Selecting the right contractor: What you need to know

Do you plan to build your own house, or undertake the renovation or remodeling of your condominium unit? Do you need to carry out any repairs?

Regardless of the scale of construction work needed, choosing the right contractor is both critical and crucial. Unfortunately, selecting the right contractor is not that easy. Should you end up with the wrong contractor, it can negatively impact your project by increasing your cost, and, or worse, put your life at risk due to inappropriate and incorrect construction methodologies. 

Scope the work properly

It is important to understand the specific needs of your project. As contractors come in varied classes, sizes, experiences, and specializations, you can only properly pre-qualify or pre-screen your contractors if you know what you want them to do for you. Make a list of your requirements, including permits should you wish to secure it too. 

Have a budget in mind. Contractors should adhere to your requirements and budget.

Pre-qualify contractors

Ask for referrals. Ask for recommendations from family and friends. With their first-hand experience, you are better assured of the constructor’s work and quality.

Check credentials. Review the contractors’ qualifications. Inquire about their reputation, work experience, specialization, quality and workmanship, health and safety performance records, and customer service. Ask if they will be undertaking the work themselves, who they will assign to the project, or if they plan to engage sub-contractors. Ask for their references and validate if there is negative feedback.

Consider the present workload. Is the contractor busy with other projects? A contractor with several ongoing projects may not be able to provide your project with enough attention or workers.

Decide which one to choose

Selection criteria. Many choose their contractor principally based on cost. This should only be done if the work is well-defined. Preferably, the bid price/proposal should be considered together with the contractor’s qualification.

Often,quality materials cost more, while equivalent materials cost less. If you expect your contractor to supply fixtures and or accessories, ask for the brand names. An experienced contractor should be able to properly explain the pros and cons of using different or alternative materials, without sacrificing the quality of the work to be delivered.

Get estimates. As much as possible,don’t be pressured into settling with one contractor immediately, unless you already have a working experience with him. Ask around for other quotes, so you know how long it will take your project to be completed and to secure the most responsive bid. If a proposal is surprisingly high or low, ask why.

Don’t pay the full amount upfront. It is a standard practice to give a small amount as a down payment, and progressively pay for completed works throughout the construction period. You may also agree with the contractor to reimburse him for materials, supplies, fixtures, and or accessories delivered on-site. You are not expected to fully pay for the entire project before it is completed. 

Prioritize customer service. Choose a contractor who prioritizes customer service, is honest and transparent, as it will hopefully provide you a stress-free project experience.

Pre-, during and post-construction

Written contract. Enter into a contract, with the following provisions:detailed scope work and contract price; payment schedule, including retention of payment, if any;estimated duration of project, including start and completion date;special conditions such as contractor’s guarantees and validity of the guarantee; manner of addressing change orders; basis for contract cancellation, penalty clause, etc.

Record keeping. Keep all files properly, including agreed plans and specifications, bills and invoices, and any change order.  Make sure to keep records of your transactions, such as correspondences, meeting notes, delivery receipts of materials brought in and out of the job site, and certificates or warranties of specialized equipment and appliances, etc. 

Delays can happen. Contractors tend to under-promise when giving you a delivery date. Despite that, delays may still happen. Bad weather, typhoons, heavy rains, lack of workers, or delayed delivery of needed construction materials can affect the work’s completion target. Pre-agree on how delays are to be settled, and be prepared to negotiate.

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Henry L. Yap is an Architect, Fellow of both Environmental Planning and Real Estate Management. He is one of the Undersecretaries of the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development.