Some important questions that need some important answers!
Before you get started read the attached article ... knowledge is key on any construction project! ..........
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)
Working alongside my husband in the role of being a General Contractor and Interior Designer whilst being part of the construction process has been the most rewarding, interesting and downright fun career paths I have ever taken part of. The sense of adventure and satisfaction that comes with doing renovations whether it is a smaller project like a deck or painting to a whole house overhaul is indescribable. When I decided I wanted a career in interior design, I never imagined that I would get a chance to have a role in the entire building process and I have no regrets. It has also been one of the most stressful, physically exhausting and confusing career paths I have chosen to take. The everyday logistics of this career are repetitive yet every project is so different. The wants and needs of every customer need to be realized early on in order to avoid huge and costly mistakes or worse – a frustrated or overwhelmed customer. Being in charge of another person’s hard earned money and having the knowledge to spend it wisely is a responsibility that we both have to manage daily and as fun as that sounds it is a huge amount of trust that our customers have put on us… and most don’t really know who we are!! For me this would be the equivalent of purchasing a pair of $400 shoes that you have never tried on with a no return policy… holy crap commitment! This all being said, I know the incredible accomplishments of our company began far before I was involved and in all reality I should not be surprised that our customers have no problem investing in us.
Every single day I have am shocked by the drive and brilliance that my husband shows me. There are so many aspects of this industry that he has taught me that I have no other way to describe it but to say “it’s just really cool”. I think it’s really cool that I get to work with my hubby every day. I think it’s pretty cool that I have the knowledge to run power tools. I think it’s pretty cool that I can make our schedule so we can be together as a family. I think it’s pretty cool that our customers get to witness our aura of unity in every project. I also think it’s pretty cool that my husband gets up every morning early to get on with his day… not everyone has the drive to do that. (I can only compare it to some people being able to do on line schooling to people that need to answer to a professor). My husband and I work together amazingly and I have always described it to people by saying “building Ikea furniture together is considered a great date night” – weird I know. But we truly do enjoy coming up with random design ideas together. We’ve had people ask “When you are in their house do you re-design or notice finishing flaws”? The polite answer is no but for real the answer is yes. Yes, we did notice that the mitres don’t meet up on ANY of your casing and that your kitchen layout would be a million times better if you just removed that load barring wall – no Biggy. (Sorry everyone – no judgement we just cannot help ourselves! I have actually text my husband a picture of a really bad mitre on a baseboard while I was sitting in the chair at a hair salon… I can’t make this stuff up)!
So now that I just described working with my husband as though every day I am dancing through fields of lavender with the sun shining down and you are all jealous your job isn’t the same…. Working with my husband is soooo hard!!! (Cue the whimper cry and violins). Although we are both very patient people and for the most part we deal with each other’s crap fairly well, everything isn’t all peaches and cream. One thing that I am sure most business owners can relate to… work comes home with you. No I don’t mean like you had a little extra work to do, or you cannot stop thinking about it. I mean, while I am doing estimates half the time I am also making dinner (sorry for the marinara stain on that last estimate), feeding the dog, washing the dishes, doing laundry, completing homework with the mini me and so on. I like to think that a large part of our company’s success is that as a general rule I know everything… the problem with this is my husband also knows everything. With so many self-proclaimed geniuses in one company you would think someone would give in eventually. But we don’t. (Just kidding, we actually do and I like to think this is where so many of our amazing ideas come from – and sometimes where we learn from our mistakes). Another not so fun thing with working with your better half – you both do the same thing day in and day out so by default mainly your discussions revolve around work. I have learned that one has to be involved in a lot of hobbies to keep things interesting – we have learned to become involved in what the other person enjoys doing, this is so important and a small rant of wisdom amongst the never-ending rambles included on this page… take interest in each other’s hobbies. This is the greatest lesson I have learnt over the last few years…. Anyway back to my cons list: Always remember that all these completed projects started somewhere and as a result I have been part of some pretty nasty demo’s that I would rather not speak of. My hair 50% of the time smells of saw dust. If I grow my nails I have to be fully committed to having one ripped off and deal with the impending blood bath that follows. Lotion is my best friend. Drywall dust – that is all I have to say about that. I also now own more paint stained work clothes than nice ones. (I’m pretty certain the other moms at school drop off think I own one pair of jeans and that I don’t like doing laundry). Okay but seriously, I would say the perks definitely out-weigh the downfalls but I just didn’t want you all to think I never ugly cried about life in the corner once in a while.
In conclusion, I have to confess, I started this “small” and minutely interesting write up with the intention of informing people of what a general contractor truly does and what to expect. The reasoning behind this is that I am discovering that there are a few misconceptions on what we do, who we are and what to expect. Cause let’s face it – renos are scary!! But alas, due to my forever 100 mile an hour brain, you got a little about me. HA! I hope you enjoyed learning a little of the insides of the industry from my perspective.
I feel obligated to say “Stay tuned for the next write up”????… I actually think I should type what I came here to write…“What is a General Contractor”?
Cheers! – Crystal Marin (aka The Contractors Wife)