How to Choose the " Best" General Contractor
Choosing a General Contractor to trust with your home renovation project will go very smoothly if you to take these simple steps… but you must follow through with all of them if you want real peace of mind.
In this post we will cover:
Asking for Referrals
Reach out to friends and family who have recently gone through renovations themselves and ask them for the contact information for contractors that they had a good experience with, but only if they would use them again. Your Registered Design Professional (RDP) can also be a good source of referrals for trustworthy trades people. A long standing reputation of success in the community is your primary goal when searching for a general contractor.
To find a qualified professional you’ll need to do some research, even with those names that were referred to you. Start by checking their business website and look for testimonials. Then verify that the contractor holds the required licenses from state and local municipalities. In addition, verify if they have membership within the professional organizations within their industry. Are they held in good standing..? Go to the Better Business Bureau website and make certain that there are no complaints filed against them.
Once you’ve done the preliminary checking, choose 2 or 3 companies with whom you will schedule interviews. They should bring a portfolio of work photos, and be ready to answer all of your questions. The more information you can share about your proposed project the more specific your interviewee can be with his or her answers.
The contractor that you are interviewing should also ask you several questions. Communication goes both ways and you want to see if this tentative working relationship is the right fit. Not all contractors are created equal; find out what your candidates have specialized in, and then ask to visit some of their project sites.
Most importantly, take your time. Get educated about the construction process and the different materials available. Spend time doing online exploration of the remodeling industry and keep notes for your own reference. Once you begin the work, you will have your research to fall back on if you need to question your contractor. Lastly, the best advice is just that…always question your contractor, no matter how well things appear to be going. You will need to understand if work is keeping to the timeline and the budget, and you need to understand why.
Once you have received a contractor’s references, you need to follow through and check them out. Call prior customers and ask them for some specifics about their renovation project, and whether the contractor and their sub-contractors were all respectful of your home and worked within the guidelines you laid out at the beginning of the project. Ask these prior customers whether their project was finished on time and on budget.
Business Management and Reputation
Verify that your contractor candidate:
Maintains a permanent mailing address, office phone number, voicemail, cell number, email address, support staff
Carries insurance to protect you from liability, and can produce copies of these documents to you and to your permit expediter
Is willing to take direction from your Design Professional; understands that any field changes must be approved by the licensed designer.
Continues to add to his or her knowledge by gaining certifications through education courses and trainings. Ask them if they carry any professional designation.
Upholds a good reputation within his or her community of trades people. Verify that they have been in good standing with the other trade organizations over the years, and have been using their current business name.
Your contractor of choice may have already given you a rough quote for the renovation project so that you could see if they’d be in the running for your remodeling budget. Now that you’ve chosen him or her, it’s time for detailed contracts to be prepared. You need to scrutinize the documents and know that they look professional.
It would be beneficial if your Design Professional would agree to review the contract for you as well. It is a legally binding document and the more eyes you have on it the better.
Make sure the projected timeline is stipulated, and there is an agreed penalty if the contractor does not meet the deadlines for each phase of work. A payment schedule should follow this timeline. Any change orders that you request would require adjustments to the project’s timeline.
The contact information for each of the sub-contractors to be used should be listed within the contract. Ask for backup subs in case these other contractors get delayed on other project sites.
Lastly, you want to make sure that there is a waiver of lien agreed upon, to prevent any sub-contractors or suppliers from filing a lien on your property should their invoices go unpaid by your contractor.
Once you have completed your due diligence, and all plans and contracts are agreed upon and signed, you can proceed with scheduling the work with confidence.
PS: Don't forget about PERMITS. Your general contractor may address permits but they will NOT be responsible to make sure everything has been done correctly.