1Call2Build—Our Blog

Here are some thoughts and insight on our business and the construction industry in general. We update our blog regularly to keep you informed and entertained.

You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter; just click the icons in the upper right corner of our site.

July 27, 2017

How do I Compare Construction Bids Apples to Apples?

Ask A Pro_plans

Q.  How do I compare construction bids apples to apples?

A.  You’ve heard the advice, “Get multiple bids.” However in order to accurately compare, you must be looking at the same scope, product, specifications, materials, and quality of work. Even within specialty trades, contractors are diverse in their quality, experience, materials and methods. Comparing bids apples to apples is nearly impossible, and leaves much to the imagination. Rather, the goal should be to achieve a complete understanding of what work will be produced within the scope of each bid.

The lowest bid is not necessarily the best bid. In fact, it may be a red flag that indicates inferior materials, a misunderstanding, or corner-cutting on quality or code compliance. In some instances you may be presented with a low bid only to be surprised later with expensive change orders for extras or upgrades. Good contractors are respectful of your expectations and seek to understand that information up front.

In the best scenario, a system is set in place for design and estimating that work hand in hand. A preliminary budget is set early, and the design is “married” to the budget as it develops. Final bids are based on a detailed design that most accurately reflects the owner’s intentions.


June 26, 2017

What Goes Into Creating an Initial Estimate for a Construction Project?

Ask A Pro_9

Q.  What goes into creating an initial estimate for a construction project?

A:  An early stage estimate of the project cost differs from a construction budget, as it relies on the contractor’s past experience and involves some art and some science. It allows the Owner an opportunity to organize funding sources and plan actual expenditures in advance.

Relying on information and plans that may not be complete, the estimator must blend known data, such as a building’s size and scope, with other details based on unit costs, assumptions, historical data and best judgment. As the design is refined, the final budget is based more on solid information.

When creating a preliminary estimate, the estimator first must assess the level of detail of the plans to determine the best method of approaching the estimate.  He’ll then assess the site and existing conditions, considering overhead power lines, presence of hazardous materials, site grades, etc. that will require additional scope and labor.

Estimators next must prepare accurate quantity take-offs based on the plans, determining the materials needed and factoring seasonal effects and price trends. The estimator will then extrapolate the associated labor needs, wage rates and equipment needs to install. Finally, general project requirements such as permitting, insurance and design fees are also incorporated.


May 22, 2017

When my Project is Finished, What Kind of Documentation Should I Expect to Receive?

Ask A Pro_8

Q. When my project is finished, what kind of documentation should I expect to receive?

A. Receiving proper documentation of a construction project is critical to both the contractor and the project owner. At a minimum, you should receive the following information from your contractor:

  1.  A list of contractors on the project, with contact information.
  2. Documentation of municipal compliance, including a copy of the Certificate of Occupancy. This also provides the date at which your warranty period begins. Also confirm that the project has filed its EPA Water Runoff Plan/Permit of Termination.
  3. As-built drawings. These are the original drawings marked up showing items changed during construction.
  4. An Operation and Maintenance Manual. This includes all the manuals and warranties of products that were installed in your building. You should also expect to be properly trained on all the different systems in your facility.
  5. Verification that all the punch list items have been completed and surplus materials have been left on site for future repairs, per the contract specifications.
  6. Construction photos should be shared with you throughout the project duration, documenting important installation steps and details. Professional photos taken at the end of your project are useful for future upgrade or expansion planning.

March 31, 2017

Why do I need a responsibility matrix?

Ask A Pro_Equipment

Q. Why do I need a responsibility matrix?

A. When teams collaborate on a project, they can elevate the level of expertise but they almost always make workflow more complex. Defining responsibilities for each team will ensure the project is completed correctly and promptly. In construction, we work with contributors ranging from stakeholders to tradesmen. By using a responsibility matrix early on in project planning, we set ourselves up for clear communication between those moving parts and a smoother, more effective partnership.

A responsibility matrix identifies each element of a project and designates the specific responsibilities of all parties involved. The matrix can be created in a spreadsheet, showing teams across the top and listing activities on the left-hand side. This chart organizes who is responsible for which stage of work and ensures that resources are properly distributed. It streamlines a complex chain of events so that decisions can be made quickly and efficiently, and establishes accountability among team members. In some cases, the responsibility matrix can determine whether there are enough resources to complete a project in the allotted time. Taking the time to clearly define responsibilities can help find opportunities to save time and money, as well.

February 28, 2017

What Price Trends are you Seeing in Commercial Construction?

Ask A Pro_Steel Building
Q. What price trends are you seeing in commercial construction?

A. On the heels of oil, many construction-related commodities have experienced significant declines in price over the past two years, including at times up to a 30% decrease for asphalt and No. 2 diesel, and nearly 15% decrease for iron and steel. These decreases don’t reflect construction material price trends across the board – other products such as glass, cement and construction sand, gravel and stone are experiencing modest increases in price – however on average, we remain at historically low material price levels.

That said, materials are only one component of overall construction costs. Subcontractors still have difficulty finding skilled labor, affecting wages and ultimately fueling increases in overall construction costs year over year. While we’ve become accustomed to labor shortages in our region, this lack of skilled construction labor is now prevalent throughout the U.S., and reflects an overall migration from technical education and an increase in more sophisticated projects. Work is now more complex due to sustainability measures, expanding building codes, and technology. Aging plumbers, electricians, framers and HVAC subcontractors are all in demand, without sufficient apprentices in the ranks to take over soon.