- Set a garage budget and stick to it
Make sure you know how much you can comfortably spend on your new garage. This invaluable piece of information will help you make all subsequent decisions.
- Be specific about what you want your garage to do
Do you want a carport or a full garage? Will your garage be attached or detached from your house? How many cars should it accommodate? Would you like extra space for storage or a workshop? Do you need plumbing in the garage? Would you like a floor drain?
Create a list of essentials before you get your first estimate so you don't lose sight of your basic needs along the way.
- Decide who will design the garage
You can contract a separate architect or designer to design your garage, look for a builder who also designs, or buy a prefabricated structure that your builder will assemble. Each option has its advantages and disadvantages.
Only you can decide — and perhaps only after meeting with builders — what will work best for you. If you contract with a separate architect, make sure that you get a specifications list so prospective builders can make an accurate estimate on what their job will include.
- Get at least three estimates
Each prospective builder should be able to give you a thorough estimate so you can compare the costs of labor and materials.
- Look for garage contractors who specialize in what you want
Though most general contractors can build garages, it's best to look for someone who specializes in this kind of work.
Ask about experience. Do your homework on potential contractors and ask if they are licensed. Ask how long each builder has been in business and review examples of their previous work.
- Check references from previous customers
Ask for references from builders and follow up on them. When you speak with their references, don't just ask about general satisfaction. Find out whether a builder finishes jobs on time and within close range of the original estimate. Ask how problems, even small ones, were handled.
- Ask for proof of insurance
Confirm the builder's insurance. Any contractor should have personal liability, worker's compensation and property damage insurance.
- Evaluate customer service
Evaluate your rapport with each contractor. How's the customer service? Do you understand all explanations? When you meet or speak with a builder, pay attention to your first impressions. Are your interactions with them positive or negative?
- Understand the contract
Take a look at a sample contract or template. Make sure it includes a specific description of the work to be done, payment schedule, start date, and the estimated completion date. Does it have a guarantee?
Find out when each garage builder would be able to start and complete your job. Though you must, of course, allow for some flexibility in an estimate, make sure the start and completion dates are reasonable and will work with your schedule.
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