Hiring a General Contractor

By Ernest Grotsky

Hiring a general contractor for work on your home or business can be a difficult process, particularly if you wait until just before you need the work done, which can limit your options and compresses your selection timetable. If you allow yourself plenty of time to choose and follow the steps below, however, you should be able to find a great contractor and set your project in motion with confidence.

1. Gather Recommendations

Following the recommendations of people you know and trust is much more effective than relying on advertising or cold-calling contractors out of the phone book. Friends and family are a great place to start looking, but if after talking to them you still need ideas, the National Association of the Remodeling Industry and your local lumberyard are good places to check for the names of reputable contractors.

2. Interview Potential Contractors

There is no better way to know whether you will enjoy working with someone than personal interaction. Start narrowing your list with phone calls and then meet your top choices face to face. Be sure to ask whether a contractor takes on projects like yours, what his or her availability is, and how long he or she has worked with his or her subcontractors. Do not be afraid to ask for work references from previous clients and financial references from banks and suppliers. Reputable contractors should be willing to accommodate you.

3. Check the Facts

Once you have found contractors you like, be sure to investigate them. Call their references. Check for complaints against them with the Better Business Bureau and your local Chamber of Commerce. Make sure they and their subcontractors are licensed, bonded, and have the permits they require.

4. Ask for Bids

Now that you know with whom you would like to work, ask the contractor for bids on your project. Make sure he or she itemizes labor, profit margin, materials, and other expenses so you can see where your money will go. Be sure to set up a payment schedule that stipulates complete payment only after you are satisfied, and do not make your decision based purely on price. Choose the contractor you will be most comfortable with, even if his or her bid is a little higher than another’s.

5. Sign the Contract

Finally, make sure you put everything you have discussed with your contractor in writing, including the payment schedule, start and completion dates, materials and products to be used, proof of insurance, and lien releases from subcontractors and suppliers. A clear contract is your best assurance of a successful project.

About the Author:

Ernest Grotsky is a licensed general contractor with more than 30 years of experience in the construction management field, and has worked with clients such as 3M, Eveready Battery Company, and Bloomingdale’s.