Avoid Complications with These Documenting Tips for Contractors

Running any business, particularly a construction business, is difficult and complex. This complexity requires owners and managers to maintain clear, accurate, and thorough records.  Documentation of meetings, agreements, expenses, and other important factors can help keep the business running smoothly while also reducing disagreements and disputes. Here are some useful documenting tips for contractors.

Establish the habit of documenting all transactions, interactions, events, and other elements of your day-to-day business activities.  Although this sounds like it could become tedious and time-consuming, it will actually save time in the end by ensuring that important information is recorded and available when needed.

Proper documentation may include anything from making brief notes after a conversation with a project manager to executing complex contracts that are signed by all participants and stakeholders. You should also:

  • documenting tips for contractorsKeep notes covering discussions and meetings with clients, customers, suppliers, employees, and managers.
  • Maintain receipts, order forms, and other documents from suppliers and subcontractors.
  • Make detailed notes about all disputes or disagreements, changes to plans, or other interactions that could cause legal, financial, or procedural issues.
  • Record information about delays or other problems, the reasons for the delays, and what is being done to resolve them.

Remember, having a written contract is not just a matter of proper documentation: a contract, when properly executed and signed by all affected parties, provides critical legal and financial protection for all parties involved. Have a qualified attorney prepare the contract and ensure that the client’s attorneys, managers, and owners review it. Contracts should set out details such as project milestones, due dates, financial information and responsibilities and expectations from both sides. Have the contract signed by the proper representatives on both sides. Customer and contractor should address any later additions or changes in an addendum that is also reviewed and signed.

Construction Monitor helps today’s construction professionals take charge of their business with important information such as data on housing starts and reportage on the latest best practices in the industry. Contact us today for more documenting tips for contractors and suggestions for maintaining your important records.

Beyond the Double-Wide: High-End Modular Homes

Today’s modular homes are a far cry from the cheaply-made, double-wide trailers that preceded them. Modern modular construction is capable of producing durable luxury homes that are just as comfortable and attractive as site-built homes. They also offer benefits for construction firms.

modular constructionQuality Homes Built Faster

Less material and equipment are needed to construct a modular home compared to a site-built one. That means you’ll face fewer problems with logistics issues such as planning access routes, arranging materials delivery, and storing and securing your supplies.

Because it’s performed in controlled, factory-like construction facilities, modular home construction carries less risk of error. The automation and specialized labor used result in greater precision, more consistent quality, and faster production. The sections of the home arrive on site ready for assembly, so you’re less likely to lose time to construction mishaps.

Modular homes can be erected 30 to 50 percent faster than site-built homes. With these faster assembly times, weather is less of a concern, so your construction firm can work for more months out of the year.

Greater Cost Savings

Much of the expense of traditional construction comes from the cost of paying skilled workers to perform a wide variety of jobs. With a modular home, fewer skilled workers are required on the job site because the sections of the home are already complete and only need to be fit together.

Setting a modular home on a foundation involves fewer jobs that are likely to cause injury. The quality control processes used during manufacturing help ensure the sections are as free from hazards as possible. On the job site, workers have relatively few exposed wires, chemicals, power tools, and heights to deal with. This keeps your workers safe and cuts down on workers’ compensation claims.

Modular construction also reduces waste. Excess materials from one home can be kept at the manufacturing site and reused in another home. Because there’s less dust and debris created while setting the home, cleanup is faster, which saves you even more on labor costs.

For more information on modular construction, contact Construction Monitor.

Pitfalls to Avoid When Hiring Subcontractors

The skill and reliability of your subcontractors can make the difference between a profitable, trouble-free job and a major headache. By knowing how to hire good subcontractors, you can ensure you get more of the former.

How to Hire Good SubcontractorsSpotting Quality Subcontractors

Don’t rely on internet searches to find subcontractors. While that may be the fastest way to find specific types of tradespeople in your area, websites tell you little about what it’s like to work with those individuals.

Instead, tap into the construction community for references. If you need a drywall installer or a plumber, ask drywall suppliers and plumbing wholesalers if they can recommend someone. If you see construction work or renovations underway, introduce yourself to the person in charge to find out who’s doing the work and how it’s going. It’s also worth contacting your former clients to find out if they can recommend subcontractors.

