Make sure your contractor includes Building Specifications in the contract before you sign

I build and renovate homes in San Antonio and Bexar County.  Choosing the right contractor can be confusing if you don’t know where to start.  Before you begin any construction project, make sure your builder or general contractor includes a list of Building Specifications in the contract.  The Building Specifications or “Specs” (as we call them) tell you exactly what type of material the contractor will use to build your project.  Example:  Paint – 1 Coat of Sherwin Williams Drywall Primer.  2 Coats of Sherwin Williams Duration Home Interior Acrylic Latex – Semi Gloss Finish – Royal Blue.   The Specs should tell you which rooms will get this particular color, the finish (semi-gloss, latex, oil base, etc) how many coats of paint.  I have seen contractors charge the client for a high end brand name and then use a cheaper brand to save the contractor money.  Just because you don’t know much about construction doesn’t mean you can’t do your homework and check-up on your contractor to make sure he is doing what he said he would do.  Ask questions if there is something you don’t understand up front or during the project.  A good contractor will be knowledgeable and available to answer any questions you might have.  If you simply let him roam free and do not seem interested, the more chance of a cheaper material to be substituted to make him more money.  Here is a quick list of items to be included in the Spec’s for a typical kitchen remodel:

Cabinets – color, type of wood, finish, paint or stain grade, brand, hinge type, door type, drawer type, hardware, crown molding, spice rack, wine rack, lazy Susan, toe kick, quarter round

Countertops – brand, edge, backsplash, thickness, cuts, sealer, color

Appliances  – brand, color, size, model, features

Tile – size, color, pattern, grout, thinset, spacers, transition strips, areas

Demolition Services – what areas are to be demolished, what areas to remain, what happens if they demo the wrong area, clean up

Sink and Faucets –  brand, type, model, features, depth, disposal included, soap dispenser, or who is cutting the holes in the countertops

Drywall – size and type, green board at wet areas

Paint – color, brand, finish, area included

Lighting – brand, type, color, how many, bulb type (LED (please do this), fluorescent, incandescent, etc)

Base Boards – size, color, quarter round

Electrical – 110-220 outlets (how many and where), GFI’s (how many and where)

Plumbing – New Apex piping or PVC (connecting to existing?)

There are MANY decisions to make when it comes to remodeling or new construction, so be prepared.  Your local home improvement store can be a good place to start to begin choosing the basics like paint color, light fixtures, sinks, plumbing fixtures, etc.  Make sure you have your spouse with you when making these choices so you minimize the time spent going from showroom to showroom.  If you do a lot of this before you meet with your contractor, he might charge a little less because you have done a lot of the leg work already.  Plus, you will know exactly how much each item costs.  Make sure your contractor lists every item he is bidding separately so that you can see how much pluming labor will cost, how much pluming fixtures will cost, etc.  This way you can compare the pricing you got against the pricing you are getting from the contractor.  Remember, ask questions and keep them on their toes.  The contractor will know that you have done your due diligence and less likely to take advantage.  And just because you live in Alamo Heights or Terrell Hills doesn’t mean you have to pay more.