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Starting a Project Properly - from an idea to construction...


You decide you need more room and want to add an addition on to your home or want to remodel your kitchen or bathroom. Maybe your a business owner and need to build out a commercial space. You have a few ideas and now what? What is the proper next step to this plan? You need a Contractor, what now? Ask a friend, family  member or neighbor for a referral? That seems to be the most used go-to, but is it the correct choice? Yes and no. A good Contractor for someone else may not be a good fit for you or your project. So, what is the correct way to search for a Contractor? Online and referrals will do, but once you have selected a few, what’s next?


Once a few Contractors have been selected, it’s time to vet them. Do your homework first. Now is your chance to become a CIA Special Op’s agent. Get their license number and look them up on the CSLB website. Make sure they are licensed and it’s current and active.  Check their bond and insurance. Ask for three referrals and call them.  Look at their website and past projects, read online reviews.  How is their online presence? Once your background checks are complete, you should feel confident to set up in-person interviews. 


A few main purposes of the in-person interview is to do the following:

See if the Contractor is someone you think you can work with for months on end.  Do your personalities align? Ask questions about your project and listen closely to the answers. Do they sound competent? Are they professional? Do they have employees or subcontract their work? How do they manage the project? Do they use software? Do they answer their phone? Do they return calls? How do they invoice?

Making sure they are a good fit is extremely important. Compare your interviews to a round of speed dating. Get as much information that you can during your in-person interview.

Your Contractor should handle ALL aspects of your project.


Once you have made your decision that you have found the right one and entered into an agreement (most reputable Contractors will use some type of pre-construction agreement), what’s next? Planning and budgeting is 80% of the project, so it’s time to get busy. Your Contractor should refer you to an architect and possibly a designer if you don’t have one. As you are preparing your design with the architect, your Contractor should be preparing preliminary numbers once your preliminary plans are presented.


Your budget should be disclosed to your Contractor as he will need this number to work against during the preliminary estimating process. As your planning evolves and your overall numbers change, you will need his input to make sure that the final number does not exceed your budget. Your design may change quite a few times until it fits within your budget.


Once your design fits your budget, your plans will now move to the Structural, MEP, and Title 24 stage. Once this is complete, you will then have a complete set of plans ready to submit to the city. At this stage, your Contractor should begin hard number estimating. While the plans are slowly working their way through the city, you and your Contractor should be working through your estimate. Once the estimate is completed and the Construction Contract has been signed, your Contractor should begin working on your project schedule.


Once your permits are ready to be issued, your Contractor will pull them, then set a hard start date for your project in the project schedule. Deposits should be made and prestart walks should be scheduled also. Remember I mentioned planning and budgeting earlier makes up 80% of the project?  Welcome to the final 20%.... building your project!

Wrong Approach

  • I hired an Architect and have plans.  Now I need 10 Contractors to bid this out
  • I just need a few Contractors to give me a bid
  • I will manage the project, I just need a Contractor to do the work

Red Flags

  • Estimate is presented on a legal pad
  • Estimate is sent over in a text
  • Only a price is given with no details
  • Cash only is accepted as payment
  • All communications are done through text messages
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