(EDITOR’S NOTE: Check our previous article, Why You Should Hire A Licensed Contractor on the importance of hiring a licensed professional. It’s tempting to let cost dictate your decision making but you might find that a contractor with a low estimate relative to other bidders may be unlicensed or uninsured. Do you want my personal recommendations? Please send me a note with a description of your project and I’d be happy to share!-RJ)
An excerpt from a post that originally appeared on honestbuildings.com on October 13, 2014
What are the first steps when choosing an electrical contractor? It’s important to determine your needs, verify potential bidders, and choose someone you can trust and feel will do the job well. It can feel a little overwhelming, but performing thorough due diligence is critical in all project hiring.
1) Determine your needs
Looking at the project at hand, you can decide what experience you want from your contractor to start your search. Seek contractors with previous experience similar to your project, who will be able to discuss options and potential issues. Check with several companies to make sure you find one well equipped to complete your job on time and budget.
What is it you’re looking to get done? Is it a small repair or are you doing a complete renovation? According to Agnes Fairey of Leader Electric, a small project typically takes a few weeks to a few months. Anything longer than 6 months is considered large. Being explicit with your plans will make finding a contractor easier for you and will save you time and expense in the long run. “We worked with a developer who needed a project (that should have taken a year) to be done in 4 months. Knowing that in advance, we were able to plan accordingly and work around the clock to get the job done in time,” says Fairey, offering an example of how important it is to determine these needs in advance.
2) Check References
As you search or ask around for recommendations, make sure all potential bidders are both licensed and insured. Also don’t be afraid to ask the contractor to provide testimonials or references from their past jobs. “In applying for a job we are always asked to provide examples of other successful jobs we’ve done. It is also common practice to get reviews, especially on smaller projects,” says Fairey.
3) Get an estimate
Depending on the job, the contractor might give a verbal quote or submit a proposal. “For troubleshooting jobs, such as when something is not working, we charge an hourly rate (time and material); this is a verbal quote.” Time and Material (T&M) rate is typically used for small repairs or when the customer plans to make decisions as the job moves along.
The T&M rate is for all time and materials the contractor uses for the job, including shop time and travel time. Be aware that travel time includes the time it takes to pick up materials and bring them back to your site.
4) Read the proposal thoroughly
For jobs where the scope is known (such as renovating a brownstone or installing track lighting), a proposal is submitted describing the work and price. “This proposal does not cost the client, and they can chose to accept or refuse it.”
For larger projects, proposals are put together based on blueprints and quotes on materials and equipment. “For this, the process is the same, but we consider items like overtime and night work, which raises labor costs,” says Fairey.
Here are some items that will be missing from a proposal:
Exclusions: Work/materials not included in the estimated price, which can be anything from cutting, patching, dumpster fees, or permit fees.
Unforeseen Circumstance: Lost or late orders for instance. This might be at a cost to you. Best course of action is discussing with your contractor to see what can be done to save on time and money but still get the job done to meet your level of expectations.
Change Orders: Did you want to rethink the plans? Any additional or new change to the agree proposal is a Change Order. This changes the initial agreed on cost, and you’ll have to discuss the additional fees with your contractor.
About the Editor:
RJ Diaz is a renovation and remodeling construction management executive in New York City. RJ is passionate about high quality, well-crafted construction and started RenovatingNYC in 2010 to share news and information specific to the industry as well as profile the best resources essential for a project’s success. For advice about your own renovation or remodeling plans, preliminary cost estimates and project opportunities, please contact RJ using the form below.