When you first buy your log home, you probably loved it. Sure, there are some things you’re not that keen on, but you can live with them. That is, until you can’t live with them one more day. Whatever your dream project—a new kitchen, moving walls, a bathroom or adding-on several rooms—there are several things to keep in mind to help your project go smoothly when subcontracting a home improvement project.
First figure out what the measurements are. Make a few sketches. Look online for similar projects. The internet is full of blogs about individual experiences in home building projects. Learn about the process. The more you know about the process the better able you will be to create a realistic plan and budget. Create a Pinterest page of all the possibilities, then make a spreadsheet that shows the realities, including hidden costs. For example, let’s say you’ve got your eye on one of those warm-seated, self-cleaning, musical Japanese toilets. Is the pipe under your toilet in the right spot on the floor for the new fixture? Or do you need to have the line re-plumbed and the seals re-seated before it can be installed? What about the electrical specs? These are the sorts of questions you want to already know the answer to so it’s not a surprise later. Having a plan in place, understanding the process and what you can expect.
There are lots of online sites that offer reviews of workmen. Check them out! Ask people who have had work done, who they recommend or don’t recommend. Ask the workmen themselves: the carpenter you like probably knows a good plumber. Select companies that sound like a good match for you. Ask for references, and ask to see pictures of completed projects. One more thing to ask: How quickly can they work you into their schedules? Be aware that delays are a part of the process, but try to choose sub-contractors who will be available for your project when their turn comes.
Of course you will have a contract once you agree to terms but be sure to get the estimates in writing. Estimates can be handwritten, but if a workman won’t put anything in writing look for someone else. It can be a sign that he doesn’t know the costs and isn’t willing to stand behind his bid. Also, even if you like the first company you talk with, get at least three bids before making your choice. Having written estimates helps you remember who said what.
Select a few key details on which to splurge. These are the stars of the show. Then use classic, dependable materials that are cheaper, like a supporting cast. In the initial stages, your budget items will have a hi-low range, and that’s a good thing. Aim for the lower end but pretend you are spending the higher end and you’re “incidentals” will be less likely to put you over-budget. Part of having a solid plan early on is the benefit of knowing what supplies you will need so you can take advantage of sales. Keep in mind that some things are cheaper to purchase yourself, but often you can get a good deal through your workmen too. If you have a good relationship with them they may help you out by passing on a bit of their builders' discount to you. Be upfront about budget constraints and ask for their advice on material choices. Many times they can recommend options you hadn’t considered before but will love.
If you are building a new log home or putting on an addition, it is the builder or general contractor who supplies the insurance and secures the building permits. If you are acting as your own general contractor this is something you will need to handle yourself. Be aware that each locality is different, and some municipalities can take months, not weeks, to issue permits. For remodeling projects your municipality may not require permits, or it might. It’s also possible that you will need to have permission from your HOA before making any changes to your home. In some areas the wrong color paint or the use of stone instead of brick can end up becoming massive daily fines. That’s money you don’t want to spend. Be sure to look into all the possible planning permissions you might need before starting your project and secure them. It’s also not a bad idea to talk to your home insurance agent to see what sort of liability coverage you have on your policy and if you can get a temporary rider or liability umbrella.
In the end it comes down to having a lot of patience, staying organized, and communicating clearly. Most tradespeople take great pride in their skill and their quality workmanship. They are willing to explain what they are doing and why they are doing it. Handling your own subcontractors from a company like Zefer Contracting can be a highly educational experience. Begin with learning all you can, ask questions and really listen to the answers. Respect your workers and understand that your job is not necessarily the only job they’ve got going. Keep lists, give the project its own calendar, use apps to keep you organized. There will be crazy days, but keep your sense of humor. Above all, communicate everything to everyone. Stay calm, and treat everyone the way you’d want to be treated, and you’ll do great.