|Building Your Dream Theater: Step 1 – Assembling Your Team|
|Home Theater Feature Articles Other|
|Written by Brian Kahn|
|Sunday, 01 May 2005|
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Once you have narrowed it down to a few firms, its time to do some background investigation work. Check with the American Institute of Architects to find your local governing body. Contact them and check on the architect’s license and see if there have been any complaints filed. You should also ask for a copy of their insurance policy. They should have a policy in place equal to or greater than the value of your project. Lastly, check the court dockets for the areas in which the firms are located and build homes and find out if they are a party to any lawsuits. If so, that does not necessarily disqualify them, but you will want to ask what happened.
Assuming that your home theater designer/installer is not also a general contractor, you will need to hire a contractor for the construction aspect of the job. If you already have an architect and/or home theater company on board, ask for references. If you can find someone who already has a good working relationship with your team, you are a step ahead of the game.
Contractors generally fall into two groups, general contractors and sub or specialty contractors. The basic difference between the two categories is that a general contractor is licensed to do a wide variety of construction work, whereas a specialty or subcontractor is usually licensed to perform work in only one or two fields, such as plumbing or electrical.
In addition to referrals, you can check up on potential contractors by checking your local licensing association (in California, it is the Contractors State License Board) to check on license standing and complaints. The local Better Business Bureau, court dockets and of course the Internet are also other good ways to check up on prospective contractors. You will also want to make sure that the contractors have workers’ compensation and general liability insurance.
When checking out a contractor’s referrals, ask for homeowner and industry referrals. When speaking with homeowners, be sure to ask about things like whether the contractor performed the work on time and on budget, was responsive to inquiries and whether the job site was clean and well organized. When speaking with other contractors, ask how many jobs they have done together and what types of jobs they were, whether there were any problems, and if so, how were they dealt with? Was everyone paid in a timely manner?
Price is also going to be a factor in hiring a contractor, but it should not be the only or perhaps even the main factor. A low bid does not guarantee that this particular contractor will be the least expensive in the end. A bid that is significantly lower than those of other contractors should raise suspicion. Be leery if a contractor is willing to prepare bids before seeing at least rough plans. The contractors should ask you for a set of plans and will ideally inspect the house to see what conditions and finishes they will have to work with, as these can greatly affect the cost of construction. Get a breakdown of all the bids you receive, as some may include different things. Try to get all of your bids to be identical in scope, as this is an area where an architect can come in handy by managing the bid process and responding to the contractors’ questions to help ensure the accuracy of the bids.
The most exciting hire will probably be that of your home theater designer. Just because we got to this profession last does not mean that the home theater designer should be the last one hired; in fact, the home theater designer should definitely be brought on board prior to plans being drafted if at all possible. A good place to start your search for a home theater designer is by checking with your favorite home theater store and the Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association (CEDIA) for referrals. The home theater designer will have to work within the parameters that the architect or builder sets. In some cases, the architect can modify the parameters given with input from the designer. Within those parameters, the HT designer will have to design and instruct his or her other contractors on what to do.
There are advantages and disadvantages in hiring a home theater designer affiliated with a store. If you need electronics, this situation can provide a one-stop solution and perhaps even a price break, as you are spending money on the store’s design and installation services. On the other hand, home theater designers tied into a store may be pressured into using or selling certain brands which may or may not be the best for your particular needs.