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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am getting some bids for an addition to my house. I have a 2-story 2+1 that will have a 2-story addition on the back, turning it into a 3+2.5 with a family room, mud room and powder room downstairs.

Before I begin the whole process, I thought it might be a good idea to ask you contractors what do I need to know to be a good customer? What will make me a pleasure to deal with, and not one of those clients that make you roll your eyes and trade annoying customer stories with your colleagues?

What can I do to insure that I get a good deal without compromising workmanship? By that I mean, not how do I make it cheaper, but how can I insure that I am getting value.

When the bids come in, what should be the deciding factors in making my choice? What kinds of things can be considered negotiable? Any BS indicators to watch out for?


Ian
 

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How to keep the cost down.

"Before I begin the whole process, I thought it might be a good idea to ask you contractors what do I need to know to be a good customer? What will make me a pleasure to deal with, and not one of those clients that make you roll your eyes and trade annoying customer stories with your colleagues?"

1. If possible, don't go with a contractor that requires a big deposit before any work begins. It will make you nervous, agitated and frustrated and you'll take it out on the contractor.

2. Make all your decisions on plumbing and lighting fixtures, trim, flooring, etc.... ahead of time and don't make a lot of changes throughout the project.

3. Understand that working in the "field" (i.e. your house) is not like working in an office. A schedule is a guideline but things happen. You will need to be flexible if the HVAC guy has an existing customer who's furnace just went out and he needs to delay your project to get heat back up in their house.

4. If one spouse is going to be the "go to" person for the contractor - keep it that way. You would not believe how many times spouses have had different desires/requests on a project.

5. This last thing is a really good idea for big projects and I really like it. Schedule a weekly meeting (even if just a half hour) where you will meet with the general contractor. This will set aside a specific time where all items that need to be discussed will be discussed when everyone has the necessary paperwork.


"What can I do to insure that I get a good deal without compromising workmanship? By that I mean, not how do I make it cheaper, but how can I insure that I am getting value. When the bids come in, what should be the deciding factors in making my choice?"

I lumped these together as my response may answer all of them for you.

1. First of all the best way to keep your finished-job cost down is to not go with the cheapest bid. Go with the contractor who has the best references and a reputation for everything in writing up front and no surprises.

2. Second, like Grumpy said - watch the extras. I saw that you're adding a bath room and a powder room - don't go nuts on the plumbing fixtures or the tile. Don't go nuts on flooring and lighting (natural and electrical). Windows: go with good windows in factory stock sizes. If you have to get custom-made windows the cost will double/triple.


"What kinds of things can be considered negotiable?"

The business of contracting is such that a contractor is unable to change materials costs and labor rates. If there is anything to negotiate, it's lower-cost materials or items that are cheaper to install or doing some of the work (like painting) yourself.


"Any BS indicators to watch out for?"

Don't believe the "If he has a new truck, he's gonna cheat you" advice you may hear. Many contractors wear out trucks fast so it's common for them to have new ones to replace the relatively new ones that they are wearing out.

Now just one of my opinions but I always tell people to watch out for demand for large amounts of the money up front (Note: this is a recommendation for general contractors only, some other contractors, like window replacement for example, may require a larger deposit - this is not unreasonable). For the first month we're going to be tearing up your house and you'll want to make sure we're paid so the work keeps going.... ;) Seriously though - contractors should have credit accounts. Our policy is that we only ask for $1000 for a project to secure the date and set up dumpsters, etc.... We have credit accounts and if it takes us more than 30 days to get to the first payout, we're doing something wrong.

Hope this helps Ian. If you need more help, don't be afraid to ask. I go through about 20 of these projects a year - a homeowner only goes through it once or twice a lifetime. It's perfectly fine to ask these kinds of questions.

Tim
 

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I think that Tim nailed it all down. Good job!
I would reinforce the 'change order' advise. That causes the most conflict, in my experience.
I once did a remodel where the husband & wife agreed that the kitchen and diningroom should be the same color. It was done and we were installing cabinetry when the wife came by and told us to paint the kitchen yellow, this was done. A week later the husband stops by and is rather heated about the yellow kitchen, calls the wife, they exchange unpleasantries and we're back painting the kitchen AGAIN! To cap everything off they're both ticked off about the bill and I'm taking heat.
Moral of the story; be certain of what you want and can afford.
 

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IanJohnson said:
what do I need to know to be a good customer? What will make me a pleasure to deal with, and not one of those clients that make you roll your eyes and trade annoying customer stories with your colleagues?
If you are basically a good person then you will be a good customer if the conditions are right.

Good customers are usually a reflection of good contractors. Meaning if you hire a good contractor it will be relatively easy to be a good customer because a good contractor will know how to talk to you, how to treat you and how to avoid problems, he will be concerned with your needs and desires and guide you down the right path to a win/win at the end.

If you hire a bad contractor it will be almost impossible to be a good customer because you will continually be torn between trying to be a good customer and feeling that you are being screwed.

So hire well and you are half way there. Find somebody you can trust, somebody who is competent and somebody that actually cares about their work and their reputation. Talk to his satisfied customers.
 

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Thanks Teetorbilt,
I thought it was pretty straight up of Ian to ask the questions the way he did so imho he deserved the best response I could give. You are right though "written change orders" before work is done can not be over-emphasized.

Tim
 
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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks

Thanks for your reponses, and the link. It's a big, expensive project, so I want to do it right. And you're right about the fixtures etc. It's easy to think $3000 for a luxury shower/spa setup isn't that much relative to a $100,000 total cost, but it is still a $3k shower.

The first bid hasn't come back yet so I'll learn the answer soon enough- Does a two story addition more than double the cost compared to 1 story? There is still one foundation and one roof, but does the added complication more than make up for it?

Ian
 

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Haven't seen the plans, but it usually shouldn't.

Tim
 
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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
TimWieneke said:
Haven't seen the plans, but it usually shouldn't.

Tim

The reason I ask is that the ballpark I was given was $135/sqft for one story, $155sqft for 2 stories. If it's a box with 250sqft on each floor, would that mean ($135x250)+($155x250) or just 155x250. This is assuming basic rooms, nothing added on top of the existing structure other than the overlapping portion of the new roof.

The existing house is a 2-story rectangle, and the addition is simply a 2-story box on the back.

Ian
 

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Those numbers are about right. That's pretty close to what we ballpark.

Tim
 
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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
TimWieneke said:
Those numbers are about right. That's pretty close to what we ballpark.

Tim
So would the project cost $38,750 or $72,500? Do you multiply the higher 2-story cost by the sqft at the base of the box, or do you multiply the first story's sqft by $135, multiply the 2nd story's sqft by $155 and add them together?

Ian
 

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Don't add them together.

As a side note for additions with under a 7-800 sf footprint - don't be surprised by a higher per sf cost. Why? You have less of a project to "spread the costs" over. A plumber costs 7 grand for a 50 sf 3-piece bath and 7 grand for a 100 sf 3-piece bath.

Tim
 

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Typically a 2 story house has a cheaper sf cost on the second floor than the main level. The main reason being that the first floor includes a foundation or basement. Haven't you heard of it's cheaper to build up than out? That's why you see ranch style homes typically being a higher sf cost than a 2 story home with the same square footage.
 
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