How to Find and Choose the Right General Contractor for Your Remodel or Home Build Project
Any new homeowner will soon find that with homeownership comes many new responsibilities and a potential multitude of necessary or desired, although unfamiliar, undertakings. A general contractor can help you with anything related to home improvement, handling everything from new construction, to renovation, remodeling, painting, electrical, woodworking, plumbing, flooring, roofing, and siding, among other jobs. A good contractor will oversee your home project to ensure efficiency and expertly done work, from start to finish.
To make your project a success, you’ll need to know how to source and hire the right contractor who is up to the task. Your goal should be to hire a quality professional who can complete your project on schedule while ensuring the outcome is both highly attractive and fully functional. To save you headaches down the road, this is a decision which should not be taken lightly, as getting the job done right the first time will save money on future repairs or adjustments.
A general contractor will provide all necessary materials, labor, services, and equipment for a job. While some general contractors specialize in specific projects, like painting houses or roofing, others are more multifaceted. It’s expected that a general contractor will likely hire independent contractors as necessary for specific tasks, for example, plumbers, electricians, landscapers, flooring and tile installers, and so on. The general contractor will know the processes of each of these subcontractors, what the workmanship they’re doing should look like, and will take responsibility for supervising them, reviewing the quality of their work, and paying them as necessary. Choosing and determining when to enlist the right vetted subcontractors for a project is a crucial skill of an experienced contractor, in order to ensure that jobs are completed on time, on budget, and to the customer’s satisfaction.
A good contractor will also know what materials are available in your area and the people who sell them, will be able to ensure their quality, and know which are proven and tested in any given set of conditions, and will of course be able to properly deliver and store them.
Having established the function of a general contractor and also the importance of hiring a true professional, the following process and tips will help as you search for and select the best contractor for your project.
The first step is to determine the scope of the project you are looking to accomplish. Once you have identified the particular parameters for the specific work that is needed, as well as the preferred timeline for completion, and your budgetary considerations, you can finally begin your search for the ideal person for the job.
Start researching potential options by asking for recommendations and referrals from trusted friends, family, and neighbors who have already had similar work done for them. Be sure to ask what in particular made it a positive experience for them, what if any were the challenges they faced, and how the specific contractor handled problems as they arose. Would they use the same contractor again? Once you have exhausted your own network, begin to search online for reputable contractors in your area, checking their reviews and ratings, with a specific eye to those who are experienced in the areas relevant to your project.
The next step is to make sure that the contractors (and eventually, their subcontractors) on your list are licensed, bonded, and insured professionals. Whether it's with a phone call or a visit to the contractor's website, determine that the contractor is indeed licensed and certified to do the work in your area. Verify this by checking with your state's licensing board and local municipalities. Make sure as well that the contractor is properly insured and bonded. You can ask the contractor for a certificate of insurance, or COI, which should list the name of the insurance company, the policy number, and limits carried by the contractor. You can even contact the insurance company directly to verify that the coverage is still in effect. Avoid doing business with any contractor who does not have appropriate insurance coverage. If they are not insured, it is unfortunately you who could be liable for accidents that occur on your property. You’ll want to be sure they have liability and worker's compensation insurance in case of damage or accidents during construction.
Once you have sourced and vetted your list of contractors, now is the time to reach out to them, making sure you get along with them and that you have a good vibe from speaking with them. Remember that you’re hiring this person primarily for a service, and quality of the service is paramount to making sure you end up with an outcome that makes you happy. Be sure that they answer all questions in a warm and professional manner and that your values are aligned with the way they seem to run their business. Do they have prompt and personal communication? Ultimately, on some level, you will need to trust your gut with this stage of the vetting process, but make sure they are experienced with the type of project and the look you’re hoping to achieve.
When you speak with them you’ll want to know how long they’ve been in business, their experience with the type of project you need done, if they already have the necessary permits and licenses, if they have references, a rough estimate of the cost and timeline, and of course to make sure they are insured. Contractors should themselves be asking a lot of questions as they prepare for their quote. Know in advance as much as possible what permits are required and what regulations need to be followed for the project, even though the contractor or architect will be responsible for applying for and acquiring all necessary permits.
Make sure you have an agreed upon channel to communicate going forward, whether that is by phone, text, or email. You don’t want to be micromanaging things, but it’s helpful to be aligned on a set cadence for communication, so you can touch base and check on progress without it consuming too much of your time, or theirs. 88 Builders Group generally recommends weekly or bi-monthly check-ins, depending on the project.
After you’ve conducted these interviews, ask yourself how you felt about their communication. Was it prompt, professional, positive, and friendly? Did they seem knowledgeable and experienced in the area of your project? These are good signs indicative of a good fit.
In the previous step, you asked contractors for references from previous clients who have had similar work done. Now you’ll want to follow up with these references and ask about their experiences working with the contractor.
Find out, if possible, how their work came out. Inquire into the quality of their materials, workmanship, communication, and their customer service. Did they complete the project on time and on budget? Were they pleased with the outcome or were there things they wish had been done differently?
Now that you have basically narrowed down the list of candidates to those who appear to be the most professional and experienced in the area of your project, set up meetings on the phone or in person and request a quote to compare pricing and services. Make sure that these quotes are for the same scope of work and materials so that you can make an accurate comparison between estimates.
Try to keep this to about three contenders, because this way you will have a high, low, and middle bid, and generally speaking, evaluating more than that number can just lead to more confusion.
Be wary of estimates that appear too low or too high and don’t forget you usually get what you pay for. A bid that’s very low will likely be using cheaper materials or may do less professional work, and you could pay more for that later on. Ask for an itemized list of materials and compare these, with work methods and timelines.
Ultimately, you are going to want to hire someone who is based locally. A local contractor will almost invariably be easier to deal with if issues arise during construction or down the line, and they should be familiar with building codes in your area, so make sure you get their local, permanent physical mailing address, e-mail, cell number, and all other forms of communication.
Before signing any contract, review it very carefully to make sure that it includes all of the details of the project. That should include line itemizations for specialty materials, the total cost, payment terms, the contractor’s license number, project description, and all names and contact information for both parties involved.
After you’ve signed your contract, continue to keep track of all project related documents either physically or digitally. This means the contract, contact information, payments, receipts, e-mails, and anything else related to the project.
It’s the unfortunate reality that with any project, one should be prepared for some reasonable delays or possible changes, for example, upon unforeseen circumstances, such as seeing a problem after the walls have been opened up. As this is real life, you should be psychologically prepared to some degree for the unexpected, however, if you did your due diligence and went through the above steps to select the contractor who seemed best for the job, they should be able to navigate you through any rough waters without too much stress or difficulty.
Ultimately, we of course hope you will choose the team of qualified and experienced professionals at 88 Builders Group for your home building or remodeling needs, but by following these steps, our tips, and doing your due diligence, you can increase the chances of choosing the right contractor for your specific remodeling project, wherever, whenever, and whatever you are dreaming of accomplishing.