Friday, October 22, 2021

Six Things to Consider Before Starting an Improvement or Remodel Project


Maintenance, improvement or remodeling projects can be fulfilling, challenging or stressful.

All of these projects involve time, research and most importantly, spending money for quality on time work performance.

Making sure that you are prepared for any of these involves considering and anticipating who, what, when and how.

Here are six important things you can do to prepare before starting that project:

1.       Understand your role and where you fit in the respective project’s process

 Are you an amateur? Where you have little or no experience. You should probably rely on qualified professionals such as a Professional Owners Representative or Consultant to provide professional help and advice for the overall project and management.

 Are you desperate? When you have a Leaky roof, plumbing leaks or clogs, etc. Be careful and don’t be pressured by unscrupulous resources. If you know a resource who successfully completed a project for you in the past call him/her and if they are too busy ask them to give you a referral. If not, try to get at least two (preferably three) solutions to your problem from qualified resources.  In the case of a property damage issue such as a plumbing or roof leak contact a respective local supply store and ask them for the name of a couple good contractors. 

Unscrupulous vs Scrupulous: When I had a plumbing leak under my kitchen sink one of the contractors I called said that my entire P Trap (an expensive repair cost) had to be replaced but a second contractor simply used his wrench to tighten the pipe coupling to stop the leak without charging me because the P Trap replacement was not necessary.

Are you a novice? You have some experience but it is limited. Consider using self-help services such as or a qualified Construction or Project Manager for assistance, advice or overall project management.

It is relatively easy to find resources but it can be difficult and time consuming deciding on the right resource to hire because cost should not be the only driving factor. Knowing resource credentials is important such

·       License number and expiration date (when applicable)

·       Certificate of Insurance (on larger projects naming you as additionally insured)

·       Portfolio of similar completed project to your proposed project

·       In some cases a CV or resume of the resources principal(s)

·       If your project will be bonded you need to see the resources bonding rate, capacity and work on hand.  This information is useful when comparing bids or qualifying resources. For example: The lower the bonding rate the lower the risk as determined by the bonding company and the work on hand plus your contract amount should not exceed the bonding capacity. Reference “Construction Management Made Easy

This information is instantly available for registered Service Providers

Other Resource finding tips: 

If your project is located in a Home Owners Association or Commercial Building ask the Property Manager for a referral to qualified resources they have had a successful experience with.

Most States have a Contractors Licensing Board with a list of qualified and licensed contractors. You can usually search their data bases by license number or name Planning Projects -

Internet Lead generating companies and Searches - But be careful here because too often people employ resources from these companies without knowing what service they need, some idea of costs, if a license is needed for their specific project, securing certificates of insurance with valid expiration dates, any applicable lien laws, how to pay for performance, expected and acceptable quality understanding, completion timeliness, and more depending on the scope of your project. 

2.       Ask yourself these questions – Don’t enter into an agreement until you feel comfortable with this knowledge:

·       Can it be repaired?

·       Is remodeling the best or only way?

·       How much am I willing to spend?

·       How long will it take?

·       What is the best time to start my project?

·       What is the best time to complete my project?

·       Know your local licensing laws such as who must be licensed? For example: The State of Hawaii allows unlicensed work if the work is equal to or less than $1,500.

·       Know you the prevailing regulation for making advance payments to resources.  For example: The State of California limits advance payment at the time of contract signing to 10% of the total estimated job cost or $1,000, whichever amount is lower! All payments thereafter are supposed to be made for work performed or for materials delivered to the job site.

·       What kind of help do I need?

3.   Know what you can afford - Avoid disappointment and unrealistic expectations by knowing what you will be spending before you start your project.  Here are the most common ways of figuring out how much you need to spend for your project or how much it should cost:

a.       Get firm bids from all trades, resources, materials and equipment providers before starting the work.  This involves using RFPs (Request for Proposals) and getting Bids;

b.      Estimate all trade costs, resources, materials and equipment needed before starting the project; or

c.       A combination of bids and estimates for all trade costs, resources, materials and equipment; and

d.      Determine how much contingency is enough for your project.  This is covered in the publication “Construction Management Made Easy

The better your RFP requirements the better will be your bids.’s digital RFP templates include RFP essentials and plenty of options for your specific communication and project needs. And the RFP can be linked directly with a Bid Template for fast and easy bid response.’s digital Bid templates can be created with an optional Agreement, and sent to the potential clients for negotiation and/or approval in minutes.

