Building a Structurally Sound Relationship when Hiring a General Contractor
Building a structurally sound relationship when hiring a general contractor and laying out a “relationship blueprint” is tricky business. They have a lingo all their own and if you’re not up to “code” on the verbiage, you could get “hammered” with unnecessary costs and “nailed” with inexperienced labor.
Before hiring general contractors, acquaint yourself with some of the building blocks that will help you make the best choice.
Homeowner’s To-Do List
- Talk to friends, co-workers, family members and neighbors about any building, remodeling or renovation work they’ve had completed by a general contractor. Their firsthand experience can provide a positive or negative recommendation about a specific contractor.
- Check with local contractor associations, and make a list of candidates suited to the type of work you need completed.
- Verify that each contractor is bonded, insured and has an up-to-date license.
- Contact the Better Business Bureau about each potential candidate to check for any new, old or pending complaints. The BBB is a good source for weeding out problematic contractors.
- If any of the contractors have a current project in progress, visit the site for an close-up look at how well the project is being managed, the condition of the work site, and observe if the work is being completed in a safe and efficient manner.
- Make a short list of questions to ask each contractor. Include questions regarding the estimated cost of the entire project including material, site cleanup, labor, rental equipment and permit fees. Also ask about availability, start and end dates, insurance coverage, subcontractor names, payment options, warranty coverage and verifiable job references.
- Schedule an appointment with each general contractor. Make notes of their answers to your questions.
- Ask for a detailed copy of each estimate with the date and authorized signature.
- After meeting with each contractor, compare their answers to help narrow down your choice.
Whether the project is a complete renovation of the home, a remodeling project for a specific room, or new construction or add-on, a general contractor has the responsibility of fitting all the pieces and people together to complete the project.
While homeowners may have an idea of how long completing the project should take, the contractor will do the math based on what’s involved in the job, other ongoing projects and availability of subcontractors.
General contractors subcontract many of the jobs such as plumbing, electrical, roofing, air conditioning and heating work to companies that specialize in a particular field with certified and licensed technicians to do the job.
Contractors working on a project must also have access to the right equipment for each job. In many cases, it is more convenient and cost effective for the contractor to rent the equipment for individual projects.
Once you’ve chosen a general contract, the estimate information will be put into contract form. Before signing the contract, do the following:
- Review the contract against the original estimate paperwork. Make sure there are no omissions or changes and that no additional information has been added.
- The contract should be completely filled out with a month, day and year, contractor’s license number, address and phone number.
- Take pictures of the project area before any work begins in case of any disputes.
- Have a copy of the signed contract, any required permits and proof of insurance in your hand before allowing any work to be started.
Building a structurally sound relationship when hiring a general contractor requires good communication from all parties and a willingness to work together. When done right, the results speak for themselves.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons public domain