We've included a list of questions to serve as discussion points that you may wish to consider when choosing a contractor. After all, there are many considerations that should go into your final choice.


How many bids should I get for my project?

We strongly suggest that you do some preliminary research on all of the contractors you are considering before inviting them to bid. Once your preliminary due diligence is completed, three qualified bidders should be more than adequate. It will be easier for you to compare the bid proposals and evaluate each of them more carefully.

Is the lowest price always the best price?

Hiring a contractor is not like buying a television or refrigerator. If you can buy the same model television with the same warranty at one store versus another, there's no reason not to. No one wants to pay more for anything than they have to. But contractors are neither equal in service nor quality and some are downright dishonest or incompetent. You should always do your due diligence before deciding which contractor to hire.

How should I compare the bids I've obtained?

Assuming all of the bidding contractors are equally qualified and talented, you should ask specific questions to make sure that each and every item required to complete the job is included in their proposals. The best bid is the one which includes all of the described work without omitting anything required to get the job done. Be sure to compare cost "allowances" where given for unspecified items because many contractors include low or inadequate "allowance" amounts simply to keep the overall bid price down.

What are "allowances" and why are they important?

"Allowances" are the adjustable amounts included in bid proposals covering the costs for the purchase of items, fixtures, or aspects of work where exact specifications have not yet been provided or where a firm quote for such items has not been obtained at the time of bid submission. For example, a bid proposal may extend a purchase cost "allowance" of $6.00 per square foot for tile which has not yet been chosen. It's important to compare the allowances in competing bids because some contractors extend unrealistically low allowances just to keep the overall bid price down.

What is "low-balling?"

“Low-balling” is a tactic used by unscrupulous contractors wherein elements of work are knowingly left out of proposals to keep the price low to win contracts. If you as the client do not analyze and compare each bid carefully, you may be tempted to go with the lowest bidder to save money. The problem then arises after the work has started and the “low-baller” starts charging for “extras” to cover that work which was left out of the original bid. Now the client is typically at the mercy of the contractor who has control over the “extras” pricing. Unfortunately, clients are not expected to know each and every phase required to complete the work which only serves to aid and abet such “low-ballers”.

How can contractor bidding incompetence end up costing me?

Ironically, some bids are considerably lower than others even when “low-balling” is not intentional. Incompetence and lack of experience can be just as significant as dishonesty. If an incompetent contractor feels he cannot later recoup funds for the things he missed in his original proposal, he will probably cut corners at the least or walk away from the project at worst.

Why is an itemized list of contract items important?

A total bid price given for work without individual item costs listed is a shell game which will never work to your advantage. If you decide to change or substitute items from the original proposal, the contractor has the upper hand in deciding the value of each changed item. If that item or phase of work had been listed, there would be no dispute as to its value.

Who really has the power – you or the contractor?

The question here really was going to be… “Well, I have a signed legal contract and it clearly states that all of the work will be performed for xxx amount of dollars, can’t I just enforce the contract to make the contractor perform under its terms?” but the text was simply too long. The reality is yes you can always enforce a contract assuming your position in the dispute is correct but it may take considerable expense for legal fees and a significant amount of wasted time. So, even though you may win in the end, you still lose. It’s better to avoid these situations by vetting your contractor properly before any work begins.

How can references help me avoid unscrupulous contractors?

The answer seems obvious. But the main point is to ask how the contractor treated the referenced client, particularly when unforeseen events came up. Was the contractor fair or did he take advantage of the client when these events occurred? Changes to a contract can be routine. Sometimes changes are requested by the client and sometimes they are dictated by unforeseeable jobsite conditions.

The bids I obtained are very similar. Now which contractor should I choose?

If you’ve carefully interviewed all of the contractors and each has included all of the work to be performed and their references are solid, choose the contractor who you are most comfortable with on a personal level. In many cases, you will be working with your contractor for months or even longer and he or she will become a huge part of your life. If your personalities just don’t mesh, it’s like any other relationship.

Does your contractor know his stuff?

Many contractors are unqualified, incompetent, or don’t have any pride in their work. Others are merely adequate at what they do. But still others have educated themselves above and beyond what is required in pursuit of their daily activities. Ask your contractor what, if any, extracurricular activities or knowledge forums he or she has participated in to improve his/her knowledge base. What is the work history and what are the past experiences of the contractor you are considering?

Why would I ever pay more for the exact same work?