Aim to collect at least three names for each trade to encourage competitive bids, and avoid depending on one subcontractor who may not always be available. Establish a pre-qualification process to speed up hiring for future projects.

Controlling Your Costs

Before you invite bids, develop a clear scope of work. This helps you avoid receiving widely divergent bids. Even so, never assume the bids you receive cover the same scope. Read each bid carefully so you know exactly what the subcontractor is offering. For instance, one bid might be cheaper than others because it doesn’t include the cost of clean up.

Low bids can be tempting, but realizing when something sounds too good to be true is an important part of knowing how to hire good subcontractors. Some subcontractors keep their bids low by cutting corners and using low-quality material, while others bid low, but find ways to raise the price later.

Be wary of subcontractors who expect a large deposit. Anything more than 10 percent upfront is worth questioning. Also, avoid those who won’t provide everything, including guarantees and payment schedules, in writing.

For more tips on how to hire good subcontractors, contact Construction Monitor.

CNET’s Best Smart Home Devices

With more and more homeowners choosing smart home technology for their residential spaces, these devices continue to become more sophisticated even as they become more common. CNET, a leading technology website, recently named some of the year’s best smart home devices, including devices that represent home security trends, energy efficiency, and homeowner convenience.

home security trendsBest Smart Thermostat

CNET reviewer Ry Crist gave high marks to the Nest Learning Thermostat, a smart and elegant thermostat that increases homeowner control over indoor comfort levels. The Nest thermostat, while fully programmable, is designed to “learn” your indoor temperature preferences, eventually providing the comfort you prefer automatically.

The thermostat can be controlled remotely through smartphone and computer apps.  It is also equipped with motion sensors that can automatically reduce HVAC system operation if there has been no activity in the home.

Best Smart Lock

The August Smart Lock commanded CNET’s attention. Crist noted that the lock is intended as a retrofit, and as such is easy to install and has the capability of working with existing deadbolt locks. The lock also provides good levels of user management that make it a top choice among the current crop of smart locks.

Best DIY Home Security Kit

The iSmart Alarm system gives homeowners a diverse suite of security devices that are relatively easy to install. The system offers effective security at a lower price than commercially installed systems. It includes motion sensors, surveillance cameras, and alarms that homeowners can place where they prefer. Intelligent management and monitoring via Smartphone app makes this system even more convenient.

Best Standalone Smart Home Hub Kit

CNET considered the SmartThings Know and Control Your Home kit the best standalone smart home hub. This device provides homeowners with an easy way to take advantage of the many facets of smart home automation.

Construction Monitor provides up-to-date information on trends and developments in the residential construction industry, including housing stats and the most recent smart home technologies. Contact Us today for more information on home security trends and the latest devices that can increase safety, convenience, and energy efficiency.

4 Tips for Protecting Your Construction Lien

Construction liens, sometimes called mechanics liens, are important legal protections that ensure a construction company is paid for the work it performs. Dealing with construction liens can be complex, with variations in each state. In most cases, they should be handled by your company’s attorney. Here are four tips for protecting your constriction lien and ensuring that your financial interests in a construction project are protected.

dealing with construction liens1. Verify Property Ownership

Make sure to verify the owners of the property where the construction project is to take place. A good place to start is in the county’s public records department. Look for a deed that identifies the owners and clearly describes the property where you expect to be working. Double-check the contract you executed for the construction work to make sure the person you contracted with is truly the owner of the property.

2. File Appropriate Documents

File all the necessary documents for the lien, including all preliminary documents and other material required by state and local authorities. Skipping this step or missing one of these critical documents can deprive you of the protections you’re seeking and could have legal repercussions later in the process.

3. Maintain Timely Communication and Responses

When a response document is required, such as lists of suppliers and subcontractors, ensure that the response is delivered within the timeframe specified by the contract, agreement, or regulation. If the owners or other stakeholders have questions or want to contact you, get back with them as quickly as possible, or ensure that your attorney responds in a timely manner.

4. Close out the Project Properly

When construction is completed, take all the necessary actions to close out the project. This can include final agreements, inspections, indicators of satisfactory performance, and related legal documents.

