When you hire a general contractor for your commercial construction project, you can turn over the plans and walk away until opening, right? Sometimes that’s the case, but more often than not you’ll want to be more involved in the process. There are always decisions to be made along the way, and there is a lot that both the client and the general contractor can do to ensure the project stays on track. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Start with a Clear Plan – There are a lot of variables involved in successfully building out a commercial space, but as an owner the single most important thing you can do to help is having a set of complete plans. A detailed architectural drawing provides your general contractor with the information he or she needs to deliver exactly what you envisioned. Invest time upfront on design, flow, finishes, etc. so you can set your project up for success.
- Choose an Experienced GC – Another significant decision that will impact the way your project runs is the general contractor you choose. An experienced GC is an invaluable partner in your building process. Ask your peers, your architect and your real estate agent for qualified contractors.
- Demo Your Space Before Receiving Your Permit – Many municipalities will allow demo to begin prior to receiving your full building permit. This is a great way to get ahead of schedule, but it’s most useful for your construction team because you will learn a lot about the space. Once you do your demo, you will know how thick the walls are, where the pipes are in the walls, where your un-moveable roof drain is and much more. The key here is knowing in advance if the “as built” – the way the space was actually built – is accurate according to the plan. If you find the walls are a few feet off for example, your plans will need updating. The earlier you demo, the earlier you’ll expose any existing conditions, and more time you’ll have to adjust.
- Watch Those Lead Times – One you’ve done your demo and have measurements in hand, you’ll want to start talking with your contractor about ordering materials and equipment. You’ll want to order according to the “as built”, not the plan, so you can measure the actual space first and then place your orders. But let’s say there’s a 22-week lead time on the cabinets you want – yet your GC will be ready to install those cabinets in 10 weeks. Talk to your general contractor to make sure the lead times for your materials fit into the timeframe of the project.
- Let Your GC Take the Reins – It might be tempting for some owners to purchase material or hire a subcontractor separately to save on management costs. While in some cases that might make sense, often adding another layer can cause issues on the job site. For example, if you want a friend to do the plumbing for your space, will you coordinate the plumber arriving during the right timeframe of the project? What if there’s a plumbing issue that alters other aspects of the project? And what about warranties after the project? Having one chief if charge means one person is responsible and aware of where the project is at all times. It makes the project run so much smoother!
- Cooperation – Remember that classic 1983 Sesame Street song – Street Garden Cooperation? It’s a song about how “co-operation – makes it happen” and it’s amazing how accurate the lyrics are when it comes to a construction project. You and your general contractor need to be working closely together with ongoing communication and cooperation for an efficient project.
Most projects will have days that run smoothly and days that are more challenging. But these tips can help you and your general contractor start on the right track to set the project up for success.