When a Contractor Makes Sense
There are certain scopes of work in a small bathroom remodel that may require the expertise of a trade specific contractor…someone skilled and trained in that trade. Below are a few considerations that may save you a few headaches down the road.
1. Moving Walls – Consider hiring a home improvement contractor or small general contractor if you plan to move walls. One or more walls in your small bathroom remodel may be load-bearing which means a designed portion of the total loading or weight from your roof or second floor will bear on that wall. To move a load-bearing wall will require engineered calculations, likely a plan review by your local governing authority and a licensed contractor to perform the work. This can become costly and a nightmare if you try to do it yourself.
2. Wet Work – Consider hiring a contractor if you plan to remove or move a tub, add a shower, replace plumbing fixtures such as a toilet or a sink or are adding lighting or changing light fixtures. A plumbing contractor will be able to install a new toilet, drop in a new sink and hook up faucets or set a pedestal sink.
3. Hot Work – An electrician will add or relocate outlets. If you are adding recessed down lights in your ceiling, an electrician can recommend a fixture to suit the depth of your ceiling above the drywall. Your electrician can also determine if you have enough circulation space around the fixtures so they don’t overheat and can also recommend fixtures that are suited to wet areas. Both of these trades will handle piping in your walls or floors.
Remodel Contractor Advantages
An advantage to hiring a remodeling or small general contractor for your bathroom remodel is that not all work is covered by one trade.
A remodel or small general contractor will be responsible for hiring and coordinating all the trades needed to complete the work.
That includes mechanical, plumbing, electrical, drywall, flooring, painting, caulking and sealing. Contractually, he is your first line of defense if there are any trade workmanship issues.
Make sure your contractor is licensed, has adequate coverage of workers compensation insurance for your state, and contractors general liability insurance. Have him list you as an additional insured specific to your project.
Protect Yourself with these Tips
There are some basic steps you can take if you do decide to contract out your small bathroom remodel that can get you both the services you are looking for at a cost you can live with.
1. Bidding your work – Get multiple bids (at least 3). Don’t just settle on one contractor and be sure all your bidders can provide verifiable references. Be clear as to how you want the bids provided to you and don’t settle for a lump sum. Let your bidding contractors know they should provide you with labor and material breakdowns.
2. Visit the work site – Make sure ANY bidding contractor sees your home and does not give you a bid solely based on what you tell them you want.Your contractor needs to see the space he will be working in. He will need to understand what temporary measures need to be put in place to protect you and your existing living spaces and factor in those costs.
3. Materials handling – A contractor will need to see what access there is to your home for parking, material deliveries and material staging. It’s important that any bidding contractors know where your electrical panel is located, should they need to calculate any distance to install in-wall conduit and pull wiring back to the panel.
4. On the clock – Be sure you are clear with regard to scheduling. This will also impact your contractors bid. Let them know what time they can start. Do you want them to provide a portable bathroom for their trades? Do you want them to remove and haul off their construction trash at the end of each day or will they be able to leave their trash for your neighborhood waste hauler?
5. What are you buying direct? – If you plan to buy your plumbing and electrical fixtures directly and not through your contractor, then make sure they understand this up front. While contractors can generally buy these items at a discount through their supply houses, they take that savings as part of their profit.
Understand the Different Warranties
Understand up front the varying warranties for your small bathroom remodel work. The contractor’s warranty and the manufacturer’s warranty are two different items. You should receive documentation for both from your contractor.
A contractor’s warranty is generally 1 year for labor and materials. Manufacturer’s warranties are sometimes longer. For example, the warranty from a company like Kohler on a toilet may be 3 years.
Once your contractor’s warranty expires, any claims against the manufacturer’s warranties will need to handled directly by you. Ensure your contractor provides you with all the manufacturer’s operations and maintenance information as well as their warranty information.