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Do-it-yourself or hire it done?

Either way, be sure to schedule your home improvements right to avoid excess cost and time!

By Mitch Kuffa

I have had many homeowners tell me “I am going to act as my own general contractor to save that big profit margin the builders make”. If you are about to perform some relatively complex construction job (building a new house, an addition, creating a rec. room in the basement, remodeling your kitchen, adding a bath, etc.), which requires the performance of multiple different trades, let me share with you that it may not be as simple as one may think.

The scheduling of a construction job can be much more complex than it appears and the task of a general contractor/builder is often underestimated.

The following must be taken into consideration:
1. The trades have to be scheduled in the proper order. This is critical. Generally speaking, if they are not properly synchronized the job will run amuck. If the ceramic man shows up to install a floor and the trim carpenter has not yet set the door jamb, the ceramic man will not be able to finish his job. If the electrician is going to wire the furnace, it must be installed prior to his arrival, etc.,etc.,

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2. Discuss the actual working time for each sub-contractor and get a commitment in reference to same. There should be no major lapse of time between the different functions.

3. Make sure the material has been delivered prior to commencement. This is always a problem if the homeowner is supplying some of the material or if certain pieces are back ordered by the supplier or if the material is being stored at a different location.

4. Discuss any questionable details and clarify objectives and/or plans with the different trades. This is especially a concern if the homeowner desires to make any changes from what is originally proposed. What type of plumbing fixtures will you use? What color of paint should be applied?

5. Make sure that the work area has been cleaned for all trades. If they walk into a dirty work area, typically their function suffers and they leave it the same way (or worse) than when they arrived.

6. Be certain that the past trades have performed any pertinent or proper work for the current trades. Obviously, the drywall should be completely finished prior to painting. The dishwasher and range hood should have electrical provisions prior to installation.

7. The job site must be accessible. In general, the trades will not wait for someone to show up with a key. If the door is locked, they’re gone.

8. Handle all trades with respect. They will treat you the same way you treat them. You will always get more with sugar than being a “hard nose”.

9. Hire or demand only qualified professionals. The industry is full of individuals who are not licensed, trained or even competent in what they are trying to do. There is good and bad workmanship.

10. Be fair in all judgments. Don’t be over demanding, unreasonable or ask for things that were not on the original agreement without it being in writing.

11. You must ride the thin line between being a friend while still letting them understand that you are the director of the project.

12. Be punctual and keep all commitments. If you’re late and don’t show up, why should they?

13. Keep an optimistic and pleasant personality. It’s always much easier to deal with someone that you look forward to seeing.

14. Get everyone plenty of lead time. Calling someone on Friday for Monday will not work.

15. Keep on hand all necessary plans, specifications, contracts, documents, etc., for referral purposes. Talking to the different trades with no documents and via memory encourages disorganization, conflict, and problems.

16. Be certain all trades get paid in a timely manner. If you want performance, this is the way to get it. Be sure that when you do pay, all the proper waivers of liens are signed, receipts received, etc.

17. Keep the overall schedule as close as possible and update any deviations regularly. If you’re working to a specific end goal, you have to re-analyze your current status regularly.

18. “Punch out” the job personally before any inspections with the municipality. You need to check to see if there are any shortcomings so as not to alienate the inspector. The cleaner the job is when he shows up, the better it is for the entire process. He will get a comfort level and understand that you are trying to attain quality.

19. Monitor the quality of work at all times. If you see something wrong, bring it to that specific trades attention immediately (without being repetitive or obnoxious).

20. Check on the availability of all materials before you need them. This is especially a concern when many suppliers do not inventory as much as they use to. There is nothing worse than having a specific trade scheduled to show up 2 days from now and find out that the material will not be available for 2 weeks.

21. Never sacrifice a workmanlike job nor adequate quality. If you allow anything to get sloppy, you’re opening the doors to other such work.

22. Allow all trades to make a profit. If they don’t make money, it’s going to be hard to get them to come back to service their product.

23. You must meet all current and local code requirements. Don’t take shortcuts and think you can get away with something. You must build up a relationship with the municipality inspectors and for all intents and purposes, they are the ultimate say and decision makers on your project.

The above are only a few items that an experienced builder, general contractor or construction superintendent addresses daily. The bottom line is to build a quality product within the stipulated budget and within a time frame that makes all the parties happy.

To learn more about INSPECTIONS by Mitch Kuffa, click here.

INSPECTIONS by Mitchell J. Kuffa Jr. & Associates

Mitchell J. Kuffa Jr. has been in the construction industry since 1967. In that time, he was worked as a construction superintendent, general superintendent and construction manager for several large developers in the state of Michigan.
He has been a licensed Michigan residential builder since 1977, was an incorporated general contractor for 11 years and has built and/or run the construction of approx. 3,500 residential houses, apartments, commercial structures and/or light industrial buildings.
In 1981 he started the first private home inspection agency in Michigan and to date has personally performed approx. 16,000 inspections for a fee.
Since 1981, Mr. Kuffa, inspects properties and acts as a construction consultant for the Michigan Department of Mental Health (group homes), UAW Legal Services, numerous lenders, several non-profit organizations and for the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Mr. Kuffa is a federal housing fee inspector and FHA 203K mortgage loan consultant, works with several attorney’s as an “expert witness”, has been appointed by the Michigan circuit court system to act as a Receiver in several cases concerning construction litigation and teaches a series of construction classes (for misc. school districts, community colleges. Michigan state housing authority, etc.).
Mr. Kuffa has been a member of the National Association of Home Inspectors, in good standing, since 1983.

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