How to Choose a General Contractor

5 Points to Contemplate When Choosing a General Contractor

When beginning any construction project, Legacy Construction knows that finding the right general contractor for your needs is a key component to the success of the project. For most homeowners, the hardest part of any home renovation project isn’t the work itself, it’s finding a competent and reliable contractor to do the job. Even with a good contractor, renovation can be stressful. Installing kitchen cabinets or knocking down a wall is simple compared with the struggle of hiring a qualified contractor who will perform at a high level from a project’s start to finish.

Investing time upfront to find a quality general contractor that is the best fit for a project can save hours of time and countless headaches. While the quoted cost should be a significant factor when making the decision, it shouldn’t be the only factor taken into account. There are several other considerations and certain red flags to look out for.

Here are 5 essential points to consider when choosing a general contractor:

Experience

Does the general contractor have the experience required to meet the scope of the project?

  • Ask the general contractor about their unique capabilities and if they’ve performed similar types of work.
  • With any project, it’s important to align the skills of the general contractor with the work that needs to be completed.
  • A good contactor is a busy contractor. Be sure to ask how many jobs they usually handle at one time and how many they currently have. Being able to start right away might not always be a good thing.
  • It’s certainly appropriate to ask for referrals. Ask friends, relatives and co-workers for references.People in your neighborhood who have done similar projects are your best sources.  If your potential contractor is forthcoming with references and provides them quickly that is a great sign.
  • Ask to see some recent work. Most happy clients are very willing to show off their new renovations.

Questions for former clients might include:
  1. Have you worked with this general contractor (GC) before?
  2. How did it compare with other contractors you have worked with?
  3. Did the GC communicate clearly throughout the project?
  4. Was the GC on the job frequently? If not, who supervised the work on site?
  5. Were there any problems or surprises?
  6. How was the work quality?
  7. Were there cost overruns or delays, and why?
  8. Would you recommend them for your type of job?

Resources

Does the general contractor have suitable resources at their disposal?

  • It’s important that your general contractor has a strong network of subcontractors – reliable subcontractors that they work with regularly.
  • For larger projects, you should ask yourself, does this general contractor have enough staff on both the project management and administrative sides to take on my project? If pulling permits is involved, are they familiar with the local municipality and permitting agency?
  • Find out what unique capabilities your general contractor can offer that would give them greater control over the process, schedule and costs.

Questions to ask a General Contractor:
  1. How long have you been in business?
  2. How many jobs like this have you completed?
  3. How much experience do you have with energy-efficient construction, green building, passive solar (or whatever your special interests are)?
  4. Who will supervise the construction on site?
  5. Who will I communicate with about job progress, changes, and any surpises that may arise? (Yes, there will be surprises!)
  6. What work will your own employees perform (as opposed to subcontractors)?
  7. What is your company’s greatest strength?
  8. (For remodeling): What efforts do you take to keep the job site clean and safe for children, and to keep dust out of the living quarters?

Communication

Does the general contractor successfully communicate with customers and subcontractors?

  • You can never underestimate the value of effective communication between subcontractors and customers. It’s what keeps projects running smoothly and on time.
  • It’s important to choose a general contractor that is skilled at helping clients get their ideas out of their heads and onto paper and then effectively communicate what needs to be done with subcontractors to best achieve goals.
  • Sign a detailed contract that spells out exactly what will be done, including deadlines, progress payments, materials that will be used and who will provide which materials.

Value-Engineering Ideas

Can the general contractor bring a construction-specific perspective to project planning?

  • A good general contractor is able to offer a different perspective from a construction standpoint.
  • This perspective allows the general contractor to make specific recommendations for how to construct something differently that is more effective for the project and/or will save a considerable amount of money when working with architects and engineers.

Financially Responsible

Does the general contractor have a solid financial record?

  • If a general contractor is financially responsible in their own business practices, then it is a good sign that they will manage the costs of your project responsibly as well.
  • Look for red flags: a contractor that is the cheapest will end up costing you the most.
  • Ask for a payment schedule that is set by milestones in the job. For larger jobs, 10% upfront is common. Be wary of contractors that ask for more than that. For smaller jobs 25% is common.
  • Ask the contractor how they handle change orders and allowances.

 

Whichever way you go, there are no guarantees in construction. At the end of the day, you have to hire someone you can trust to do quality work and act with integrity. So really ask for references and check multiple sources of online and offline reviews. Find a General Contractor with an excellent reputation and strong track record in the community. Find someone you have a good rapport with. You and your contractor will essentially be business partners for duration of the job so find out if the contractor will be on the job site regularly and will be available to you if there are problems. Look for the person you can trust the most to get the job done correctly. Often, the savings you thought you were getting with the low bidder later vanish into the change orders, extras, and headaches!