Tips on Choosing a Professional Builder for Your First Time Project

Builders shaking hands

The greatest reward of embarking on first time building project is the idea that you are able to do the bulk of the work, from concept to completion, on your own. This is especially true of the building and construction phase of the project. Few things are more satisfying than hammering in every nail, bolting every joint, and applying every fixture with some elbow grease and blind ambition. There are times, though, when you will need the services of a professional builder and choosing the right one will, literally, make or break your project. Beginning with cost of construction as your primary goal is starting at the end, however.

You need to decide first of all, how committed are you to doing the work. There are going to be challenges in any building project. Ask yourself some questions. Do you have a simple building project, less than 5000 square feet, can read simple instructions; are you confident you could construct a backyard shed you purchase at a hardware store; do you want to invest the time, patience, and willingness to learn new skills?

If you answered ‘no’ to any or all of these questions then you will likely need the services of a professional builder or contractor. This is not a failure, it does not mean that you have abdicated the right to call your building project your own. It means that you have taken an honest assessment of your skills, time, budget, and physical capabilities and you have decided that a builder will be needed.

To put it another way, there are times when you can and want to change your own spark plugs and oil, and there are times when you might want to take your car in to a quick lube shop and have it done for you. It doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your car, it simply means that you understand that someone with more skills will improve the car’s performance. This is the same with construction.

Your project manager will help you determine how much contracted construction you will need. You may need a contractor to lay the foundation or erect the frame but you can tackle the drywall or siding. There is no reason to pay for work which you can do yourself.

The next concern in builder choice is one of the most important – but one most first time builders don’t even consider. Proximity! If the builder is several hours away you can expect to pay for travel time and lodging the crew. If adjustments or final touches need to be completed post completion, a roof panel needs to be refastened or a door needs to be realigned, good luck getting that builder who drove eight hours to reach you initially to return within your budget or timeline.

Let us also talk about reputation, which is as important in the building industry as knowing how to handle a hammer. You are hiring someone to build a structure for you – this isn’t a birdhouse or a barbeque pit – this is a building, which people will enter, where you will store valuables, a once-in-a-lifetime purchase. You must do your homework. Check with the Better Business Bureau, ask for references, review websites such as angieslist.com, read reviews on yelp.com. Ask about a mechanics lien. In some states, anyone who supplied materials to your contractor can put a lien on your property if the contractor does not pay them. Does your contractor have any current liens on them? If so, it’s almost a certainty that your project is paying off the lien from the previous project, which means your supplier might not be paid right away.

Go with your gut. If you are uncomfortable with this person around your home or property, do not hire them. Find a contractor who specializes in the type of structure you are building. Put everything in writing ahead of time. Ask who will be doing the actual work and decide if you are comfortable with the division of labor. Give clear instructions on how your builder is to behave on your property, where they may use the restroom for example or store waste containers. Ask for a complete detail of what is expected of you, if you have to prepare an area, remove a fence and how much work space the contractor will need.

Finally, last but certainly not least, it boils down to cost. If you are going with a pre-engineered building or steel structure, it is imperative that you lock in your steel price ahead of time. The cost of steel fluctuates with the market demands so locking in your price ensures you are not surprised by raw supply costs. You will also need your drawings in hand so your builder can give you an accurate quote.

I recommend you get several different quotes. If there are huge discrepancies in price, investigate why this is so. Perhaps the less expensive builder is cutting corners. It is possible the more expensive builder is including building options you do not need. Your project manager will help you when you get to this point. You always have the power to leverage your project into a lower cost, negotiate. In my experience, the terms are always flexible. In construction like most service industries, you get what you pay for, but paying a high price for options which are unnecessary is foolish. One thing I would like to stress here is that there are times, many times, when the more expensive builder is a better builder.

 

Ultimately it is your responsibility to find the right builder, not your project manager’s. This does not mean you are in this alone. Run all your information by the project manager and decide, as a team, what is the best choice. The right research will ensure you achieve the right results.

 

Please share this blog with other first time builders. If you have done the prep work on finding a builder, what are some of the questions you asked which helped you make your choice? Discover other First Time Builder resources at Armstrong Steel Buildings.

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