Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Wood Replacement - The How-to For HOAs

If you have recently walked your property (either alone or with another board member), noticed damaged wood clearly in need of replacement, and became instantly overwhelmed, it’s understandable.  In fact, you’re probably not alone.  Just the mere thought of wood replacement can be incredibly overwhelming. It’s completely natural to think “how on earth am I going to handle this?”  The obvious solution is to hire the right contractor, but there’s a bit more to it than that.  Here’s the process you should most certainly follow when dealing with wood replacement.

Understand the Scope of Work
Sure, you’re not a contractor (or else you’d do the work yourself, right?) but that doesn’t mean you have to blindly rely on your contractor.  There are tools to help you understand exactly what’s going on.

It is important to meet with multiple contractors and get bids from each.  But before you do that, get a clear understanding of the scope of work to be performed.  Start by meeting with homeowners to figure out exactly what you want the focus to be in terms of scope of work.  This will help set clear expectations for the contractors once you meet with them which will ensure you get apples to apples bids from each contractor, which is what you want.  The best results derive from clearly explaining your vision to your contractor. 

Plan Early
To successfully communicate the desired scope of work to your contractor you must plan early.  Identify early what needs to be replaced (don’t worry about what you might be missing during your solo property walk, your contractor will catch the rest when he does a walk with you).   Keep in mind that it typically takes several months to get your scope of work put together.  Then, naturally, it will take the contractor time to review the scope of work you laid out for him and then a bit more time still to determine what in the scope actually needs to be done. 

Get Involved
Believe it or not, your involvement will have a huge impact on the success of the project.  Your involvement really shouldn’t be a huge inconvenience to you though, not if you plan ahead.  Once you identify the areas in need of wood replacement you can schedule a pre-walk with your contractor.  During the pre-walk, visit a couple of buildings and show the contractor the problem areas you have previously identified.  Doing a pre-walk with the contractor will allow his estimator to accurately identify exactly what you want done and bid the job accordingly once the estimator  visits the property.

After the estimator has completed the bid, do a final drop-meet with the contractor to inspect the bid and review the scope of work thoroughly to ensure it is exactly what you want done.   If the scope of work is not precisely what you want allocated to bidders, tell the contractor.

Set Hard Deadlines
If you do nothing else during your wood replacement project set hard deadlines.  When you set hard deadlines you create a clear understanding for payment schedules and general timelines.  This not only makes it easier for your contractor—believe it or not—but helps minimize tenant frustration during renovation. 

Pay Attention
Pay attention to your contractor and the work being performed.  One item you’ll definitely want to focus on is the materials your contractor wants to use.  For example, choosing a composite material versus a wood material may help transform a 35 year old building into looking like a brand new property.  After all, when a property looks young it appears relevant. 

Concentrate on funding methods.  Figure out ahead of time whether or not you can fund a project.  Is a renovation project in your budget or do you need a loan?  If you need a loan, figure out if you can even get one (and if the loan will cover the full cost of the project).  In the case that you cannot get a loan, ask your contractor if he offers a payment plan.  Talk to your contractor ahead of time about funding. 

Anticipate Changes
When you pay attention to the project you will feel in control and empowered.  However, it’s important to anticipate changes.  Not to worry, though, because the closer attention you give your wood replacement project, the better you’ll understand the changes and in turn, the more capable you will be to handle the changes.

A qualified contractor will want to limit change orders (EmpireWorks certainly does). However, realistically change orders will pop-up during construction. If you realistically anticipate approximately 10-15 percent change orders, you’ll be ahead of the game.  For instance, problem areas could hide from the estimator from the ground level while other problem areas may become exposed after your contractor has begun pressure-washing the building.  To ensure the job looks great, some change orders will be necessary along the way.  You will continue to feel in control of your renovation project if you expect and accept these necessary changes.

Hire a Qualified Contractor
You want your wood replacement project to go as smoothly and perfectly as possible and that’s why you plan to invest your own time into the project.  So why would you hire an unqualified contractor?  Again, you don’t have to blindly trust a contractor.  Sure, the contractor claims to be qualified, but is he?  There are tools for you to figure this out on your own. 

The contractor you hire should have liability and workers compensation insurance because this will minimize liability to the association.  But for Pete’s sake, don’t take the contractor’s word for it. Verify his qualifications on your own. Ask to review the insurance certificate, make sure it’s still valid, and make sure it’s not going to expire soon. Also, hire a contractor whose crew consists of employees. This will help avoid having subcontractors (or independent contractors) working on your property.  If you do decide to hire a company who uses subcontractors, make sure you verify the sub’s qualifications in addition to the contractor you hired.  And naturally, check the contractor’s references.  Ask the contractor to see previous work they’ve done.  Any contractor worth his salt will have plenty of references to show you and the qualified contractor will easily provide you with references of recent projects they’ve done.  

Have more questions?  Click here to send us a question online.   

 Written by Cari Stark

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