How To Work With A Contractor In Minnesota
Updated: Oct 19, 2022
A Realistic Solid guide to Planning and starting a Remodeling Project with a Good Licensed Contractor. Also at the end, some honest advice on how to select a contractor.
Not All Contractors, Builders, and Remodelers are the same. Neither are homeowners for that matter, as everyone is different and has their own goals and vision in mind. But when it comes to signing with a construction company it's good to have a solid foundation to start things on, pun intended...
Let's get down to how things work with a Licensed contractor, builder, or remodeler. It all starts with a solid framework, and how the company is set up and managed. If you want to do a large project like and addition or major remodel then you will need a company that can handle the challenge. Small projects do not need as much effort, but still need a good plan and system in place to finish right. There are many construction companies that operate with a loose framework and do great work because of their skill, knowledge, and care for the customer. But it does help to have a solid system in place to guide the project along. Let's look at one common system. It's called a Design build system.
Here is an example of a Master Project Plan for R&B Homes LLC (out of Blaine, MN) that is a guide for how we work with clients from preparation to the build phase. Any good company will have something similar. After the planning phase there is a building plan. But, let's focus on the Master Project Plan for now. Here is what I show my clients before we get started so they know what to expect right from the start.
Phase 1 - Preparation
Meet with home owners: Discuss vision, budget, and realistic expectations
Proposal: Give rough proposal for pricing and agree on a budget going forward
Job Site Analysis: Do all measurements, and get photos of site
Job Site Survey: Order to determine boundaries or % of land we can build on
Job Site Variance: Order to determine if we need more space to build on land Design
Design phase: Determine if we need plans and discuss payment plan for design option ($500 - $5,000 depending on extent of floor plan design or If we do 3D Concept Designs)
BluePrints: If we need a draftsman to draw blueprints ($500 down and up to 1,500)
Structural Engineering: If we need Structural Engineering done we will get estimate from an engineer (400-1,700 or so depending)
Architectural Plans: If you wold like to use an architect to design the plans or say a new home then this could cost anywhere up to 25,000 to 50,000 depending... or they may charge a percentage of the build (8-10% or so).
Phase 2 - Contract Signing
Meet: We can meet at your home, project site to Discuss Details and Contract
Project Details: Discuss exact project scope, and discuss material and labor needed
Numbers: Determined project labor, material, and Management Costs and Give Updated Estimate or final estimate numbers (material costs can fluctuate)
Dates: Determine possible start and projected finish date
Signing: We will sign two copies of our contract that will have estimate details amended
Schedule: Once the signing has taken place, you will be put on the calendar
Loan or Financing Finalization: This could take time or closings depending on the type of financing options.
Money Down: We will receive a check for Ernest money down (5-25% for immediate start or 2% for planning Phase if the project will take time to develop)
Permiting: Talk to the City about Permiting and approval for project (Key factor)
Phase 3 - Specs, Finishes, and Finalize Design
Finalize Measurements: Do all finals on all aspects of materials and areas
Finalize Finishes: Pick all Exact Materials, styles, colors, and finishes on everything new
Finalize design: Go over all design and have all styles or drawing signed off on
BluePrints or Material Package: Work up final numbers for these (like cabinet plans)
Order all materials: We will need money down to order materials for project as needed
Phase 4 - Begin Build Phase
Get Keys or codes to property (set up lock box if needed)
Talk to management company or HOA if needed
Pull Permits or submit all documentation needed by the city to begin
Then the construction phase begins! - Job is passed off to the project managers.
A Word: There might be issues or unforeseen things that come up on any project, but we will account for contingencies and work as a team with you to address concerns.
This foundation is the first step in guiding things in the right direction. This is how we work with our clients to start their projects. But a plan doesn't always equal success unless the contractor and home owner are willing to stick to it.
- A Word of advice... on how to work with a contractor on a professional level
Give the contractor that you want to work with a chance to prove that they are trustworthy and honest. I know that you do not want to be taken advantage of, no one wants that. So how to be wise without operating in fear? A good working relationship needs to be a team atmosphere and that only comes by trust with verification. If the company is professional with these queries or observations then you can probably trust them.
First, look the company up on the states website to see if their license is still valid. Here is a link for that in MN - https://mblsportal.sos.state.mn.us/Business/Search
You can ask them for their Liability insurance and workman's comp information. A great company should have no problem getting over to you asap. They need to have both of these to keep their license current.
Ask for referrals! It is great to talk to past clients and get their perspective. If a company can give you a few good referrals they are doing something right.
Observe whether the contractor will put in the time to help you get started, if they have time for this... then they should have time to do your project.
Character absolutely matters. Observe if they are honest about things. Never work with someone who will stretch the truth for a sale. Work with someone who will tell you the truth, even if it doesn't benefit them financially.
If they are pushy in the sales process then beware. High pressure sales in my opinion are manipulative. Patience is the key to a great remodel or build. The sales process should be done with the client's goals and situation in mind first. Also, not all remodels are justified even if you have the money to do it. Do they care for your families situation? Or is it just business and overcoming objections?
Work with a contractor that insists on pulling permits. I get that some people may want to avoid the city sticking their nose into things. But, there are a few reasons why permits matter. If a contractor only does things by the book then you will have some justification to trust them because their work will have to be inspected. Sometimes this has to do with integrity. Saving money on permits can lead to major problems later.
Observe if the contractor will push you into things or work with you to accomplish your goals. Are they willing to listen?
Have them explain exactly how they will accomplish your project and check it with the city inspector, city codes, universal code, or other trusted sources if you have questions or concerns.
Oh yeah, and do they have a Solid Project Plan in Place to guide the project along like our Master Project Plan?
One more thing... Patience and perseverance! Once you have signed with a good contractor and started your project, You must realize that you are now in it for the long haul. When the project is 3/4 done and it's hard to handle other people in your own space... it can be easy to try and rush the project along, but that will never lead to a great project. Crunch time is where everything comes together!
It's all about a good foundation and building trust between the contractor and the Client. It's a two way street, so the contractor and client need to be willing to work as a team to accomplish a project Together. If you can work as a team in the beginning phases then you can build a good framework for a great project and overcome hurdles later that could ruin a project without a good foundation. ~James