Renovations in Kitsilano:
What to Ask Potential Project Managers and Contractors
If you’re getting ready to renovate your Kitsilano Condo, Townhome or Detached Home, one of the biggest decisions you’ll have to make is if you’re going to manage the project yourself, or if you will hire a project manager. If you’re new to renovations, hiring a project manager is the way to go. Even though that’s an extra cost in itself, it’ll save you time in doing the renovation, and hassle in ensuring everything is done properly with licensed tradespeople (contractors) and you may even reap the benefit of well priced materials.
If there’s one aspect of the renovation that deserves your time, it’s deciding who to hire as the project manager/lead contractor. Luckily there are many different companies available in Vancouver, so you’ll be able to find one that suits your budget, personality, and expectations. You’ll need to feel very comfortable with your project manager in order to ensure the project goes smoothly, even when you hit the unexpected delays and issues.
There are small differences between a project manager and lead contractor, with the project manager overseeing the entire job, from tear down, to tradespeople, to installation, to permits, to design to clean up. If you’re keen to do the design, ordering, tear down and clean up yourself, you may just need to hire a lead contractor to organize the tradespeople and permits. Whether you know exactly how you want the finished product to look and feel, or if you want opinions from professional, you’ll be able to find out how a good project manager/lead contractor can help you achieve your ideals.
Take a look at our previous post: Are you Ready for a Renovation?
If you want to find a project manager/lead contractor that meets your expectations (and more!), shop around and ask each potential person the following questions:
1: What’s Your Business History?
Know how many renovations and projects the project manager/contractor has completed, as well as the general scope. If you’re looking to do a full blown detached house renovation, hiring a contractor who has only dealt with condos may not be the best option. While it’s nice of you to offer the job to a less experienced project manager, if budget and time are of the essence, hire a seasoned pro.
Ask questions about a company’s business practices and experiences with the remodelling project you need. Find out what kind of procedures, standards and rules this contractor would follow to meet your demands.
- How long have you been in business?
- Are you properly licensed?.
- What percentage of your clientele is repeat or referral business?
- Do you have a list of references from past projects similar to mine?
- Do the contractors you use have proper training, permits and insurance?
- Do you use an in house contractor and design team, or do you hire for each project?
- How have you handled projects that have experiences unfortunate delays or issues?
- Can you view the renovation project before offering a potential quote?
Also, Google them! Yelp them! Search the Better Business Bureau (BBB) website! See if they’re on Houzz, or Facebook, to see how they interact with others, answer questions or reach out to potential clients.
2: Do You Provide a Detailed Written Contract?
Misunderstandings happen. People forget. Things change. But a contract helps both you and the contractor know what is expected from both parties. So every job, no matter how small, should have a signed contract by the contractor and customer. The contract should be specific and detailed, and should include:
- Names, addresses, and phone numbers of all parties involved in the project, including vendors
- Detailed list of the work to be completed
- List of each product along with its price and model number
- Who is responsible for pulling permits
- Where deliveries will go and where the dumpster will be placed
- What time the workers begin and end their day
- Project’s start and completion dates plus payment schedule
- All work carried out by subcontractors
Anything that changes along the way must be written and signed in a change order, which makes sure everyone is in agreement on the change, price, time, or anything else that is adjusted from the original contract.
3: How Much Money Do I Need to Put Down?
If the contractor asks you to pay for all of the project’s cost upfront, it’s time to find another contractor. An unreasonable deposit is the first sign something is fishy.
The Better Business Bureau’s website suggests going by the rule of thirds: Pay one third at the beginning of the project, one third when work is 50 percent complete, and one third after it is final and you are satisfied with the outcome.
But chances are your contractor will have a formula to determine how much money is needed to get the job started. Most contractors will ask for 15% to 25% down, before beginning the project. They need to do a lot of organizing and ordering to get the project started so this deposit will cover that work.
4: Can I Get Itemized Price Estimates of Work and Materials?
Some contractors like to hand you a bid with one price estimate for the entire project because it’s less work on their end. Don’t let them. You will need details on all the costs associated with the project and each item purchased.
Here’s why an itemized estimate is essential: If midway through the project you decide to put in a less expensive countertop than the one originally discussed, you need to know the exact cost of the first countertop. Without it, you have no way of knowing how much of a credit you should receive.
An itemized price list should detail the cost of labor, demolition, materials, electrical, plumbing, permits, and more.
5: Who Will Be at the Site?
The project manager might only show up to sign the contract and present the finished product. It’s important to know the role of the project manager, head contractor and whoever will be your point of contact on the site every day. You’ll want to meet this person to ensure your personalities match and you’re both on the same page with regards to expectations and timeline.
6: How would you Describe your Personality?
Just like any good relationship, the one between you and your contractor should have harmony, communication, and collaboration. Some personalities and styles just don’t mesh, so don’t pick someone just because their bid is the lowest.
Your contractor will be part of your daily existence for quite some time, and will have a direct impact on the status of the project, the mood of the entire contractor team, and so it deserves some thought.
Protect yourself. We’ve unfortunately seen some lawsuits regarding home renovations, so do your due diligence before the project starts. It doesn’t hurt to ask – but it sure could hurt if you don’t. Contact the LiveKitsilano Team if you have any questions about a potential reno, or are looking to buy a home needing a renovation We have a lot of personal experience renovating condos, house and townhomes, both personal managing the projects and hiring outside project managers and contractors.