Home Renovations – Proper Communication Channels During Construction and The Unexpected
It is extremely important that you, as the owner, never, ever give any instructions during the construction (or the pricing) process to anyone other than the general contractor or his designated (in writing) representative. Here is why: If a subcontractor or workman advises you that there is a problem and he needs to make some sort of change, etc., to remedy it, you must contact the contractor immediately rather than OK the “fix” with the subcontractor or workman. Otherwise you will likely end up getting a change order (or other form of additional cost bill) later for the work.
The subcontractor and/or workman does not care whether the change will cost more or not. He is most likely being paid hourly.
His boss will be informed at some point (usually much later) that the additional work was done and that the owner OK’d it. Then the contractor will get a bill and then you will get one.
This sort of situation has cost owners lots and lots of money, has caused untold hard feelings and has generated an untold number of law suits. It is surprisingly easy to avoid but takes a degree of self discipline.
Give this serious thought because there is an excellent chance you will be faced with the situation.
The bottom line here is that if a change is needed (even one which should save you money) it is extremely important that you take the time to communicate this explicitly to your contractor in written form. This can be a hand written memo, typed correspondence, email or any similar form of correspondence which will give you a “paper trail” if there is a conflict or misunderstanding later.
It is important that you (or the contractor) describe the work to be done (again, in writing), acknowledge that it is a change and include some estimate of the cost (additive or deductive) which will be involved. At the time this will seem like a major hassle but rest assured the process will end up saving you much bigger hassles later.
Expect the unexpected! It is important that you, as the owner, realize that a renovation to any existing building is likely to contain at least some situations, items, etc., which end up costing the owner money but which nobody could have foreseen. Consequently it is vital that you keep some amount of money set aside for these eventualities. Just like there is no crystal ball which allows us to see the future there is no ‘magic’ amount or percentage of budget that will ensure covering these potential unknowns. Our observations indicate that in most cases something on the order of!0% (minimum) of the budgeted construction cost should be realistic. On significantly older homes and buildings (esp. historic situations) this figure might need to be a good bit higher. The arguments about what should have and should not have been expected or anticipated are unending. However if you define your project carefully in your agreement with the contractor these arguments will be minimized.