Serving Greater New Orleans for over 35 years

Your Project / Your Needs

Some things you, the homeowner, need to know

Construction Projects – A Primer

Construction projects fall into three main categories, which are, in increasing order of complexity: Renovation, Remodeling and New Construction.

Renovation includes tasks that improve appearance: Nearly all repairs, painting, wallpaper, flooring, lighting fixtures, etc.

Remodeling entails changing the interior configuration of an existing home: Removing or building interior walls, building or closing house openings, changing A/C or Plumbing layouts, relocating major fixtures or appliances, etc.

 

New Construction involves adding new space to the home, either by extending exterior walls, or by adding one or more stories. It also covers the building of a detached structure (garage, guest apartment) or the construction of a new house.

Depending of the scope of your project, it might include one or two, or nearly all, of the following task areas: Foundations, Framing, Roofing, Siding, Plumbing, Electrical, Heating/Air, Drywall, Trim Carpentry, Finishes (painting, granite, etc.) and Flooring. Each of these tasks requires the services of a specialist, known as a Contractor.Most of these have expertise in their particular craft, some have expertise in several crafts – few have expertise in all craft areas. Those that do are known as general contractors.

General Contractors must be capable of performing two classes of services for the homeowner

1. Task Services and

2. Management Services.

Task Services includes choosing, monitoring and evaluating the work-quality of, the individual craftsman, as well as enforcing overall project quality.

Management Services, arguably the more important class, includes: Acting as liaison between architect and craftsman; facilitating permit compliance; enforcing project requirements, budgets and schedules; coordinating the availability of needed machinery, materials and supplies; reporting project status and costs to the homeowner, and disbursing project funds.

Although one could argue the relative merits of these classes of services, both are critical. Thus, a general contractor might produce superior work-quality, yet fail the homeowner in completing the project on schedule, on budget, and as per permit requirements. Any of these failures could cause the homeowner much aggravation and monetary loss.

Some things to consider

Before you begin the process of choosing a general contractor, you would first determine the characteristics of the project you are contemplating. The characteristics that will inform your choice of contractor are (to name a few): Project nature and scope – what, how big? How will project affect your living space, and how long would you envision putting up with the inconvenience? What is your budget?

For a very simple job, you might do well to hire a craftsman or handyman, as there would be little need for a general contractor’s range of services. If, however, the project involves numerous crafts, affects large areas of your home, requires multiple permits and is likely to last a significant amount of time – then you would likely want to hire a general contractor.

But you would need to thoroughly evaluate whichever general contractor you eventually choose. Is the contractor: Licensed? Insured? Experienced? Recommended? Of these, the last is the hardest to determine – but it can be done.

Ask the contractor for its license number, its insurances certificates, and two lists of references: Vendors (including major subcontractors) and Clients.

The Vendor List will allow you to determine if the contractor meets its obligations to its suppliers as a matter of course. Negatives in this area not only speak to the general contractor’s character, but it could also expose your property to liens placed by vendors or subcontractors whom the general contractor neglected to pay.

The Client List will allow you to ask other homeowners as to contractor’s work habits and quality, timeliness, reliability and overall competence. Did the contractor complete the project on budget? Did it insist on “money up front”, before starting project? (A red flag – implying lack of solvency) Did it address satisfactorily any warranty issues?

Finally, check with your local Better Business Bureau to see if the contractor had unhappy clients who were not included in the list of references.

Things that you provide

Once you have identified two or more acceptable candidates, you would provide them with a reasonable description of the project, together with any sketches, drawings or architectural plans. This will allow the contractors to put together their estimates, which you can then analyze and compare, focusing on those details which might explain cost and timeline differences between the estimates.

Finally, you would provide your chosen general contractor with any required surveys or elevation certificates, as well as any required building permits. Although these are the homeowner’s responsibility, most general contractors will assist the homeowner in identifying, and obtaining, said documents.