Construction Monitor is a leading source for advice and industry insight to help construction companies succeed with their business. Contact us today for more information on dealing with construction liens and for suggestions on other important business protections.

Using Big Data for Better Productivity and Profitability

Access to large volumes of data can give you the kind of bird’s-eye view you need to steer your business in the right direction. The more you know about how big data affects construction businesses, the better you can harness this resource for your firm.

how big data affects construction businessesBoosting Your Productivity

Fast, high-volume data analysis lets you keep track of your vehicles and equipment more accurately and plan the most efficient travel routes for them. This is done by placing sensors on vehicles and equipment, and using technology that processes the data provided along with data on current traffic conditions to determine the fastest driving routes. Your workers will spend less time stuck in traffic, and you’ll save fuel, too.

When you store your data and documents in collaborative software, everyone on your team can work together on the same documents in real time no matter where each team member is. That means less email and phone tag and less time spent running documents to other locations. It also cuts down on time-wasting errors caused by two groups of employees working from two versions of a document.

Improving Your Profitability

With more and better-managed data on your company’s past performance, you can more accurately pinpoint profitable bidding strategies and identify the ideal approach to hiring for every job you win. You’ll not only bring in more jobs, but also decrease your labor costs on each one.

The ability to process big data related to your market lets you more precisely target specific customer bases. You’ll be better able to tailor your services to each, which helps set you apart from your competition. It can even help you spot opportunities you might have otherwise missed.

By analyzing data from previous jobs, you can predict when exceptional costs might pop up so you can budget for them. Knowing ahead of time when you’ll need to replace your power tools or the parts in your heavy equipment also prevents delays caused by unexpected equipment breakdowns.

To find out more about how big data affects construction businesses, contact us at Construction Monitor.

Top Tips for Preventing Construction Site Theft

Preventing construction site theft will not only save you thousands of dollars, but also protect you from delays caused by missing materials and equipment, and the hassle of replacing your losses. The most effective theft-prevention methods are some of the simplest.

preventing construction site theftKnow that everything is a potential target – Copper pipes and lumber aren’t the only items thieves are eyeing. Don’t assume something won’t be stolen just because it isn’t highly valuable or it’s difficult to move. Securing not only power tools and heavy equipment, but also tile, cables and other less expensive material goes a long way toward preventing construction site theft.

Light the premises well – Your after-hours lighting should cast even illumination over the whole area, leaving no shadows for thieves to hide in. To save energy, use low-wattage lighting connected to motion sensors. Even a soft glow draws attention to suspicious activity and a light that suddenly turns on is often enough to scare away a would-be thief.

Have material delivered just in time – The sight of valuable material lying around your construction zone attracts attention from those looking for something to steal. The longer you store those materials on site, the more time thieves have to make off with them. Schedule materials to be delivered as needed and keep detailed inventory records so you notice if something goes missing.

Lock up everything – Place materials and tools in heavy-duty sheds secured with a combination of a mortise lock and a high-security hasp with a strong padlock. A simple padlock alone offers little security. Use wheel locks or immobilizers on movable equipment to make it harder to drive them away unauthorized. Secure the site’s perimeter with fencing, high-quality locks and alarms.

Get to know the neighbors – Introduce yourself to neighboring home and business owners and take time for the occasional chat. The better your rapport with them, the more likely they are to look out for your property and alert authorities when necessary. Being neighborly also cuts down on noise and dust complaints.

For more experienced-based tips on preventing construction site theft, contact us at Construction Monitor.

The Rise of Drones on Construction Sites

Remote control flying drones have taken on an additional role in construction in recent years. Drone use in construction has the potential to improve the performance of construction teams and boost overall profitability and efficiency, notes reporter Will Knight in an article on the website of the MIT Technology Review. Even so, drone use in construction also has a controversial side that could lead to objections by workers.

drone use in constructionDrone Use in Construction: The Positives

The types of drones used in construction projects are usually the smaller, boxy drones with three or more propellers. These drones can be flown vertically or horizontally and controlled with considerable precision by a remote operator. The positives that these drones bring to construction sites include:

  • Better project management: Drones can fly over a construction site and take multiple pictures and videos that can then be converted to a three-dimensional picture of the site. This image can be compared to drawings, plans, and expectations to ensure progress is on time, or to identify areas where troubles might occur.
  • Improved efficiency: Drones can be used to monitor the progress of a construction project as well as the day-to-day activities of the workers on the site. With a drone, managers can see how well and effectively employees are working and if there are areas where bottlenecks occur or where efficiency can be improved.
  • Increased safety: Drone video footage can help managers identify safety violations or areas where safety may be a concern.

