A Contractor for Your Barndominium (Part I)
I have done my best to be a member of any barndominium, shouse (shop/house) or post frame house discussion group on Facebook with any sort of activity. If I had a quarter for every post from people looking for a building contractor, I could head to a casino and play quarter slots for days!
In my humble opinion, looking for a general contractor before one owns land and has settled on a custom designed floor plan to best fit their property, their wants and needs, is entirely foolhardy.
My previous writings have espoused how to thoroughly vet a contractor. I am going to wax poetic here and give a few pointers few of you will follow (although all of you should).
Your work starts before you sign a contract.
- ASSUME YOUR PROJECT WILL END IN COURT
- ASSUME YOUR CONTRACTOR IS UNTRUTHFUL
- ASSUME YOUR PROJECT WILL BE MORE EXPENSIVE
- ASSUME YOUR PROJECT WILL TAKE LONGER THAN EXPECTED
Failure to accept these four statements will set you up for grave disappointment.
Don’t let price or warranty be your only guide.
Many building owners subscribe to a concept of obtaining three bids and if they all appear to be roughly equal, taking the lowest bidder. This is simply not always a good practice, especially if there is a large disparity between prices. Be extremely cautious of prices substantially lower than others. It can mean a mistake has been made, or something is being left out. Compare all specified items carefully for discrepancies. Do not assume everyone has included all items (this happens frequently). Low bid Contractor may be planning on shortcuts in quality, making you ultimate loser.
Be wary of unusually long warranties as an enticement. It is reasonable to expect a year or two of warranty for labor.
Read contract thoroughly, including all terms and conditions.
Keep in mind a good contract is written to provide clear communication between the two parties. It also protects both parties, and should never be “one sided”. From my years as a general contractor, a well thought and spelled out contract (in writing) made for smoothest projects.
Before agreeing to any work (as well as making any payment), require a written proposal describing in plain language what work will be done. Do not sign a contract you do not fully understand. If anything makes little or no sense, ask for a written explanation. Still feel dazed and confused, or not getting what you feel are straight answers? Pay a one-time fee so a lawyer can walk you through what, exactly it says and alert you to vague language. Terms such as “Industry Standard” have no real definition.
A total price should be as inclusive as possible. Any unforeseeable work or unit prices should be clearly addressed (like what happens if holes are difficult to dig). Maintain all paperwork, plans and permits when job is done, for future reference.
Familiarize yourself with contract terms.
Contractor’s proposals and contracts should contain specific terms and conditions. As with any contract, such terms spell out obligations of both parties, and should be read carefully. Be wary of extremely short or vaguely worded contracts. A well written contract should address all possibilities and may very well take more than one page. Payment terms may vary, however most will require payment in full upon completion of all work. Do not pay for all work until the Contractor has finished the job.
A statement regarding compliance with applicable Building Codes should be included. If contractor is doing building permit acquisition, it should be stated in writing and a copy of the permit should be provided prior to work starting.
Standards for workmanship should be clearly specified. For post-frame buildings this would be Construction Tolerance Standards for Post-Frame Buildings (ASAE Paper 984002) and Metal Panel and Trim Installation Tolerances (ASAE Paper 054117). Depending upon the scope of work, other standards may apply such as ACI (American Concrete Institute) 318, ACI Concrete Manual and APA guidelines (American Plywood Association).