Selecting the right building contractor
Building contractors are hugely varied and range from the one-man business where the owner does almost everything themselves, through to multinational construction companies that construct building projects valued at hundreds of millions of dollars. Some contractors are specialist, only doing electrical, plumbing, carpentry or bricklaying work, while others provide a full construction package. Those that do the complete building may have all the resources and building trades in-house for your home building project, while others employ subcontractors to do many of the specialist construction trades. In fact, some building companies are more like project managers employing subcontractors for all of the construction work, and they merely manage these contractors. Some contractors specialise in particular building projects, for instance some do home renovations, others only build new houses (some contractors specialise in luxury houses, others in typical middle income houses, some construct low cost housing, others use particular materials or methods), or civil structures, apartment buildings or office buildings. Larger companies may have different divisions that specialise in different types of construction. Most contractors work in specific towns, regions or countries, with only the larger construction companies having the ability to work across a wider geographic area and across states.
Many building projects go badly because the wrong contractor is selected, often the contractor that submitted the lowest price.
What to consider when selecting a building contractor
When selecting a contractor it’s important to consider the following:
Ø Does the contractor have the required experience to deliver the services required? Have they worked on similar building projects? There’s a difference between contractors that build low-cost houses to those that build luxury houses. A heritage restoration requires particular skills.
Ø What services they offer? If you want the contractor to design your house or home extension then check that they have good designers who will interpret what you want and deliver a design that works. Do they offer planning services and can they help with the interior design, fixture selection and finishes (such as bathroom, kitchen, tiles, materials and colours)?
Ø Do they have the applicable registrations for the work? Usually there’s a requirement for builders to be registered in the country or state. Check with the registration body that the registration is current, that it’s in the correct trading name of the contractor and that it’s for the trade that you’re looking for. Companies also usually have to be registered for tax purposes.
Ø Can they produce acceptable quality? Have they produced good quality work on their previous building projects? Do they have the required skills available to produce good quality work in your home?
Ø Do they have the resources to carry out the work? This includes; equipment, management and the tradespeople. If they don’t have the resources, can they get the resources and will they be able to manage them?
Ø Do they have the financial means to carry out your project? Are they financially secure? If the contractor is suffering losses on other construction projects this could cause them financial stress which could mean that they can’t pay for people and materials. In extreme cases the contractor could become bankrupt partway through your home build project, leaving you facing delays and additional costs while you find another contractor to finish your house. You’ll probably also lose deposits and advances that you’ve paid them.
Ø What other work are they currently doing? If they’re involved with other large projects they may not have the resources or the finances to successfully undertake your work.
Ø What’s their safety record? A poor safety record is often indicative of poor management. Contractors with a poor safety record shouldn’t be used. Accidents delay building projects and they could get your house construction stopped by the authorities until the contractor rectifies safety breaches.
Ø Do they have a good reputation?
Ø Have they got a previous record of being claims orientated and having legal disputes with owners? You don’t want your budget blown by extra costs!
Ø Are they reliable and complete their building projects on time?
Ø Do they use good subcontractors? Who will their main subcontractors be? Do these subcontractors have a good reputation?
Ø Has there recently been a change in management?
Ø What insurances do they have? (I'll discuss insurances in a later article.)
Past performance however isn’t always indicative of how a contractor will perform on your home construction project and I’ve on occasion had good contractors perform poorly because they were over-committed on other construction projects, which meant they had insufficient and poor quality resources for my project.
Conclusion - selecting the right contractor is essential for a successful construction project
Selecting the wrong building contractor could result in a poor quality home, one that is problem filled with ongoing issues long after building is finished - even resulting in a home which is unsafe for you and your family. Selecting a contractor who is incapable of doing the work, one that doesn't have the experience, skills or equipment will result in additional stress for you and inevitably it will result in delays to the completion of your new home. It's vital to understand your contractor's capabilities and reputation, then ensure that you can work with them. Check that they understand your expectations for your new home and that they can meet your expectations.
Never select a building contractor only on price - because they are the cheapest. Inevitably you'll find that the cheapest contractor doesn't always result in a cheap project when things start going wrong.
Know your contractor - they will be your partner.
This is an extract from my new book 'An Introduction to Building and Renovating Houses: Volume 1 Hiring Contractors, Managing Construction and Finishing Your Home' which also contains lots more valuable information to save you money and ensure that your home build or renovation project is a success. Click on the image to read a preview on Amazon. The book is available in paper or ebook form from Amazon and other online stores, or ask your local bookstore to order a copy for you. For tips on designing your new house as well as renovation ideas read Volume 2 - Finding Your Ideal Property and Designing Your Dream Home
© 2019 This article is not to be reproduced for commercial purposes without written permission from the author.
I’m a construction professional, author of several successful construction management books, and a home owner. I’ve made mistakes in construction management, I’ve seen others make mistakes, but importantly I’ve had multiple successful construction projects and I’ve learned from the mistakes. I want to share these lessons and my knowledge with you.
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and 'An Introduction to Building Houses - Volume 2 Finding Your Ideal Property and Designing Your Dream Home'
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