As far as we know, we are not aware of any universal distinction between “restoration” and “renovation” contractors. Although , there could be something I’m not aware of regarding the differences between the two. Nevertheless, you will find a big difference between different contractors, regardless of which title they use.
More often than not, “getting shafted” by a contractor means that you and they have different expectations of what scope of work needs to be carried out. Then there are the real shady, scummy contractors that will take your initial down payment and spend it on everything but the job at home. Assuming you have a contractor who wants to stay in business, you still have to make your expectations clear ahead of time by having a clear scope of work and a rock solid contract.
1. The more details you work out before agreeing to a price, the better off you are when the job begins.
Layout a Clear scope of work. There are a lot of details in the construction building process, and if you don’t work them out PRIOR to agreeing to a price, you could end up owing them more to make it work, and feeling screwed because it costs more than you thought. Many businesses, not only contractors, use this tactic – we’ve seen this primarily in Car dealerships. Im sure your familiar with the term Bait-and-switch. It works in many industries.
2. Bring more details to the table. You will know what you’re paying for.
Don’t rely solely on suggestions from contractors who want to do the work. You will end up receiving very different idea from different contractors, and there will be no way to compare the rates because they are not for the same scope of work as the previous guy. The best case scenario would be to show several builders EXACTLY what you want them to do, and have them each give you a price for the same work; that way everyone is on the same page. Have a clear written Scope of work and Hand a copy of the same one to each contractor. If one is significantly cheaper than the others, ask for references before you hire them. Hopefully their prices will all be close, and you can use whoever you trust the most and are most comfortable talking to – CHECK References too. This is a must! We suggest using a Building cost estimator like this one http://www.building-cost.net/ in order to get a rough estimate of what it may cost you to build the project.
Hire an Architect for Detailed Drawings of what you want
Consider hiring an architect to sketch up plans that you can give to various contractors for pricing as well. This is a sure fire way to guarantee you are comparing “Apples to Apples and Oranges to Oranges”. This is the method that commercial construction works and there is no reason it wouldn’t work for Residential Construction. We have experienced with that side of the industry, and have hired an architect to design the siding we put on our house and it was money well spent. We ended up using a local Siding Contractor in Portland, Oregon and the total cost was about 10% cheaper than the total project budget. We did the proper due diligence, called References and we were more than happy with there work, even though they were the Cheapest in Portland! (Here is there website for more information, if anyone is interested: http://www.WoodGuild.com/
Take a look at it from the contractor’s perspective when choosing to do a job like this. Ask for a quote without having plans, you are essentially asking the contractor to not only build something, but also to design it while they are building it. They have to design things to a certain level of details before he can give you an estimate, but at that point you don’t have a contract with them and this could be (and most of than not, is) time they spends that they never get paid for. Thus, their only choice is to take a broad approach and ignore minor details in his price, and they have to round up thei price to ensure that he is covering the details they haven’t considered (and hasn’t been paid to consider). Contractors take a lot more risk taking on projects without having plans in front of them. Like every other business owner, they need a higher profit potential to actually justify that risk. Having plans drawn up ahead of time reduces his risk, and his profit, making the job cheaper for you as the customer and easier for them.