10 Tips for the Average Joe on working with a Small Construction Company

So you are taking the plunge and building your own home. You’ve finally decided to go ahead with those improvements to your home or office. Before you dip into your pocket think about these ten things.

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  1. You are the Project Manager

When you decide to build a house or complete any type of renovations on your property with your hard earned money or loan please remember that you are the Project Manager. This is extremely important. Private individuals without fraud insurance handing over large sums of cash to any construction company to complete their work is not advised. You or a member of your family must dedicate time to working with this company on a daily/weekly basis to get your job done.

Do not relinquish your hold on your resources! Always ask questions so you can make decisions in your favor.      

  1. Get an agreement.

Before you pay you need to sign and get a copy of a contract which includes what you are paying for and when to expect it. It should also outline who is your contact at the company and the fact that you need to be consulted for approval at agreed stages of the project. Always refer to and keep to this contract, changes to the contract should be re-negotiation and a new contract/addendum be presented in writing.

Save your paperwork, paperwork is king. 

  1. Ask for a detailed project projection

If your project is going to last three months or more or even less you should know what the weekly deliverables are. Deliverables should always be attached to payment. These should be written down and attached to your contractual agreement.

A contractor who gets paid when he delivers has an extra incentive to deliver. 

  1. Ask for a detailed estimate

Many people begin a project with a summary of resources and deliverables over an agreed time-period however you must also get a detailed estimate, which should include:

  1. Cost of management of the project
  2. Wage projection for the period, which clearly lists the number of workers on the project, their expected number of hours and their salary over the period. Every single person that is to be paid goes on this list, so you can calculate your weekly wage bill.
  3. An estimate of materials – each item listed as needed should have a cost attached. Once you have the time, you should review your materials list and purchase items yourself; feel free to ask your company representative to recommend the places to purchase items or give you advice on the selections or even come with you. Some items e.g. tiles, toilets sets, external brick design really need your personal touch and should be done in collaboration with the company.

It’s your money; ask how it is being spent and don’t be afraid to spend it.

  1. Ask for receipts

Never relinquish money unless you have a corresponding signed and/or stamped (company stamped) document that can be held up in court.

Make sure you can account for every transaction.

 Ask about payment options

This is where your detailed estimate comes in handy, at a glance you can see the actual spend needed to complete the project. So let’s say you have been presented that in three months the project will be completed and the deliverable will be met at the cost of $50,000.

Option 1 – Pay the full fee upfront – Never take this option.

Option 2 – Pay a down payment and complete payment in three/four equal parts – this is acceptable once it is hinged on deliverables and not just random dates.

Option 3 – Discuss payments options: You don’t have to break the bank and can ask for a fluid contract where you pay as the project moves along.

For example you can agree to pay:  

  • Cost of management of the project: in equal parts, again this should be on deliverables
  • Wage projection for the period: Since you know the wage bill you can make a two weeks deposit and agree to keep that ratio constant, always two weeks in advance.
  • Materials: This is an area where you can order your own materials to keep your materials bill down.
  1. Negotiate for better deadlines if you need it.

Always ask if it can be done faster, contractors give themselves more time than needed. If time is an issue, say. Don’t just hope for the best. If you need to move into the house by Christmas, they may think giving you the keys Christmas Eve is ideal when you really want it a week before.

Be precise with deadlines, speak dates and time and send them a follow-up email confirming what was discussed so you have it in writing.  

  1. Visit the site regularly

Keep checking on those deliverables and speak up if an item promised in week 1 isn’t on schedule. Ask how is this going to affect the end of the project? A contractor who knows you’ll notice if something is off will try harder to make sure nothing goes wrong.

I never forgot my father saying, you have to finish this week. If you don’t, you pay yourself to finish it next week.

  1. Include an exit clause

Your contract should include a way to get out of it. The project may not work out to be what you expected and you may need to get your money back and move on.

Hope for the best but plan for the worst.

  1. Promise a good a bad report after the job is completed.

My granddad did his house in parts and he would say well if you do the extra room okay I will see about giving you the driveway. Test the waters. You’ve met someone new, with a good track record but you still need to test out their work ethic. Hire them to do part of the job and watch the results.

Let people prove themselves; stop taking everyone’s word on faith.

You may say this is too much for a small contractor but you know what, governments and public agencies ask for so much more and these same companies fill out the paper work because they want the job. These same companies start government’s jobs with no down payment while using your money to fund both jobs.

People will respect you when you respect yourself, your money and your ideas.

If you are thinking about starting a construction project in Trinidad or Tobago, reach out to MasFab Construction Services, they will be there with you from foundation to finish.