4.       Hire the right people for your project - It is essential to have the right builder or remodeler, but also make sure you have trustworthy support resources to help you thru the planning, costing, contracting, performance and payment processes from project inception to completion and even thru the one year inspection. allows Construction professionals, to add and share their free Service Provider profiles with commonly needed essential pre-hiring credentials.  This makes it easy for potential clients to make/expedite hiring decisions to hire the right builder, remodeler or resource.  These Service Provider profiles can be shared with your respective insurance agent, home owner association, construction lender, etc. to further expedite project approvals.

5.       Prepare yourself emotionally - Remodeling or improving a property, like any major life event, comes with emotional highs and lows. You’re not alone – many people and businesses experience this as they go through the building process for any size project. Stay positive, be guided by the contract documents, and be willing to be firm and fair.

Whether you are an Armature builder, in a desperate situation needing emergency help, novice builder, owner’s representative, professional, or student offers an array of easy to use templates and services.  And the company never refuses service for lack of funds.

If you think that you are not getting the right information and want a second opinion Contact Us. provides free advice. It is sometimes possible to preview your problem using your cell phone camera wherein we can give you instant free advice or suggestions on how to proceed with you project.

6.     Keep everything in writing – If decisions are made orally send a confirming email of the discussion, record observations and discussions on you cell phone, write memos to the file with date and time, and demand written contracts and project documentation. has a messaging feature during the RFP and Bidding processes and also an easy fill Work Report to track work progress and important activities and events.


W. Gary and Taemi Westernoff (2011) Construction like Sushi

W. Gary Westernoff (1998) Construction Management Made Easy Glossary


Understanding Budgets, Estimates, Bids, Quotes and Proposals and how and when to use them


Budget is how much money one has, expects, and is prepared to spend on the entire project. 

The budget is usually prepared by the Project Owner with assistance from knowledgeable people and/or construction professionals.  Budgets require planning and/or a clear understanding of the scope of work.

Budget (Construction Budget)

1. An itemized summary of estimated or intended expenditures for a given period of time.

2. The total sum of money allocated for a specific project.

The budget usually includes a value for each major line item and contingency depending on the phase of the project when the Budget is prepared.  As the project progresses the actual costs incurred are compared.  This enables the project owner the opportunity to adjust work as allowable by the respective project contract documents.


Here is a fast and easy budget calculator for Leasehold or Tenant improvement projects.

          Source: to request a copy. 
         Also available for most Residential projects.

An essential part of any budget is to tabulate General Requirements.  Usually General Requirements are included as a percentage of the projected construction costs, but to tabulate these costs is much more accurate.

Here is a fast and easy calculator for any size project:


Table 3 is a simple Budget based on Quantity, Unit Cost, Unit Measure;  Table 4 includes a fixed  Budget column and a Forecast column for entering costs as they are incurred that calculates OVER or UNDER amounts; and Table 5 calculates Total Contingency percentage values at various Phases of the work. 


Source: Construction Management Made Easy

General Requirement Calculation is available at:

Estimates Are usually prepared with a clear understanding of the ewers' requirements  and are subject to change as new information surfaces. They detail cost expectations and scheduling information that is crucial for project success and a s sound working relationship.

For example: an estimate can get blown when they discover asbestos, old wiring, or even building department special requirements.

Additionally estimates provide a high-level overview and understanding of:

1.   The work necessary to complete the project

2.   The Project scope to broadly explain each known component and service required for the project and what they  entail

3.   The timelines and completion dates to manage project expectations

4.  Inclusions and Exclusions to avoid disputes later


TIP! Create an estimate for every new project…Gives real meaning to the information and expectations.

Bids comprise calculated costs and time by taking off information from construction documents prepared by the project owner or prime contractor usually requested by RFPs (Request for proposals) or a clear scope of work. RFP’s can be given to a selected pre-qualified group of bidders or open to the public.

For example: A project owner looking for suitable constrictors to complete a project. They will detail what they need and make these requirements available using an RFP (Request for Proposal).