Drone Use in Construction: The Negatives

Some believe that using drones to monitor construction activities is an invasion of privacy, or at the very least, the imposition of an unacceptable level of surveillance on employees and construction teams. Drone surveillance could be used in an intimidating way to urge employees to work more hours.

Construction Monitor provides industry professionals, managers, and owners with information that helps expand businesses, including coverage of the latest developments in construction technology. Contact us today for more information on the development of drone use in construction and how drones can help you maintain a more efficient and better-organized building project.

How BIM Can Help Create Safer Construction Sites

Streamlined collaboration and faster project completion aren’t the only benefits of BIM. Modeling software can also help you create a safer working environment. Using BIM for a safe construction site helps reduce injuries and illness, protecting your workers’ well-being and saving you money.

Focus Your Preparation

using BIM for a safe construction siteEvery project involves hundreds of tasks, each with its own potential complications. A general overview of the project won’t provide you with the detailed information you need to spot all these risks. Using BIM, you’ll be able to focus in on one task at a time, closely review the risks involved, and take steps to minimize them before work starts. If you notice usual risks, you’ll have time to provide your workers with a refresher on safety procedures. As an added benefit, this kind of detailed preparation also improves efficiency.

Visualize Working Conditions

Even for experienced construction professionals, it can be hard to envision exactly what conditions will be like on a given site. BIM lets managers and workers alike explore a 3D version of the site so they can prepare for the conditions there before they meet them in real life.

By using BIM for a safe construction site, you can ensure your workers will be equipped with proper safety gear, have the right tools for every task they’ll perform, and that the schedule includes sufficient time for the breaks necessary in certain weather conditions. You’ll also be able to run through your emergency procedures for fires or chemical spills.

Spot Hazards Early

While some risks are inevitable, others are completely avoidable and can be removed or mitigated before workers ever arrive on site. Incorrectly erected scaffolding can be re-erected, open holes can be guarded, and material mounded too close to the edge of a trench can be moved. These simple preventive measures can save lives, but to take them, you need to know where the hazards are in the first place. Building modeling software gives you the vantage point you need to do this.

For more tips on using BIM for a safe construction site, contact Construction Monitor today.

New Report: 2016 Construction Continues to Grow

In the last several years, US construction industry growth rates have shown a general upward trend. Thanks in part to overall economic growth, this year is shaping up to bring more of the same favorable environment for your firm.

More Residential Building

US construction industry growth ratesAccording to data from Dodge Data & Analytics, U.S. construction is set to see a gain of 6 percent over the course of the year. Certain segments of the industry are especially likely to benefit. The market for single-family homes is one of these. With mortgages easier to obtain and would-be home buyers gaining confidence, the amount spent on single-family homes is predicted to increase by 20 percent. Investments in home renovations, particularly of luxury homes, will further add to the gains you’ll see in this area.

Multifamily housing has been a booming market recently, and while growth in that market is likely to slow down some, the market will continue to advance. The expected 7 percent increase in spending on multifamily housing is still a positive even if it isn’t quite the abundance of the past few years when growth rates rose above 10 percent.

The overall trend is for the rate of expansion in the multifamily housing market to ease while growth in the single-family housing market picks up momentum.

Modest Growth in Commercial and Public Buildings

The commercial building segment is also expected to improve. Technology and finance firms are flourishing in today’s economy, and many are seeking room to expand. Their demand for office space is a large part of what’s fueling an anticipated 11 percent increase in commercial building.

In the institutional building segment, Dodge Data & Analytics figures predict a spending increase of 9 percent. Much of this comes from the increased demand for K-12 schools brought on by a recent improvement in financing options for these facilities.

Public works, on the other hand, aren’t fairing so well, and little growth will be seen in the coming year outside of environmental public works, such as water treatment facilities.

To find out about US construction industry growth rates in more detail, contact Construction Monitor.