Email: masfabconstruction@gmail.com

Facebook: MasFab Construction Services

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The battle against the little ones

Do I want my daughter to be the type of person who questions limitations, who goes against the crowd, who tries out new things and doesn’t take no for an answer? Do I want her to dance when everyone else is sitting and sing when everyone else is reading? Do I want her to use her imagination and think out of the box?  The answer is yes, but not always now when I am trying to finish a job for a client, or when I’m rushing out the door in the morning, not when the alarm hasn’t yet rung and I am getting my final bliss of sleep. However life seldom works that way.

I looked up at five o’clock this morning and heard a voice, far too loud for the morning quiet announcing that she wanted something to drink. It was not really a request but a bold statement of fact. So I stayed still, and surveyed the little one with what I hoped was becoming my dreaded my mummy eyes. She did not falter, she announced that I had a hole in my jersey which led to an investigation of where the hole went – the hole nonetheless was the result of same said little being a few weeks ago whose memory conveniently comes and goes. She then began an impromptu song about being the last hero which ended in a soprano shriek in decibels that I could not decipher. I remained calm, knowing full well that my will was being tested. I too thought about a drink and was momentarily comforted that there are some things I didn’t have to share just yet.

I received a series of kisses and then I heard a short quiet breath of impatience which ended in a loud resonating, “Mayed(sic) I have something to drink please? I replied, as calm as the morning air, ‘Of course,  and headed towards the kitchen. We chatted about her sleep and her day ahead and I reminded her that she didn’t have to shout for me to hear her. Even though her eyes didn’t seem convinced of the fact she replied. ‘Yes mummy’.

I smiled, knowing full well that we would have this conversation again tomorrow.

We often forget that our little ones see the world through us; they test us to judge how other people will react to them. It’s not always because they are being rude but because we are a safe sounding board. If she tells me a joke and I don’t laugh, she may not be brave enough to tell anyone else that joke. For them we are the box that they are trying to think out of, we are people who are sitting so they have the urge to stand. Our home, our jobs, our perimeters are not their destination, it’s their starting point to move forward; to find their own.

If we are lucky, they’ll leave and realize our grass was green, and they will decide that their version of green will encompass what was important to us as well.

If you want your child to be the type of person that questions limitation, that goes against the crowd, who tries out new things and doesn’t take no for an answer? You need to understand that one day he/she will tell you no, he/she will question your limitations. That day will come, if you grew then strong enough, wise enough and brave enough, all you have to be concerned about is your reaction when it happens.

I have indicated to my daughter that I wouldn’t move unless she asked properly for something. She usually gets juice n the morning, sometimes without asking, but she’s developing a personality, she’s testing me. I am her world right now so I am also her ‘guinea-pig’ (as they say); she finds great joy in trying to wear me out, to see if I would break my resolve. There is mischievousness in her spirit, which is very much like her father, who makes me smile. I see it; I understand it even though she may not. In keeping my resolve I am teaching her a lesson, in letting her develop her spirit without shouting or condemnation I am also teaching her a lesson.

I am not concerned with her antics; she is a child, just as I was.

I am concerned with my response.

I ask her opinion openly about many things and other things are rules, for safety and my sanity. We will not always be together so I want to set the trend but allow her to be herself comfortably so that when she is alone it becomes second nature.

XXX

Why the Pope’s resignation was the best thing for the Catholic Church.

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I am a Christian and I don’t believe in religion.

That very sentence seems to contradict itself, however I believe that there is a God and I accept the bible to be the ultimate guide, however I see today’s religion as complicating that which is simple; a call for persons to fellowship by forming churches has turned into politics.

I love reading and before I was eighteen, I decided to find the most influential book of all time and read it. This book turned out to be the bible. I would be lying if I said I read it diligently, it took me a year and I still fall asleep through the genealogy chapters like Leviticus.  In reading this book for myself – and not waiting for a Priest/Pastor to dictate it to me over my years – I became fully aware that the book could be taken out of context, chapters read in isolation could mean different things according to different agendas.

Since, I didn’t need someone to explain the bible to me, going to church then became more about fellowship. I joined church groups, I volunteered, I tried out different churches and at every corner I meet a horny unfaithful deacon, a leading family who financially supported the church and received more prayers and accolades than others, the overweight, the ever-faithful, the gossipers, the returning backsliders, the silent parishioners, the uninterested, the unruly children of the parish saints, the old, the poor and the very poor.

If someone was over-weight, I didn’t want to laugh at then when they passed, I wanted to start a fitness class. I noticed children who wore the same clothes every week, but their parents wouldn’t accept hand out because they didn’t want to be at the mercy of the gossipers.  I saw flirtations outside of marriage and people with distant eyes, crying eyes and eyes of hatred. I grew tired of looking at people and seeing sorrow.

