Question: I have recently signed a contract for home improvement work and would like to know what I need to do to prepare for the contractor.
Answer: Usually the contractor will tell you what to do to prepare for his arrival. However, there are several ways to make the job go more smoothly and to prevent damage to your property.
Usually there will be a waiting period of three to six weeks between the time the contract is signed, the drawings, plans and specifications are prepared, and the necessary building permits have been acquired.
To prepare for the arrival of the first crew on your job, which will probably entail the demolition of walls and cause havoc within the household, you should remove all items of value that can be easily broken or stolen from the work area. Also, tell the contractor the location of toilet facilities that can be used by the workmen. Cover your furniture with drop cloths to protect them from dust.
If you have children or pets, you should keep them away from working areas to ensure their safety and to be sure they do not disrupt the workmen. Tradesmen are known to leave gates open; small animals and children could wander away, so you should keep them in view during the course of construction.
You must be certain to make your project available to subcontractors and material delivery persons on the days that work is to be done. Homeowners often do not realize that the delay of one day for one subcontractor can result in the delay of several weeks for completion of the project.
I know of one project where the home improvement contractor had promised to finish a job before Thanksgiving. The homeowner arbitrarily decided to take a week's vacation and the rescheduling did not allow the contractor to complete the project until Christmas. The homeowner was quite unhappy but did not understand that the rescheduling of the subcontractors was dependent upon the time that was allowed for them to do a particular project.
During construction, should you find that there is a subcontractor or workman with whom you are having a problem, you should inform the general contractor.
If you require any changes in plans and specifications, the general contractor should get these changes from you in written form. Many arguments occur at the end of a project when additional charges are made for verbal changes made directly to subcontractors or to the prime contractor.
Contractors are haunted by charges at the end of a project for extras that have been ordered without their knowledge during the course of construction and then charged back to them by the subcontractor. Your contract is with the general or prime contractor, and you should execute all changes in plans and specifications during the job directly with him or her, and this can be negotiated at the time you request the changes.
Fontaine is president of the Western Regional Master Builders Assn. and a director of the American Building Contractors Assn. He will answer questions concerning home improvements. Phone 213/653-4084 or write him at 6404 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 850, Los Angeles 90048-5510.