Ten Tips From A Contractor

Daggett Builders, Inc


Renovations * Design/Build * Handyman Projects


  1. A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words
  2. Does Your Plan Fit Your Budget?
  3. Interview First / Then Decide Who You Want To Bid
  4. Research The Reputation Of Your Builder & Designer
  5. Read The “Scope of Work” In The Contract Very Carefully
  6. Review Your Builder’s Subcontracts For Clarity & Detail
  7. Require Lien Releases
  8. Stick To The Plan
  9. Let Your Enthusiasm Show
  10. Don’t Worry / Be Happy

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  1. A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

All projects large or small need to start with some type of plan.   A picture is truly worth a thousand words.  Do you want to run the risk of being surprised or disappointed with the final result?   A designer or architect has the training and skill to produce a detailed design based on your individual needs and desires – a design that will enhance the value of your home.

The drawings and specifications become a vital part of the final contract.  Your team (you, your designer, your builder, and your builder’s subcontractors) will all have the opportunity to review the drawings and come up with a plan to provide you with the best possible outcome.  The job will run more smoothly and there will be few surprises or changes.  You will not only save money but will also get the most value for your money


  1. Paying for a plan you can’t afford

This is a common scenario – don’t let it happen to you.    The clients have spent many long hours planning and dreaming.  They have a “final” plan in hand and send it out to bid.  They are excited and in a hurry to get started.    The bids come in but the clients are shocked at the price.  How could this be?  Some clients actually hire several architects/designers and get multiple bids before they finally end up with a plan they like and can afford.

You need to be very clear about your budget and your expectations from the start.   Do not try to outsmart your designer by low balling your budget and then making expensive choices as if money doesn’t matter.   Designers can be prone to getting swept up in your excitement.  If they sense that you are not serious about your budget they may end up designing something you cannot afford but that you have your heart set on.  You might make decisions you will regret later.

There are several things you can do to avoid this pitfall.   Start with a very basic sketch and try using this building cost calculator.   http://www.building-cost.net/   Ask your designer what the range of square foot prices are in your area.  Don’t forget to adjust it upward for properties that are difficult to access, remote, steep, wet. etc.  Visit your local code enforcement officer to ask if the design you have in mind will likely meet with approval.  Start interviewing builders at the beginning of the design process.  You will get to know them through working with them.  Quickly narrow your choice down to the one you want to incorporate into your design/build team.  Your builder’s input will be very valuable; it is worth paying for.   If it is a remodel, it would be wise to hire a builder to inspect the property and to even do some surgical demolition before you get to far into the design process. 


  1. Interview First, Then Decide Who Will Bid On Your Project

You have your heart set on a new home or a remodel project. You decide to keep putting it out to bid until you find the contractor who will promise to give you what you want at a price you can afford.    This is a dangerous game to play.  You are paying for a service, not buying a car.  A detailed bid takes time to produce.   Builders cannot afford to bid every job; they appreciate a client who takes the time to get to know them before asking for a price.  You may be lucky enough to find someone who will work for very little or even at a loss; they won’t be able to do it for long.  They may have to put your job on hold while they make money elsewhere and they will almost always send uninsured people to work on your project, creating a liability issue for you.  


  1. Research The Reputation Of Your Builder & Designer

Ask for references and consider the sources when you weigh the responses.  Go on line and check them out with the Better Business Bureau.  Get a credit report from a reliable source such as Dun & Bradstreet.  Contact their insurance companies.  Do they have adequate worker’s comp and liability insurance?  Do they tend to let it lapse? Trust your instincts but also do your homework.


  1. Read The “Scope of Work” In The Contract Very Carefully

Review this with your builder and designer/architect to make sure there is sufficient detail to avoid any miscommunication.   The “Scope of Work” should ideally refer to a detailed plan with specifications.    Go to www.maine.gov  to see the Attorney General’s Model Contract for the minimum contract requirements.


  1. Review Your Builder’s Subcontracts For Clarity & Detail

The contracts your builder has with his subcontractors are as important as the contract you have with your builder.  You should know the details and the terms as the last thing you want is to have to settle a dispute between your builder and the subcontractors.


  1. Require Lien Releases

If you do not know your builder well, get signed lien releases from his subcontractors and vendors before you make any payments.  If you live too far away to inspect the work yourself, ask your builder to send you photos on a regular basis by e mail.  Ask the builder’s subcontractors to submit photos along with their lien releases.


  1. Stick To The Plan

Changes are expensive; try to minimize them.   The initial contract should spell out the change order procedure, payments, lien releases, etc.  Don’t change the rules in the middle of the process and don’t leave your builder out of the loop by making side agreements with employees and subcontractors.



  1. Let Your Enthusiasm Show

Trust but verify.  Encourage your team to make suggestions.  Show your enthusiasm for the project.  It will inspire your team.


  1. Don’t Worry / Be Happy

Focus on assembling a winning team.  Be fair and straightforward with them.   Rest assured they will make every effort to make you happy! 


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