How to Manage Construction Contractors

While this advice is primarily intended for other design-build firms, the lessons here are applicable to anyone hiring a construction contractor.

Maybe you’ve experienced this scenario: Your custom design and build firm wins a job, and you need to contract out for additional workers for the project. You bring on some new people, but find they are difficult to work with or, worse yet, aren’t doing the work well or up to your standards.

While using contractors can be a very efficient business relationship, there is always some risk potential. Over the past 25 years, Sleeping Dog Properties, Inc. has learned how to mitigate those risks and ensure that our team of contractors delivers the highest quality work possible for our clients and business partners. Below are our top tips for working with contractors!

Tips for Managing Contractors

If you’re prepared before you even begin the hiring process, you can avoid some potential challenges. Here are some key steps to take:

Thoroughly Assess Workers

Hiring a contractor should carry no less consideration than hiring a full-time employee. All field construction workers are required by the federal government to have the minimum Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) certification; the OSHA 10 course. If your contractor has this certification, you can be assured they have the required skill set, home builder license and construction super license when they join your job site.

When hiring a manager, look for a certification of OSHA 30 or higher. They should also have  a safety manager and check their tools regularly for deficiencies. Quarterly inspections would be recommended. Your contractor should also offer training to staff and offer compensation to get licensure.

If you’re hiring a builder, be sure they provide a user manual and you’re able to review it before your project begins. The manual is made by the design build firm and comes after the job is complete.

Take the time to vet your contractor before getting the signature–your patience will pay off.

Oversee the Work

Even if you feel your contractors are highly qualified and competent, you should plan to supervise aspects of the job. A custom construction project is like a recipe in that any small change can dramatically impact the final project. Just as you would taste-test throughout the cooking process, regular inspections of the work will help you catch anything being done improperly.

Be aware that it is only with proper training that you can be sure your project will be completed as planned. Without proper training, you may find your contractor’s product is dissimilar to what you planned for. While it may cost you less, you don’t want to sacrifice price for a poorly-done project.

Document the Job

We believe this step to be most important. When it comes to custom construction work, documentation is critical. There is a project sequence, as well as specific logistics, metrics and measurements that must be adhered to, and would cause sweeping negative impacts to your timeline and budget if altered or ignored.

Maintaining documentation of these parameters ensures all workers on the job have a detailed resource and can be held accountable if something is not executed correctly. Plus, future maintenance, freshening or repairs needed once the work has aged, such as painting or parts upgrades, would be recorded for easy reference in a user manual. Documentation also helps you recover faster from any errors made. With custom construction, you want to be able to do the project correctly the first time, rather than covering your tracks with cheap fixes because of multiple missteps.

At Sleeping Dog Properties Inc., we use QR codes in our online manuals to allow our team to quickly track appliances and other major equipment.

How to Document Custom Construction Projects like a Pro

Documentation of custom construction projects is critical for many reasons, not least of which are the overall cost and timeline. Of course you want those metrics to match your estimates, but small issues during construction can heavily impact both.

Be sure your documentation includes all details of the project plan, which means not just the overall cost, but what the exact production will be for that cost. This way, all work performed maps back to a predetermined dollar amount and can be tracked at each stage of the project.

There are some software systems you should consider to really help streamline both contractor management and project management:

  1. Utilize a proprietary documentation system that allows all workers to access project  information in real-time. These systems can be customized to allow or disallow certain permissions, so only qualified personnel can edit or change the information.
  2. Utilize a collaboration software, either outsourced, such as Google Suite, or proprietary. These collaboration tools allow for an open forum where everyone involved can agree upon and approve the project plan.
  3. Utilize file sharing on a system that allows collaboration with project documents. This type of system can track changes and user analytics, so you can see who viewed specific documents and when. Having this kind of visibility holds workers accountable and keeps you aware of all activity, which is especially helpful in the event of a project error.

Documentation protects all parties, including contractors, managers and the homeowner. Your design-build firm is fully responsible for the success or failure of a project, and your primary concern should be keeping the homeowner happy.

Without thorough documentation, it’s possible for a contractor, manager, and homeowner to all see one aspect of a project differently. For example, your firm may have agreed to replace a set of windows, but did not document which type of window would be used. The homeowner may be expecting a specific, custom window, but without that documentation, the contractor may go in a different direction. It is always best to work from a single source of truth that stems from one approved perspective.

Working with construction contractors can be a great benefit to your business, but it must be done correctly. With proper documentation and the right planning, your contractor relationship can be successful for your firm and the project!

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