Besides the value of the additional knowledge, quality, and attention to detail that some contractors bring to the table, there are other possible factors to consider when calculating the overall cost of your project. Remember, time is money. If your contractor doesn’t show up routinely to stay on top of your project in order to get it done in a timely manner, you may pay for it in lost work opportunities, missed business appointments, and additional monthly rent or mortgage payments, not to mention the overall disappointment of the experience. Make sure your contractor works on your schedule and not his own.

What certifications are legally required of my contractor?

Contractors should hold a current license in the proper classification of the work to be performed and also be bonded as required by the State of California. In addition, direct employees of the contractor and all subcontractors should be covered by workmen’s compensation insurance. Liability insurance is not mandatory under the law but most reputable companies maintain it to cover their operations.

What elements are required in a legal contract?

Every legal construction contract is required to provide contractor licensing and contact information, contain certain legal notices, state the full scope of work to be performed, list items such as appliances and fixtures to be included (sometimes an allowance is provided where final specifications are undetermined), include a start date and an anticipated completion date, and set forth a payment schedule. More information can be obtained by visiting the Contractor State License Board site at www.cslb.ca.gov

How can I check to see if my contractor is licensed?

You can verify the license, insurance, and bonding status of contractors by visiting the Contractor State License Board website at www.cslb.ca.gov In addition, your contractor should carry a wallet sized identification card with his or her license number on it. Be sure to cross-check with the CSLB site if you have any doubt that it belongs to the person providing it to you.

When is a contracting license legally not required?

If the total amount of your project is under $500.00, then the law does not require that it be undertaken with a licensed contractor. However, please be aware that some unlicensed “contractors” try to skirt the licensing requirement by providing you with a series of bills each for less than $500.00. Please be aware that it is not legal to proceed with home improvements in that manner.

How much is the maximum down payment?

By law, the maximum down payment is 10% of the contracted amount or $1,000.00 whichever is less! Never give more than the minimum down payment in advance of any work performed and never more than $1,000.00 (pool contracts have differing terms). Don’t confuse a “down-payment” with a scheduled “commencement payment” which can be any previously agreed upon amount to be taken once work has actually started.

Should I get a permit for the work?

You should always obtain a permit if the local jurisdiction requires it for the work or repairs to be performed. You can usually determine what types of work require permitting by reviewing your local city building department website or by calling them. Problems can arise during the transfer or sale of real property when proper permits have not been obtained because the condition of your property cannot be endorsed by the home inspector without a reliable paper trail indicating the work was inspected and approved. Subjecting construction or repair work to inspections will also go a long way in protecting your interests by compelling your contractor to follow all applicable codes and building standards.

Does a permit guarantee that work was done properly?

Ironically, some building inspectors are more thorough than others (just like contractors) and the existence of a building permit does not necessarily guarantee all work was done properly. But in most cases, subjecting the scheduled work to inspection is your best bet to insure that the contractor you’ve hired has performed to a set of commonly accepted standards. It is interesting to note as well that building inspectors are limited in what they can note for correction during inspections – the quality of the work is not one of them!

What about lead paint and asbestos issues?

A percentage of homes constructed prior to 1978 are subject to lead paint and/or asbestos issues. Only specially licensed contractors may remove asbestos-contaminated items from your home as special precautions must be taken when handling and disposing of asbestos-contaminated materials. Additionally, Federal and State law requires all contractors performing work on dwelling units where lead has been detected to use “lead safe practices” and to be certified by the EPA as a lead safe firm. Please note, however, that not all dwellings built prior to 1978 are necessarily contaminated. For the health and safety of everyone, we recommend that adequate testing for such contaminants be undertaken prior to any renovation work.

Do you finance your projects?

JEM Construction Services does not finance projects for our clients as we are not in the lending business. However, we construct our payment schedules to collect sums generally only for the work already completed. In some cases, we may require deposits for certain aspects of work where required to advance the project. We do this so that you do not feel overextended as the job progresses and in every case, the payment schedule is clearly written into your contract before the project starts.

What does JEM Construction Services do better than others?

We are neat, trustworthy, punctual, and display a perfectionist attitude and strict attention to detail. Our contracts, proposals, and payment schedules are clearly written with all anticipated contractual items addressed prior to the start of the job. Our pricing is competitive and we will be depending on your personal reference for future work. If you hire us, we will very work hard to earn your complete satisfaction.

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