Here is a very easy and fast way of requesting Bids:


Companies can been on the projects by specifying their bid amount based on the terms of the RFP.  The project owner compares the bids and selects the successful bidder.

Tip!  Include wording in the RFP giving you the right to refuse any or all bids.  Opens the door to negotiate because sometimes the lowest bidder is not necessarily the bid contractor for the project.

Tip! When six or more bids are received delete the high and low bids and calculate the average of the remaining bids.  Gives you a good idea of the market value for the project.

Tip! If you have pre-qualified the Bidder and you are comfortable with his/her capabilities you my want save the cost of the bond.  But it is a good idea to determine if the bidder is Bondable, what his/her Bonding Rate is, and with his/her Bonding Capacity is when qualifying the Bidder.  

Sub-contractors will often submit bids to a prime or general contractor to complete a specific part of the project. And those bids may be included in the Bid to the Owner.

 Here is a very easy and fast way of submitting a Bid:

Quotes offer a fixed price for a project or item subject to acceptance within a specific time frame or expiration date.  For example: “This quote is valid for 30 calendar days from the date issued or this quote expires on [date]”.

Once the client accepts the quote you have to complete the work or delivers the item as detailed in the quote and at the quoted price. Therefore, it is important to compile a quote with a thorough understanding of what you are quoting.

While quotes should always be in writing it is not uncommon get or give quotes over the telephone. Here is a checklist of the most common information collected for a quote.

Source: Construction Management Made Easy

Proposals include information contained in estimates, quotes and bids while showcasing the value that you can offer a prospective client to establish trust. Clients will often provide details of what they expect in the proposal or ask, at your discretion, to offer suggestions, advice and solutions that will help their project succeed. Proposals are put together to win a client’s business at the start of a new relationship often in competition with several others. Therefore, it is essential to construct an excellent proposal and showcase value and include supporting information to establish credibility. More specifically proposals detail scope of work, timelines, deliverables, and costs or investment requirements.

Value such as saving the client money, helping them make more money, or saving them time.

Supporting information

Such as client testimonials, reviews, resumes, professional credentials, and insurance information including examples of past work. 

Tip! Include a protection clause to prevent your hard work from being used if you don’t get the project.

I understand that any proposal documents, forms and/or procedures submitted to me by [your name] shall remain the property of [your name] whether the project or service for which they are made is executed or not, these documents are not to be used by me or any other party on other projects or extensions to this project or service without the express written consent of [your name].


Comments and Questions Welcome!

Friday, October 1, 2021

Very powerful tools help prepare RFPs and Bids in minutes


Getting more than just a price! Because good RFPs give you the confidence and knowledge of knowing you will get a meaningful response(s) to your requests. 

Here are four acronyms commonly used in the Construction Industry when seeking costs, pricing or solutions and where they are commonly used:


BAFO - Best and Final Offer – A request to one bidder/proposer or short-listed group of bidders/proposers for their best price(s) for a specific solicitation prior to determining a contract award.

RFI – Request for Information – This is usually used during the design or construction phase or during the RFP negotiating phrase primarily for clarification purposes.

RFP – Request for Proposal - A written request from the requestor (usually the owner or a contractor) to a contractor, design professional or subcontractor for an estimate or cost proposal. The RFP usually contains a specific scope of work.

RFQ – Request for Price Quote - Also known as an Invitation for Bid (IFB) is used for soliciting price quotes and bids for the chance to fulfill certain tasks for projects from selected suppliers and contractors.

 RFPs 101  


  • Where the request requires professional expertise or a building construction specialty
  • Where the product or service being requested is not currently included or under a contract
  • When one requires research, development or a solution to create whatever is being requested.


  • Informs potential bidders of a procurement opportunity.
  • Alerts bidders that the selection process is competitive.
  • Presents preliminary requirements for the bid being requested
  • Allows for an open (wide distribution) or a closed (narrow) response
  • Ensures that all bidders respond factually to the identified requirements
  • Infers impartiality - that the bidding process is expected to follow a structured evaluation and selection procedure, a crucial factor in public works projects


PROJECT LOCATION – This is a description of where the project is located or the actual address.

PROJECT DOCUMENTS OR IMAGAGES – Any applicable documents such as drawings and specifications that cannot be covered in the Description of the Work and/or the Scope of Work.

