Contractor or Conman?: Time Is Money

time-wasting-for-profitTime is money, and when it comes to renovating your home, the more of your time your contractor wastes, the more money you’ll be doling out to him.

Once he’s pocketed enough to feed his workers, pay for resources and earn a sufficiently tidy profit, the contractor will start to slack off. And if you were to demand that your renovation be completed on time, he’ll be demand a hefty compensation for his guys working overtime (OT).

Time has you wrapped around the contractor’s finger. After all, he’ll have nothing to lose if the project ends uncompleted.

He has plenty more clients to direct his temporal, unsustainable attention to.

Mind your own P’s and Q’s

The best way to deal with cunning loafers is to first mind your P’s and Q’s.

In this case, ‘P’ stands for Punctuality and ‘Q’ for Quality.

Decide critical milestones of the project to ensure the consistent punctuality of progress. A consultant will help to set realistic targets for the contractor and you should only pay the contractor after each major target is achieved.

site reportsYou shouldn’t cut the contractor any slack if you don’t want to risk throwing more cash at the project to pick up the slack.

Depending on the length of your project, ask for either a weekly or bi-weekly site report, including photographs of the completed work and a summary of what’s been done. This is especially useful if you’re overseas and unable to visit the site personally.

Ask to see photographs of the work progress, and pay up after the completion of every milestone only if the quality’s up to your standards and planned pace.

If the work isn’t monitored with vigilance, it may proceed slower than expected and eventually, you’re the one losing out when the contractor starts claiming OT expenses from you to keep to the deadline.

Overtime, Over Budget

Nearing the end of your project, you may realize that things have dragged on for so long that it’s practically impossible to keep to the timeframe you’d been so confident about.

Because you hadn’t anticipated the delays, you’re now in a fix and have to fork out the sky-high sums he quotes you; or risk not having your work completed in time.

Whether or not the dawdling is intentional, safeguard your time and money by sitting down with your contractor and asking for the specific OT cost of every type of worker (e.g. general worker, carpenter, electrician etc).

Negotiate and record it all down (preferably in the contract) and settle on the costs before the start of works or even before signing the contract. This way, you’ll leave him little room to spring a sudden manpower cost inflation surprise at the last minute.

Before any OT job, get a quotation from the contractor stating how many workers he’ll be putting on the job and an estimate of how long they’ll be working for. Your consultant will be able to tell you if that’s a reasonable rate.

overtimeWhen the OT starts, conduct an unannounced physical check on the number of workers and type of workers on the job. Unscrupulous contractors bill for more workers than they actually put on the job, so take note of it.

Upon receiving the bill, inspect the number of workers and man-hours you’re being billed for and make sure it tallies with the number of workers you saw on the job and the length of the project. Confront your contractor if there are discrepancies.

Design-Build Contractor. Not.

Often, when a general contractor and an interior designer first work together, the physical product may turn out rather differently from the drawings on the interior designer’s sketchpad.

Of course, the blame gets pushed around and at the end of the day you’re left with a headache, two disgruntled parties and the troublesome process of getting both parties to remedy the situation.

As it often turns out, your project mightn’t just last way longer than planned when you try to right all the wrongs; it’ll also cost much more.

Many homeowners try to avoid this by hiring Design-Build (D-B) firms, where there’s just one point of communication. An internal design team comes up with the sketches and models and the contractor executes the design. There’s little room for miscommunication in between.

But some people find midway through the project that the D-B contractor isn’t who he said he was, and is just a general contractor and some inexperienced ‘freelance’ interior designers masquerading as a D-B firm.

They don’t get the smooth and speedy design-to-actuality transition they expect, and end up paying them way more than what it cost for a decent specialized interior designer and general contractor.

So if you’re looking for a ‘one-stop solution’, study the D-B company’s structure. Meet the design team and compare their 3D mockups with the final products. Assess their design capability with your consultant before deciding to use their Design-Build services.

You’ll avoid wasting time and money by ironing out the details early and sticking closely to them.

(This story is the third installment in the Contractor or Conman? series)

Have you experienced time-wasting tactics by contractors? Share your experiences and views on the issue on our forum thread.

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Armed with a mildly morbid fascination with the English Language, Cheak writes and edits content and copy for FortyTwo Magazine and FortyTwo Super Store. He's also known for his insatiable appetite and impressive but rather useless ability to stuff his entire fist in his mouth.