FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is the advantage of hiring a General Contractor?
This is one of the most often asked questions from Homeowners who are new to kitchen remodeling, bath remodeling and other remodeling projects. A competent General Contractor will be an important asset to you whenever your project involves several different trades (such as cabinets, electrical, painting, plumbing, etc.). Not only will a good contractor be able to efficiently plan and organize your project but he will also stay closely involved to ensure that the work is done properly and that you are happy with the end result.
If you are considering a kitchen or bath remodel, having a knowledgeable General Contractor can save you a lot of time, headaches and money as compared to trying to coordinate everything yourself. Most full kitchen remodels or bath remodels involve about eight different trades. Just imagine the headaches you would encounter if you tried to interview, hire and coordinate eight different remodeling subcontractors!
Are all General Contractors the same?
Of course not. Just as all doctors are not trained for the same things. There are a number of sub-specialties within General Contracting and your project is more likely to turn out well if you properly match the expertise of your General Contractor to the specific type of remodeling you want to have done.
Although the General Contractor’s license allows an individual to contract for a wide variety of projects, that doesn’t mean they are really familiar with the relevant building codes, material specifications, and design requirements. Many construction-oriented contractors are good at framing walls and pouring concrete but not so good at installing cabinets, setting ceramic tile, or designing efficient Kitchens and Bathrooms.
How can I tell if a General Contractor really knows how to do my kind of project?
Be skeptical!! You need to interview the contractor and ask for specifics regarding materials to be used, building code requirements and design considerations. If the contractor really understands your type of project, he will be able to explain all of the phases in detail. Ask to see before and after photos showing lots of bathroom photos, kitchen photos or whatever your project will be. Be wary of the salesperson who has only one or two photo examples to show you. While it’s true that everyone has to begin sometime, do you really want to have your house be the guinea pig for an inexperienced contractor who is just learning how to do it?
Is it better to hire a General Contractor who uses subcontractors or employees?
This is one of the most misunderstood topics related to remodeling. Some contractors try to confuse Homeowners by telling them that employees are always better than subs or vice versa. In our experience, the best General Contractor for you will be one who has a work force comprised of expert workmen who each specialize in one thing and do that one thing every day. Of course, the General Contractor still needs to organize the project and supervise the work…..so you really should look for a teamwork orientation.
We have found that having a team of reliable subcontractors is the most cost-efficient way to provide true expert workmanship for our remodeling projects. That means we do not use handymen or jack-of-all-trades. Our tile setters are expert at that one thing and it is all they do every day. The same goes for our plumbers, carpenters, electricians, painters, etc. This is one way that we are able to give you beautiful work that is done right the first time!
Beware of the handyman contractor who tells you he is an “expert” at just about everything. These guys usually are pretty good at one thing but really not so good at everything else. How many times have you talked to friends after their kitchen remodeling project and heard them complain that the one thing (like the cabinets) was good but most everything else (like the kitchen countertops) was disappointing?
Is it better to hire a big company or a small one?
That depends upon how important personalized service is to you. In our experience, large companies tend to treat you like a number and your project is just one of many hundreds that they don’t care much about.
General Contractor Martin Moss is proud of the fact that we limit the amount of work we will accept at one time so that your project is important to us and will be personally supervised by Martin himself.
Large companies also seem more prone to making errors since you rarely have the same person working with you from start to finish. Many of the bigger companies assign a field supervisor or a clerical person to try to work with you, but these people often don’t care about how well the work gets done or how happy you will be in the end. To them, your project is just another day at work. You might call it old-fashioned, but we believe there will be greater pride in doing a good job when it’s done by a family-owned business.
Aren’t I safer contracting with a nationwide name brand store?
In our opinion, you are more likely to have headaches, mistakes and cost overruns when you go to the Home Centers. As mentioned above, you are more prone to be lost in a sea of job orders and the clerks are not able to design, coordinate and supervise your project to ensure a good result. For example, we have heard many horror stories about people having their Kitchen torn out by the Home Center people and then discovering that “someone” forgot to order a part or got the wrong size and now the poor Homeowner has to wait several months without a Kitchen for the right part to come in.
Martin Moss has virtually eliminated this problem by personally designing each project and specifying all of the materials to be ordered. In addition, Martin does not have his workers remove your existing materials until all of the new ones are delivered and ready to install.
Can’t I save money if I buy my own materials?
In the long run, this will often cost you more wasted money and time. Most Homeowners do not know what types and sizes of fittings and parts are required for complex remodeling projects. For example, if you buy your own toilet and then have the plumber come to install it, you will be charged extra if the toilet isn’t the right kind or is missing something required for proper installation. Also, it is critical to be certain that all of the necessary materials are ready when the installer needs them. Most Homeowners do not have reliable distributors who can assure that everything will be available when needed. If you schedule a worker but fail to have the materials ready, he will charge you for the lost time anyway.
There is another important consideration related to the material purchase. Usually, whomever buys the materials is required to warranty the installation as it relates to material problems. So, if you are doing a complete Bath remodel and you buy your own tub and sinks and tile, guess who is responsible for warranting the installation if there is a material problem afterwards? …you are!!! We think you should be very skeptical of the contractor who tells you to go buy your own materials and they will install them. Often, these guys have no interest in helping you choose good materials and they will not stand behind the installation if there is a problem.
Martin Moss buys his major materials directly from manufacturers or master distributors. That allows him to save money on the cost of materials while maintaining reliable delivery times to keep your project on schedule. Martin provides all of the materials for each project that he does.
What’s wrong with hiring a Handyman?
If your project requires special skills (like plumbing, electrical, tile) you are not likely to find a Handyman who is truly an expert at everything. Besides the obvious concerns about things being installed safely, you are most likely not going to get a professional looking, well-coordinated installation of a complete kitchen or bathroom remodel from a Handyman. Now, if you just want someone to replace a broken fence board or paint a bedroom, a Handyman might be just fine!
Are permits really important for remodeling projects?
You bet!! Not every type of remodeling project requires a permit and inspections but you should be wary of contractors who try to talk you out of getting one or who insist that they are never needed. These type of contractors may not want knowledgeable inspectors looking at their work and that should send up a red flag in your mind.
For kitchen and bath remodeling, permits are usually required for electrical and plumbing, even if there are no structural walls being changed. Exhaust hoods and fans will also require inspection. Many cities now require permits for window replacements as well. If you are in doubt about it, simply call your city Building Department and ask them.
In our opinion, a professional, knowledgeable contractor will want his work inspected so that you know the work was done properly. This can also help you later with improved resale value from your remodeling project since you can show prospective buyers that the work was professionally done with all required permits and inspections.
“According to the California Building Standards Code, no building or structure may be erected, constructed, enlarged, altered, repaired, moved, improved, removed, converted or demolished unless a separate permit for each building or structure has first been obtained from the building official.” – From CSLB.CA.gov
How good are contractor referral services?
Some can be helpful. One problem though, the contractor has to pay a fee to the referral company for getting your name and that means you are actually paying extra to use the referral service. This can add up to thousands of dollars extra if your project involves a major Kitchen or Bath remodel.
Our opinion is that a well-established, successful general contractor will not need the help of referral services to find new clients. Repeat business and referrals from happy customers will keep them pretty busy. So, in addition to paying extra when you use a referral service contractor, you may be getting someone who isn’t exactly the cream of the crop.