5 scenarios you will have to choose from.

Scenario 1 
General Contractor Provides You With a Quote

We just went over it. You're going to be over budget or bad things are very likely to happen.

Scenario 2
Sit down, have a chat, and discuss your ideas.
Check if you and them are a good fit.
General Contractor Provides You With a Proper Contract

You know how to price shop and compare apples to apples. (A different article)

Scenario 3
The Sub-Trade General Contracts
And sometimes they'll share that burden with you - that's worse.

You get the plumber or the HVAC guy or the electrician to project manage.  This is bad for you.
It's bad for scheduling, it's bad for the warranties that might come up later, it's bad for quality control and most of all, it's bad for your budget.  It's all of THEM vs YOU.  Let me ask you this.  Does the electrician know or care about what counter tops you are going to chose?  Or how waterproof your bathroom floor needs to be?  Are they going to care how much another trade is going to cost? Probably not as long as they get paid first.  Construction phases overlapping and re-work are going to be prone.  This is very bad for you!  Even if you trust them, and they trust each other.  It only goes well until something goes wrong, once.

Scenario 4
You hire the carpenter

This is your next best option.  It's not ideal, but the good news is: you're probably going to get your bathroom completed.  Budget, warranty and scheduling are all going to be iffy though.  A well rounded carpenter is the only trade that's going to be able to salvage a mess but depending on your contract it could cost you or them.

Scenario 5
You are the General Contractor

Don't ever try and project manage a bathroom yourself unless:
 (and i stress that you shouldn't)

  1.  It's your bathroom.
  2.  You have deep pockets.
  3.  You have a lot of time
  4.  You don't care about warranty
  5.  You are well connected.  (this is dangerous because you might be falling into scenario 3)
  6.  You are a carpenter.
  7.  You aren't doing much for upgrades.
  8.  You have a bail-out plan.

Follow this simple checklist of tips

  • If they give you a quote, that's a flag- you're being smart quoted or one/both parties are going to be unhappy.
  • If they are sub-trades other than MAYBE a Carpenter. that's a flag.
  • If they aren't doing a budget, that's a huge flag.
  • If they are cheap - might be a bad choice. (check if we have an article on finding the best prices)
  • Finally, if you DON'T have ONE CONTRACT for the whole job, you need to find someone else.
Thanks for reading and I wish you luck!

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  1. Decide on a project priority
  2. Find some features you like
  3. Research the kind of contractor you need
  4. Research the kind of plan maker you need
  5. Consider finding & including a contractor in the designs for big projects
  6. Develop a budget from the concept designs
  7. Tweak your concept and budget until it's affordable
  8. Continue saving for more contingency until the project is ready to start!

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