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The BIGGEST MISTAKES Contractors Make.... And How to AVOID THEM!!! Part 1: Pre-Construction

The BIGGEST MISTAKES Contractors Make.... And How to AVOID THEM!!! Part 1: Pre-Construction

PART 1: No Pre-Construction


Poor planning is the surest way to get poor execution.


Throughout my years of general contracting I have come across some pretty horrific stories from homeowners about contractors. Most of these problems boil down to a few main mistakes that some contractors make. Knowing and understanding these mistakes will be instrumental in determining if you are talking to a professional contractor or a professional problem maker. For those of you hoping to start and finish your project with the undiluted satisfaction that comes from a project done well, knowing and understanding these mistakes as you interview your contractor can make all the difference in the world.


The majority of mistakes are COMMUNICATION DRIVEN. Exemplary communication skills are what sets an outstanding contractor apart from an average contractor. Great contractors view communication as an art, allowing them to capture the homeowner’s vision, temper expectations and then deliver that message to everyone participating in the project.




What is it?


Pre-Construction does not mean the same thing for everyone. Helton Remodeling defines Pre-Construction as the phase of the project where ideas and vision are put into tangible shape, then, priced and scheduled appropriately. We truly believe that this definition offers the greatest WIN / WIN scenario for any construction project.


How does Pre-Construction help the homeowner?


Pre-Construction takes away the element of surprise, allowing the project to take shape within the confines of an actual budget. It allows the homeowner to kick around ideas for their project with the expertise of a professional to ensure the best possible outcome. It allows the general contractor to price a project based on the actual scope of work and materials so that the homeowner can see the fixed cost of the project upfront. This allows the homeowner to identify the best places to cut back or add to the project. Last, it allows the project to be scheduled out ahead of time so that the homeowner knows the time table. In short, it is like playing cards with all the cards laid out on the table, it’s a lot easier to go “all in” if you know you are going to win in the end!


How does it work?


Say a client reaches out to perform a kitchen remodel. We ask a number of questions over the phone to ensure that we can truly help that client. After the phone call, a consultation is scheduled with both homeowners at the project site. Meeting with both homeowners prevents any miscommunication regarding the project details. These details inevitably lead us to the topic of budget, which dictates the entire Pre-Construction phase. At this point in the process, it's important for us to know that the proposed budget is realistic and somewhat flexible. Typically, we propose three budget options based on what has been discussed, giving the homeowner a better idea of the real cost of the project as described. After the homeowners land on the amount they want to invest in their project, we enter the Pre-Construction Agreement based on their desired budget.


Now what?


The general contractor gathers all the technical details to price the job and apply for any applicable permits, while the clients make selections with various vendors. This selection process can greatly affect the overall cost of the project, which is why vendor appointments and communication of the material caps for particular selections are important to keep the project within the desired budget. For example, on a standard kitchen project, selections must be made for: tile, plumbing fixtures, cabinet hardware, lighting fixtures, cabinets, countertops and appliances. Some of these selections can be tricky for a budget.  For example, countertops can range in price from $4K to $17K for the same kitchen, and appliances can range in price from $12K to $24K. Add to this the fact that different materials will require different types of labor costs and budgets can be hiked up considerably. This is why Pre-Construction is so important, it allows the general contractor to anticipate any additional costs and communicate them with the homeowner before the construction process begins.


So, who does what again?


During Pre-construction, it is the general contractor who should be keeping tabs on the budget while the homeowner makes the various selections with vendors. At this point in the process, it’s important that your contractor has a close relationship with their vendors and subs, encouraging frequent communication between all parties, especially regarding budget caps. The budget caps include cost of selections, cost of installations, and change of scope of work as a result of adding selections after entering into the Pre-Construction phase.


There is one thing that is always constant with Pre-Construction -- Projects Evolve!


Homeowners have a basic idea of what they want in their initial meeting. In Pre-Construction, they begin to see how the project will come together, often leading to decision changes. If homeowners fall in love with a countertop, they may feel like it is worth the additional expense. They may realize that space functionality now requires removing a wall to allow more open space for entertaining. A professional general contractor will be able to help homeowners make these types of changes intelligently, so that the cost, benefits, any scheduling delays, and possible alternative solutions for a change are accounted for. As a professional general contractor, I would much rather see these type of decisions faced during Pre-Construction so that they can be planned out properly and avoid costly scheduling delays.


How much does this type of professional service cost?


In general, the cost of pre-construction will be approximately 3-5% of the total project cost. Is this cost worth it? ABSOLUTELY! Pre-Construction protects the client by eliminating surprises and allows the project to be handled intelligently.


Pre-Construction reminds me of when I took my son on his first roller coaster ride; unprepared for every toss and turn, by the end of the ride, he wasn’t very happy with me. Ever since, I have done my best to prepare him for what to expect and make sure he is certain in his decision to participate in any future rides. Imagine a stranger taking your bank account and house on a roller coaster ride. Most of us would agree that it is better to pay a little upfront to make sure that the ride is worth it. After all, professional problem makers are sure to make it the bumpiest ride you will ever go on.



Helton Remodeling Services, LLC provides quality models and additions in the Austin Metro Area. We partner with award winning interior designers and architectural firms to make your dream project become a reality.

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