Construction worker looking over commercial project plans.

When business owners get bids for commercial renovation projects or new construction, budget is almost always a major concern. And, while most responsible business people will look to save money when it’s practical, there is a right way and wrong way to approach potential cost savings. The decisions you make upfront will have a huge impact on the quality and value of the finished product, and cutting corners can come with many hidden, additional costs that you may not have considered.

Here are some of the common ways that people cut corners on commercial construction projects and the potential problems that can result.

Bottom Dollar Contractors and Subcontractors May Be Too Good To Be True

There are many reasons why choosing a general contractor or construction company based on price alone is never a good idea, and unfortunately, the construction industry has its fair share of questionable companies and individuals. So, if you receive four bids for a particular job and one is substantially lower than the rest, you certainly want to take a closer look at the details and fine print before making your final decision.

Beware Contractors That Try To Undercut or Focus Solely on Price

If a contractor’s primary selling point is low price, that should raise some red flags. (But, remember, that’s not to say that the lowest bid can’t come from a highly qualified and reputable company…just do your research!) Every business owner wants to be economical, especially when it comes to major investments like building or renovating their commercial property. However, be sure to closely examine bids, and, when needed, ask for clarification in order to make an accurate comparison.

Undercutting is a tactic sometimes used by contractors to win a job by any means necessary. Playing on the clients’ desire to save money and make profitable investments in their business, unscrupulous contractors may give a rock bottom number, even if it’s not realistic for the scope of the project. This often leads to issues, such as ill-advised shortcuts and utilizing cheaper materials than the client was led to believe, and these types of choices can compromise the safety and value of the investment. 

Skimping on safety measures can be dangerous for both workers on the job site and the future inhabitants of the facility. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) offers guidance regarding many aspects of the construction industry, but always be sure to check with your local regulatory authorities to ensure regulatory compliance.

If a contractor who is preparing a quote is quick to ask about other bids you’ve received, this could be a telltale sign they are looking to undercut. An experienced and trustworthy contractor can provide an honest and accurate bid without knowing where others came in. Now, if they ask to review details later in the process so they can be sure you’re “comparing apples to apples” that is certainly legitimate. But, it’s important to recognize when they may be trying to earn your business simply by giving you the lowest bid.

Inexperienced Contractors Can Overlook Critical Aspects

It’s possible that when a bid that seems too good to be true, it isn’t necessarily due to intentional deception but rather a lack of accounting for all the necessary work and construction materials. In this case, typically one of two things is going to happen; either the general contractor is going to require substantial additional costs to modify the project while it’s in progress, or you’ll be left with a subpar final product that may not meet your needs. Obviously, neither of these situations are ideal. Don’t discount the value of established, reputable construction professionals who are able to identify and anticipate the challenges that may arise.

Quality Construction Requires Quality Materials

Sometimes the decision to cut corners comes from the client’s side of the equation. In the interest of seeking out cost savings anywhere possible, business owners may be influenced to choose cheap materials or bypass features that could enhance the overall value of the project. In this instance, it’s up to the contractor in regard to whether or not they want to proceed if the client’s choices are blatantly against their better judgment. Contractors never want to turn down work, but if they are putting their name and reputation on a project, they want it to reflect well upon them.

Choosing quality materials doesn’t mean you need to splurge on marble countertops and luxury wood flooring, but areas like roofing materials shouldn’t be sacrificed for the sake of negligible savings. Cheap window choices could result in poorer insulation and high energy costs. An HVAC system that isn’t adequate for the structure could also result in higher energy costs, as well as the potential need for replacement much sooner than expected.

Build With the Best

The best decision you can make for the investment in your commercial facility is to work with a general contractor that has a track record of honest, quality work. Be sure to ask for several references, ideally for projects that are somewhat similar to yours, and keep an unwavering focus on avoiding companies who are cutting corners on their commercial construction projects.

Where do you start?

The Builders Association of Eastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania is a valuable resource for finding contractors you can trust. The Builders’ membership is made up of experienced, highly skilled union workers that receive the best training and education available. If you have an upcoming commercial project in the region, be sure to reference the organizational Member Directory for a list of specialists that will deliver the results you’re looking for.