As promised, I am writing to help shed some light on what exactly a general contractor is and what to expect. You, as the homeowner, have just embarked on one of the most exciting journeys you will commit to. (Yes commitment ahhh)! It is also one of the most stressful. Renovations, large or small, are not something that is done in a day. Making the decision to do any renovation means you are ‘committing’ (there’s that word again). This can take weeks - even months of mess, decisions, expenses, happiness, excitement, stress, hatred, love and everything in between (if there could even be any more feelings)! Honestly, renovating can put a person through emotions you didn’t even know you had. The light at the end of the tunnel though, if you have done your homework prior to beginning the renovation journey – you will know that a great general contractor will be there for you through the entire process.
After managing several projects, I could probably publish a 6 step program of emotions a homeowner goes through during every renovation. It goes as follows: Skeptical, Excitement, Overwhelmed, Denial, Excitement (again) and Impressed. No, this is not something that we have made our customers feel, it just a natural process of renovating and I totally understand how you feel. We are creating something new out of a very large investment – why wouldn’t you be emotionally involved every step of the way.
The process takes place at the first meeting… “Who are these contractor people”? “Can I trust them with my money”? “Can I leave them alone in my house”? “Are they any good”? “Is it going to be like that show I seen on HGTV where Holmes on Homes had to demolish that entire renovation because everything was done wrong”? *GASP*. Then the next stage, which of course is great for us – the customer gets excited to get started!! You let us know we got the job and we go ahead and get the planning started. Dates get set; paint colors get chosen, layouts are finalized… but wait! Where do you want the light switches? Do you want the door a left or right hand swing? How many pot lights do you want in the living room? What hardware color do you like…. Aaaaannnd you have just transitioned into the overwhelmed stage. Your house is ripped apart and looks like something straight out of an apocalypse movie and you half expect Tom Cruise to pop out from somewhere… Denial… “What have I done”? This is where I feel customers start to feel lost and panicked. I find a lot of the time the customer thinks they are being an “inconvenience” asking us to check into something or go to this store to confirm things. (Small secret – you have already agreed to pay me to do these things, so you should probably cash in on this service)! Following the final stages of all the picking, choosing, selecting and running around you begin to realize that the end is in sight! Your home seems to be transforming right before your eyes and has become something from a magazine. YES! Back to excitement! Here we go! We all start envisioning where the new couch could go. All those days of stressful thinking and re-thinking all the decisions we made is being tamed by the images of all the dinner parties you will be hosting. And this transitions flawlessly into my very most favorite part of this job and what keeps me going – You, the homeowner, are so impressed with what your home has transformed into. We all should be contacting Home & Garden so they know that your house is the greatest house on the block. Cheers to that!!
Have I scared you away from any major renovations yet? I sure hope not! Doing home renovations, while it can be very stressful, it is also very rewarding and financially beneficial. Being that we are General Contractors, it is very clear to me what we do and how we do it. We complete a multitude of renovations throughout the year without losing too much hair. (I guess Dustin has little to no hair but I think that may be more of a genetics thing). We have quoted many jobs and did not get the job because the homeowner could not wrap their head around paying someone to call a plumber and an electrician. Like really how hard could it be? Many of these people have also beyond regretted it as they soon discover the top secret work that happens behind the scenes. Where do you even start finding trades to do anything? Word of mouth, reputation etc… that’s a given. But I am also assuming that these homeowners also have jobs and responsibilities they need to take care of. Finding people to do a renovation can take hours, weeks, even months to hunt down. As a result, many renovations contracted by homeowners remain incomplete for many years. No, I am not saying our job is rocket science. Of course anyone can pick up the phone and schedule in sub trades. And really, good job if you can do it! I always am so impressed with people that contract their own renovations in between their everyday life – talk about dedication! But there is a purpose for everyone and everyone has a purpose. Being that we do this for a living we have dedicated (and will continue to) hours of our time researching, meeting and inspecting all our sub trades work. It is our job to make sure our trades work is up to our company’s standards every step of the way – and if we discover it is not, we have to make sure it is rectified. If we don’t continually do this, we are sacrificing our company’s reputation.
So now that we have had a deep conversation about our feelings and discovered just how capable you are, let us discuss “What is a General Contractor”? A contractor is someone that has devoted years of schooling in order to excel in their profession. They are someone that is caring, meticulous and dedicated to their customers and their community. There are many contractors out there that do not fit into this category – and I would not classify them as general contractors even though they have decided to use this as a title. There are many “contractors” out there that do not have a good business sense or conscious - so buyers beware. These people have forever changed the building industry and have made it more costly for the great and amazing contracting companies that are still out there. (Cheers to you guys – you all know who you are)! A customer must be savvy and do a ton of research in order to be sure they have found the right person for the job. And a good rule of thumb – you get what you pay for. General Contractors are 100% there for you. They should run into the bull pen with a red flag (just discovered it’s called a muleta – you learn something new every day). While we should have great relationships with our sub trades, we also need to be able to run into situations with fists flailing to make sure you are happy with how your renovation is progressing. The whole package should include planning, all selections, scheduling, payments to vendors, site supervision, a little bit of marriage counselling and everything in between. You will pay a contractor a good chunk of change to assist you through your renovation – and a good contractor will make it worth your while! I would also like to turn this around on anyone thinking of hiring a general contractor for your next project – TRUST YOUR CONTRACTOR!! I don’t mean find a contractor you trust. (well of course hire a contractor you trust - that would be absolutely silly if you didn’t). I mean once you have decided on a general contractor, you’re happy with the overall plan and the contract is signed – let them do their job! Remember that you were the one that decided to track down that contractor and you’re the one that asked for their expertise and assistance. Let the process take place and trust that they know how to do their job. If you are worried that they can’t, then ultimately hiring that particular contractor is a decision that can only be placed on you. For instance, you are stranded on the side of the road with a flat tire and you call AMA to change it. Once the technician arrives you likely are not going to push the guy aside to change it yourself, otherwise you wouldn’t have called him in the first place….
Now if you are ready to “commit” (there’s that word again) great! We wish you all the best in your new renovation adventure. We can only hope that you are fortunate enough to end up with a general contractor that makes you happy and keeps you feeling supported throughout the entire process. We are always willing to answer questions to anyone out there that is feeling overwhelmed or unsure of any part of their construction journey. Or you know … if you are in the market for a General Contractor we wouldn’t say no! *wink*
Until next time… Cheers
Crystal Marin (aka The Contractors wife)