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Contractor’s Lessons on Building a House

For many, building a house is simply not an option. For one, you will need ready cash to pay for the full amount in six months more or less depending on the size of the house.  Then, there is the endless need to monitoring the developments to ensure that proper specifications are followed and things are done on time. Besides, without the technical know how, monitoring would be a very futile exercise in the first place.  Then there’s the fear, well founded in some cases, that the contractor might not finish the project and just run away with the money.

Barring financial limitations, however, building your own house can also be quite rewarding, as many clients of mine would attest.  The design fit to your heart’s desire given your pocket’s limitations may be yours to be had. There are simple things to keep in mind to ensure that this indeed be achieved. One important key is to find the right person and company to do the job for you. The next is to go through the right process in contracting and monitoring the construction of your house.

Jude Gorgio, managing owner of JG Builders, shares with us some of his thoughts based on his long years of experience in the construction business on how to make building a house as painless, if not, as enjoyable as possible.  Having entered the business in 1994, he has had countless customers to his credit, both commercial and residential in nature. Admittedly having gone through “growing pains” in the business in the past, he says he tries to continually cull out as much lessons as he could and try to keep a sharper eye on ensuring customer satisfaction especially with his more recent projects. He shares with us many of his invaluable insights.

On Choosing a Contractor

As mentioned, choosing the right contractor is the single most important element in determining your own success and satisfaction in building your dream house. Jude tells us that this task need not be difficult. Although he suggests that one must spend sufficient time and effort to know your prospective contractor before you make any agreements with him or her, for that matter.

To do this, be sure you ask the contractor that you visit at least two of his past projects. If he has nothing to hide, this should not be a problem.  In such visits, you will see for yourself the level craftsmanship to which the contractor is dedicated. Apart from that, make sure you talk to the owners of his previous projects. Learn about his working style, approaches in supervising his people, his attitude, dependability, dedication, attention to detail, and most of all, his honesty and integrity.

Also do know if the construction company subcontracts many of the other aspects in the project, especially the installation of the electrical wirings and the plumbing.  Very few contractors will probably admit it outright if ever they do, so it is best to find this out from the owners of previous projects. If he indeed does subcontract these aspects, find out further if he has had long partnerships with the subcontracting party and will he be getting the services of the same group for your house.

Subcontracting by your contractor can sometimes be a big source of problems, especially if their relationship is new and their work coordination is not so well established. Take this instance as related by Jude where the walls had to be chipped off along the electrical lines because the walls were completed without proper coordination with the electrician which had yet to finish installing the wires. 

Be sure to interview the contractor, as well. Compare notes with your own impressions, his own admissions and presentations with that of the knowledge you have gathered from his past clients.  As you can see, starting the endeavor in the right foot sets the stage for the smooth and enjoyable construction of your dream house.  The next steps should be easier and you should be able to relax better knowing you chose a worthy contractor.

Other clients rely on their relatives with a construction company to do a job. In many instances, though, the fact that the contractor is a relative is not an assurance that the job will be done as promised.  In fact, it is more difficult to complain about one’s job exactly because the contractor is a relative. Being the Filipinos that we are, we are sensitive about hurting our relative’s feelings. It is best in any case to do a background check of the contractor’s track record and capabilities.

On another note, mind you, more experienced contractors also screen their clients.  Jude recounts stories of his peers where their clients did not pay them after delivering the house. Others were said to have suddenly found fault with the contractor in the middle of implementation, only to be discovered later to have had done so because they had financial problems and could not continue with the payments.

Contracting

In many cases, the contractor has his own team of architects and engineers who will sign all the necessary plans for government compliance.  In some sense, this makes it easy on the client since they just need to talk to one person and will deliver them all that they need to complete the house.

However, the most ideal situation is to first get the services of an architect to do the house plans and specifications. Then, you get another independent contractor to execute the plan.  While more tedious, this to some extent ensures that self interests, be it of the architect or the contractors, remain checked. 

In the effort to save as much as they could, some clients prefer to contract only labor and buy the materials themselves.  This is based on the assumption that the contractor might jack up the prices of materials if labor and material costs are lumped in the contract.  Based on Jude’s experience, this could potentially pose more problems for the client.

In several instances, the clients, being unfamiliar with the specifications, buy the wrong materials and find themselves pouring more time and effort to the project than they had first envisioned. This also translates to bigger monetary costs as some construction companies may not accept return of goods.  The bigger problem with the labor only arrangement is that the client can not claim full responsibility from the contractor once an unsatisfactory outcome results.

Jude offers an alternative. You can have a labor-material contract (that is, contract based on delivery of materials and labor, as opposed to labor only contract) and ensure that unfair mark up is avoided by canvassing the prices for materials yourself. This would be a less tedious task than buying them yourself yet ensure that the inherent warranty of the project is not watered down.

When contracting, also avoid getting different subcontractors, especially for electrical and plumbing works. Rivalries do occur and could disrupt construction if the chemistry is not good. If you really have to, as in certain cases the contractor might not have a ready pool of electricians and plumbers make sure that they are contracted early on so that work is coordinated properly. As mentioned earlier, miscommunication or poor coordination may require redoing of work already supposedly done, adding cost to construction or destroying and weakening already installed fixtures and parts.

Plans

The plans for the residential construction require four types each with corresponding signatures of licensed professionals. These are for architectural design, structural design, plumbing, and electrical designs.  Swimming pools would be a fifth and actually require their own separate plans.

Jude says the usual cost for a plan signed by licensed professionals is equivalent to10% of the total cost of the project. Other sources reveal that some professionals are willing to do the job at a much lesser rate. One is well advised to make sure that those willing to accept a lower price are indeed well versed in what they are doing. After all, these signatures are required for the safety of the clients. Many fatal damages to properties have been because of poor planning and design.

 

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