|Remodeling as a second language|
How can this be, you ask? Look at professional sports. Many of the games' greatest players have never coached and some of the greatest coaches never had great success as a player. If you're accustomed to building things in the shop, you are often a team player in the larger scope of a project. I know we all like to think every job is centered on our skill, but the truth is that it rarely is. Once you enter into the remodeling field as more than a subcontractor you have become a coach. You don't have to know how to do everything well, but you do need to know how to find and manage those who do.
Arming yourself with the best tools for the job is something every craftsman knows. I once bought an import saw just to save money. Its inaccuracy cost me hours of frustration. The result? That poor saw's life was cut short when it "accidentally" fell off my truck. Don't sell yourself short when laying the groundwork in diversification. The idea is to avoid having to jettison the venture for lack of preparation.
Let's look at some of the tools you will need to best prepare you for the remodeling sector.
The construction industry differs from the manufacturing sector. Not only will you need a business license, but often a specific contractor's license. This is something you'll have to check with your local government on. Each state has different requirements. Some want nothing more than insurance, allowing anyone to enter the field, while others require specific experience and successful testing, which limits the number of applicants. Significant fines can be imposed if these rules are ignored.
Something else you need to discipline yourself on: do not do tasks you are not qualified to perform. Just because you can do something does not mean you should. For instance, if you understand the basics of electrical systems, don't do the rewiring on a kitchen remodel; subcontract it. Trades like electrical require additional experience and knowledge. I guarantee you won't know all the nuances of electrical codes unless you have received specific training. The liability is just too great to take on aspects of a job you're not qualified to do. You are not paying for the work to be done, your client is. So find someone who can do it properly.
One temptation that must be avoided is ignoring permits for a job. Local jurisdictions will certainly frown upon this practice. Unfortunately it is practiced quite a bit. Finding out what jobs require permits should be the first thing you do. This way you'll always know what's expected.
Permits can add a lot of time and hassle to a job, but they are necessary in order to minimize your liability. And remember to charge accordingly. This would include not only the cost of the permit, but the extra engineering, preparation and the actual time to procure the permit. Remember, you are not the one who should be paying for this extra inconvenience; it's all part of a job's cost.
Most likely you are already familiar with the importance of having a good contract. However, using a format designed for your current work type may not be adequate for remodeling projects.
I use two basic contracts. One is geared for my custom woodwork. It is simple and concise and covers issues directly related to shop work and installation. My remodeling contract is much different in scope. It not only has to cover the traditional boilerplate issues of payment and work performed, but also addresses such issues as homeowner responsibilities during the course of the project.