PROPOSAL DELIVERY INSTRUCTIONS – Where, who, where and how to respond to the RFP

TYPE OF PROPOSAL REQUESTED - Options include Lump Sum, Time and Material, Not to Exceed, and Other

Provide unit percentage fees for; or Adding (MORE) labor and materials and deducting (LESS) labor and materials

In the event more or less labor or materials will be needed/not needed to complete your  project it is good to know, in advance, how much you will be charged for such changes.

Unit percentage is the percentage rate the contractor will charge in addition to the actual cost of the labor and materials on added or deducted items.  For example: The unit percentages have been established as 5% for more (additive) work and 2% for less (deductive) work. You have decided to remove (deduct) the carpet from the contract amount.  The contractor will prepare a change order request to deduct the cost of the carpet including installation costs plus 2%.  And if you were adding the carpet to the contract the contractor would prepare a change order proposal to add the cost of the carpet including installation costs plus 5%.

It is not uncommon for deductive (LESS) unit percentages to be 0% because some contractors feel that they have already spent time and energy on the item and therefore do not want to return any part of their markup on deductive items.

ALTERNATE BIDS OR ALLOWANCES - When budgets are tight it is not uncommon to request alternate prices or allowances for components, materials and/or equipment.  And sometimes the contractor will submit a bid with his own proposed Alternates or Allowances.

Alternates are useful when you need to compare prices for certain items or if you want to see if specified items can be substituted with an item of equal or better qualities for a lesser price. 

Allowances are useful when the component or item specified in unclear.  In this case an allowance (cost allowance) for the bid item will be included in the proposal and ultimately the contract.  When the actual substantiated cost of the component or item is obtained the following will occur:  If the cost is less than the allowance amount the owner would receive a credit for the difference; but if the cost is more than the allowance the contractor would be paid the additional amount. 


Starting Date/Time - This is your desired project starting date and/or time

Completion Date/Time - This is your desired project completion date and/or time; OR

Delivery Date/Starting Time - This is primarily for items being delivered to your project such as materials or equipment.

Include any lead time items and time needed - It is not uncommon for contractors or vendors to need time to receive items or equipment.  Some items need to be fabricated, are back ordered, or have shipping restrictions that take time.  Therefore, it is important to know what items require lead time and how much time because this information allows you to make a decision on possibly substituting the item(s) with something else or simply deleting it from the contract documents or scope of work.

Include the number of calendar days to complete the work - Use this section if the schedule is based on the number of days instead of an actual completion date.  “Calendar days” are consecutive days whereas “days” alone can be construed as meaning only “Working days. 

BONDING AND INSURANCE REQUIREMENTS – If a bond is necessary for your project select type of bond Bid Bond, Performance Bond, Payment Bond

Number of Parties to be named as additional insured - This is the number of people and/or entities you want named as additional insured’s on the certificates or insurance for your project such as the construction lender, contractor, Home owner Association, etc.  Usually parties involved in the project ask to be named as additional insured’s.


Always demand certificates of insurance, with your limits of insurance, from the contractor before he/she starts the work and examine the coverage expiration dates and being satisfied with the amount of coverage the policies offer; otherwise, you may incur considerable liability.


Limits of Insurance - These are the minimum insurance limits that you require for your project.  Your insurance underwriter, most likely, would be pleased to provide you with these limits. Generally, all construction contracts will have a section on insurance stating the property owner’s and contractor’s insurance obligations under the contract. The worksheets in this system only include contractor’s Insurance requirements.


Pre-Proposal Site Inspection - This is sometimes referred to as a “Pre-Bid Inspection” and as a rule, contractors insist on inspecting a project before submitting a cost proposal or bid because they want to familiarize themselves with the site to be satisfied that there are no existing conditions contrary to the RFP requirements and/or bidding documents.  And most property owners would insist on having such an inspection.  An example of a project not necessarily requiring a site inspection would be an emergency repair such as roof leaks or a faulty water heater repairs.

Inspection Date/Time - The is the date and time you want to hold the site inspection

Special Instructions – These are any special instructions or requirements for the site inspection.

Special Conditions – These are terms and conditions, which may be unique to small or home improvement projects. For larger and more complex projects Special Conditions are a part of the Contract Documents and usually take precedence over the Uniform General Conditions.  