So I left, I prayed at home, I lived a fair life and was contented and always blessed.

So why am I writing a blog on the Pope, well today I am married to a Catholic. When our daughter was born he indicated that he wanted her to be baptized in the Catholic faith, I had no problem with it. There is a time for everything under the sun and many paths lead to God, my path is best for me but she would have to choose her own path and with my blood in her veins, I know that she would ask questions and choose what makes her happy when she is an adult. My only cautionary note to my husband was seeing that I was not Catholic, I expected him to take responsibility for her Catholic walk and be an example to her.

In all of our years together my husband has never really asked me to do anything directly, not even to cook but he asked me, especially at this time when our daughter is mimicking her mother, to attend church with him. The deal is if he goes, I go.

So we began our dance, I felt very uncomfortable at first, like if someone had asked me to rob a bank, to do drugs, to strip naked and walk down Main Street. I had left bricks and mortar religion, without a second thought and was comfortable with my relationship with God. However, I comforted myself by reminding myself that I believed that this was the man I would spend my life with. I prayed and God said he was the one. While other women were dealing with drunken, violent husbands, my task was only to go to Church.

I returned home with a headache every single Sunday for six months. Excluding my primary education which was in a Catholic school, I hadn’t spent much time in a Catholic Church. It seemed to quiet, monotonous even. I had heard other preachers refer to the Catholic Church as lacking that spiritual fire; they were lead by men not by the spirit. All of the scripture readings were planned and in a book which ran on a three year cycle, it means that if you are 60 and was born a Catholic, you would have gone over that book 20 times. The Catholic people I knew were also strange for Christians my neighbor who was in church every week taking communion, was having an affair with a married man. Whenever there was a project on work that required ‘manipulation of figures’ it always went to the Catholic, she laughed and said ‘don’t worry, confession and some Hail Mary’s and that will be forgiven’.  I always felt that even if I had to go to church, some day, I wouldn’t be to a Catholic church. Was God testing me?

Nevertheless, my husband flourished. He became a more caring husband and is an excellent father. He joined the men’s group and grew happier, he took charge and got ready on time, he sat in the same pew and owned it, he greeted people and walked all over the church, shaking people hands when it was time to offer people a ‘sign of peace.’ I was in shock; this was defiantly not a passing phase, so I began to do what I did when I didn’t know what to do. I began to pray quietly asking God to help me understand my role and accept it. I figured out a long time ago that I shouldn’t give God a target when it came to matters of the heart and mind; I was just setting myself up for more agony if I fixated on a particular outcome. I had to just be open to what the universe had to offer.

I prayed in the shower, on my way to work, in meetings, in the grocery, all the time asking God to wash away my prejudices and conceptions so that I could enjoy my family now.  I hoped to one day move back into prayer and solitude, but my family life was happening in the present and I wasn’t enjoying it. I couldn’t ask God to change my husband; that is not my right, I could only ask God to change me. I had bad church experiences and preconceived notions, it took months for me to relax. Yes, I did relax and I began having a good church experience.  There are flashbacks from the past but I have meet good people, sincere people and I thank God for showing me that I shouldn’t accept a bad experience as final and just move it to one side of my mind and lock it away.

God wants us to choose the best out of our best experiences. He took my mind’s worst case scenario and turned it around. I am still not sold on religion, but I am allowing myself to be genuinely impressed by what is impressive about it.

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Many Catholics and Christians heard and saw that Pope Benedict XVI resigned from a position that usually required death to come to an end. The world predicted doom and gloom; others felt he made a good decision due to his age while others are still waiting to weight in.  I am sure that there may have been other Popes who were as ill and did not resign and I am confident that the church, which is an empire in itself, would not be shaken to doom anytime soon.

This is a unique time in the history of the Church, I am not even sure people realize how unique it is. The Pope said he prayed and he believed that this was the right step for the church. He broke tradition, he shocked multitudes but he is walking by faith. That is by far the most powerful thing a man of God could say, “He prayed, he understood what God wanted him to do and he moved by faith”. For this I applaud him.

Men, even men of the Pope’s stature do not follow the will of God because of fear of what people will say, of breaking traditions. In a powerfully traditional atmosphere like the Vatican, the Pope said “he is moving by faith.” This is by far the most simple, yet most powerful principle of the Christianity; it’s the overarching theme of the bible.

I smile as I write these words.

A spiritual battle was won; no longer can Catholics be accused of not moving by faith. A battle of this magnitude, almost makes me uneasy but Pope Benedict XVI has set profound precedent and I am happy to be living in such times and look forward to seeing how this story unfolds.

www.marshagomes.com