When a building plan is specified- where everything from light fixtures, faucets, appliances, flooring materials, the style of switches and receptacles, counter top material, backsplash heights, window types, ect are indicated on the plan- each contractor will be submitting a bid based on the same information. In many cases a customer will hand to a group of contractors a plan which has not been specified and these contractors will then interpret this plan to their liking and subsequently submit bids that will vary wildly. These bids will be hard to compare because they were not comprised using the exact same information. To be able to accurately compare bids a customer will want to be very specific with regards to the details of the plans. Some contractors, regretful to say, see an unspecified building plan as a gold mine of future costly change orders and will neglect to inform the owner of these planning deficiencies. The main point being made here is however you decide to plan your project, be it with or without the help of a design professional, take the time to be as detailed and specific as you can before you start the bidding and building process.
When a contractor receives an unspecified building plan with a request to bid he is faced with a dilemma. He can approach this bid in more than one way. One method is to bid low- just to get the contract- knowing that he can charge the customer for each and every change that was not addressed in the planning stages. Another way is the QLR Electric way which is to comprise and use a Pre-Bid Check List (mentioned in the next paragraph) to answer as many questions as possible before the bidding and construction begins. This hopefully will eliminate, or at least greatly reduce the number of costly change orders during the job. Most customers really appreciate this.
Keeping track of all the decisions which must be made during the planning stage is no easy task. We here at QLR Electric use a Pre-Bid Check List. This list is designed to answer all of the electrical questions we need answered before we feel comfortable starting a job. Ideally, a remodeler would have a much larger list than our Pre-Bid Check List that would include everything from floor to ceiling. A home owner who is planning a remodel could make a list like this by merely thinking it through form floor to ceiling very carefully.
General contractors, when presented with a plan to bid will in turn ask for a bid from more than one subcontractor in each trade. If these subcontractors have questions about the plan which require a job site visit because some things were not addressed in the plan then you may be in for numerous strangers coming to your home to find an answer that could easily have been included in the plan.
One of the details that is typically left out of residential remodeling plans is the electrical system's capability to handle any additional electrical load that will be placed on it. Newer codes require more circuits than what many structures were built with some decades ago. Electricians need to know some things about the existing electrical panels- the load center panel with all of the individual circuit breakers, and the main service panel where the utility meter is located- before they can present a bid to do the work. The top two pictures at left are good examples of an existing load center showing all of the circuit breakers, and a manufacturers door label located on the inside of the door. This label shows the manufacturer and the model number. For a better explanation of panel labels see Panels and Added Circuits. The bottom picture shows the electrical meter directly above the gas meter, which can be an issue with the utility company if you wish to upgrade the electrical service to a higher amperage. These pictures have been compressed for use on a web site, but when you include pictures like these with your plans they should be left in their original high resolution. Use a decent camera, and not a cell phone, to take these pictures as this type of thing is very helpful.