You can choose to send RFPs to a single bidder, multiple short-listed selected bidders, or to the public for anyone to bid. A Bid Opening can be open (where the bidders are permitted to attend) or closed (where the bidders are not permitted to attend).

Depending on the scope of the work it may be desirable to follow a detailed bidder screening process to short list the bidders who should be invited for further rounds of negotiation. Screening processes may include bidder scoring models or internal discussions within the proposed bid


Here are the most common ways of bidding on projects:



  • Where the request requires professional expertise or a building construction specialty
  • Where the product or service being requested is not currently included or under a contract
  • When one requires research, development or a solution to create whatever is being requested.

PROJECT LOCATION - This is a description of the where the project is located or the actual address.


            Bid or Proposal Amount – The US Dollar amount proposed to successfully complete the                      work in accordance with the contract documents.

Deposit Required - Deposits usually equal the shipping costs of ordered items and do not include costs for labor and materials.  Deposits should be reasonable.

Advance Required - Advance payment amounts for contracts are generally regulated by local or state contracting agencies.  You can obtain these allowed advance amounts by contacting your respective local contractor’s licensing board.


Don’t confuse an advance with a deposit.  Deposits are generally for ordered items whereas an advance is an amount given to the contractor on the total contract amount. Don’t advance more than what is allowed by the local regulatory agencies which is usually a percentage of the contract amount.

COD Payments Required - When checked this means that COD payments are required.

FOB Job Site - When checked this means that the liability for the item(s) changes hands when they arrive and are accepted at the Job site.

FOB Installed - When checked this means that the liability for the item(s) changes hands upon completing and accepting the installation of the item.

FOB Factory - When checked this means that the liability for the item(s) changes hands upon leaving the respective manufacturing facility.

For more or additional work add cost plus (Percentage) - This is the unit percentage rate the contractor will charge in addition to the actual cost of the labor and materials on added (MORE) items.

For less or deductive work deduct cost plus (Percentage) - This is the unit percentage rate the contractor will charge in addition to the actual cost of the labor and materials on deducted (LESS) items.


Labor and Materials - This means that the cost of labor and materials have been included in the total cost.

Labor Only - This means that only the cost for labor has been included in the total cost.

Materials Only - This means that only the cost of the materials have been included in the total cost

Supply and Install - This means that the cost to supply and install the item(s) have been included in the total cost

Install Only - This means that the cost to install a particular item(s) only have been included in the total cost

Supply Only - This means that only the cost to supply the particular item(s) have been included in the total cost


Starting Date/Time - This is the project starting date and/or time

Completion Date/Time - This is project completion date and/or time

Delivery Date/Starting Time - This is the delivery and/or installation starting time for items such as materials or equipment

Other - These are any other terms and conditions that may apply to the agreement.

Work will be completed within - Use this section if the schedule is based on the number of days instead of an actual completion date above.  “Calendar days” are consecutive days whereas “days” alone can be construed as meaning only “working days”.

Lead Time Needed - This is the amount of lead time needed by the contractor or vendor for delivery of an item(s) or to begin the project.


Adjust your scheduled completion time based on any   lead-time requirements because this makes your schedule realistic and avoids conflicts.



QUALIFICATIONS OR EXCLUSIONS - Here is where you note anything to qualify your proposal such as clarifications; or if you are excluding any thing such as, but not necessarily limited to, items, components, activities, work, etc. from your proposal.  If you have any doubts or performance concerns list them in this section. For Example: If the completion or delivery time of an item compromises the requested completion time as set forth in the bidding documents it may be necessary to qualify the proposal by saying “the completion time is subject to receiving the (item) from the manufacturer by (Date)”.

Very powerful tools help prepare RFPs and Bids in minutes

RFPs and Quick Bids Powered by

These affordable proprietary RFP and Quick Bid tools from, a self-help mobile website provider since 1999. leverages the power and intelligence of these mobile RFPs and Quick Bid templates with the best end-to-end RFP management service to increase the completion speed of your RFP process by more than 50%. Not to mention without the need for paper products and your ability to immediately recover needed time and resources to focus on project priorities.



W. Gary and Taemi Westernoff (2011) Construction like Sushi

W. Gary Westernoff (1998) Construction Management Made Easy Glossary