Questions you need to be asking your potential Builder / Contractor:
- How many projects of this size have you personally overseen in the past 5 years?
- WHY? This will give you a better understanding of how qualified the person you are talking to is to manage your project. Someone who has only managed small projects will not be well suited to manage large projects. Also, as it turns out, the inverse is also true, people that have only managed large scale projects will not be well suited to manage smaller projects.
- SPRUCEHILL: Check the running tally for the most current numbers.
- What software or system do you use to keep track of the budget?
- WHY? A new home build or renovation will likely be the second largest investment you make in your life. It is critical to ensure whomever you hire to manage your project has systems and protocols in place to manage the financial aspect of your project. If they don’t, how is it possible to know that your project is tracking on budget? Furthermore, asking this will illuminate how organized the person you are talking to is from a business management point of view.
- SPRUCEHILL: Quickbooks & Excel with a couple of other third party items that allow us to automate the transferring of data.
- What do you use for project planning? How do you keep track of the critical path?
- WHY? There are literally hundreds of different tasks that take place (of various sizes) over the course of a construction project. The reason why most projects fail from a timeline perspective is because there wasn’t a timeline to begin with. It’s impossible to manage something you can’t see.
- SPRUCEHILL: Smartsheet. Critical path tracking is built in as long as you populate the dependencies correctly (which we do!).
- Based on what you told your past three clients their completion date would be, how close to achieving that date did you get?
- WHY? Asking this question will likely give you a good idea of the truthfulness of the person you are speaking to as well as help you to understand whether or not they even care if they finish projects on time.
- SPRUCEHILL: Barring significant customer driven changes, within a month of when we said we would finish for larger projects (>$250k) and within a week or two for smaller projects.
- How many projects do you and/or your company manage at any given time?
- WHY? Knowing how many projects a contractor takes on at any given time will give you a better idea of how good the service you will receive is. An experienced project manager can really only manage 2 to 3 projects of $500k plus in full production at any given time. A good follow up question could be who would be my primary point of contact for the project?
- SPRUCEHILL: A project manager can only reasonably manage 2 larger projects at any given time that are in production while finishing up another project and/or spinning a new project up. So, the answer is dependent on how many PMs we have employed at the time.
Q. Does Sprucehill offer a fixed cost contract?
A. No. We offer a blended approach. We obtain fixed price quotes wherever practicable from our trade partners and charge on a time and material basis for our time to design and oversee your project.
Q. Why would I choose the Sprucehill Planning Process over a fixed price contract with another company?
A. We believe in total transparency with our customers. We have found this is the best way to maximize value for our clients.
Fixed price contracts motivate businesses to maximize profits, which can often lead to corners being cut or decisions being made that are not necessarily in a client’s best interest. Also, in order to offer a fixed price, businesses have to mark things up more heavily to ensure they have “padding” in their numbers. Another concern with fixed price contracts is: does it actually include everything? Unfortunately, it is not unheard of to hear of businesses accidentally (on purpose) leave items out of the budget, knowing full well they should have been there in the first place so that they can charge for change orders after the fact.
The business model and practice we believe in, our business model, blends both a time and materials and fixed price contract into a hybrid. We charge by the hour for our time, obtain fixed price quotes from our subtrades whenever possible (or practicable) and apply a Overhead and Markup rate to that labour and any material or trade costs. The end benefit for our clients is that we are always making the best decision for our CLIENT.
Q. Do you have your own employees doing the work?
A. We have found that specific contractors who focus on one or more aspects of a project are able to deliver better results more efficiently than an in-house team, simply because it is what they specialize in. While we do have several in-house general carpenters, they focus on the smaller tasks that come up throughout the project.
Q. So, who do you employ?
A. We employ in house designers, project managers, admin, and have a small team of highly versatile and capable carpenters to deal with the little things when they come up.
Q Does your timeline include permitting?
A. Funny you ask… Let us ask you a question now… Can you decide how long it is going to take to prepare and bake muffins without the recipe and/or all the ingredients? Didn’t think so.
We have found that more often than not, important notes and requirements are written on permit drawings by most municipalities. These notes typically have financial implications (sometimes significant → fire sprinklers inside the home for example due to distance from a fire hydrant) or timeline requirements (engineering requirements or environmental considerations; think snow load capacity or asbestos/oil tank removal).
We have found that without the permit in hand, we are unable to accurately predict costs or timelines.
Q. Is my project too small for Sprucehill?
A. Maybe, maybe not. We have found that our business model’s sweet spot is around $200k or more. That said, we have had clients opt to work with us because they wanted to receive the quality of finished product they know we deliver. Our value proposition becomes slightly less at $100k and questionable below $50k.
Q. My friends tell me that you guys are expensive. What’s that about?
A. Based on our research and experience, we believe that our rates and costs are inline with comparable contractors. Some of the differences between Sprucehill and others is how organized we are, the amount of work and importance we place on planning a project properly, and ….
Beyond how we do things as a business, here are some (not all, not even close) of our typical standards:
- Asbestos testing and surgical demolition PRIOR to signing construction contract
- Cast iron plumbing pipe from the main floor assembly and above
- All hot water pipes wrapped in insulation and red in colour. All cold water pipes blue. All recirc pipes white. (Makes it easy to know what is supposed to be flowing through what).
- Subfloors glued and screwed
- Soft close cabinet drawers and doors
- Solid core interior doors
- Exterior doors finished off site (superior quality, finish, and durability)
Q. Why is it important to hire someone with liability and WorkSafeBC coverage?
A. To protect your family, your home, and your financial situation. If someone is injured at your address and they do not have WorkSafeBC coverage or private insurance, you will be held liable to cover the costs of the damages. BC’s previous premier had a first hand experience with this:
Liability insurance is important to protect you in the event something catasrophic happens by accident. If the contractor you hire doesn’t have it and floods your home (for example), you will have to make a claim against your own insurance for the damages. It is also there in case someone gets injured on the property and isn’t a “worker”.
Q. Can we hire one of your subcontractors directly?
A. Depends. Many of the trades we use are so integrated into the project as a whole that it doesn’t make sense from a logistical standpoint and this could directly impact the timeline and potentially the budget. Also, many of our subtrades come to our sites because they know what to expect (on time, ready for them, clean, prompt payment…) from Sprucehill. When it makes sense and it doesn’t impact the above we will pass along their info if the trade is happy doing work directly for the homeowner.
Q. Can we use your trade discounts?
A. Yes. For anything purchased through Sprucehill we pass on our trade discount to you from our suppliers and then apply our O&M. This allows us to offer a warranty on the products that get installed at your home.