how to pick a general contractor

Picking a general contractor you can actually trust

If you’re ready to remodel, and you’re really set on not going with a design-build solution, you’re probably going to need a contractor.

But where do you start? How do you know you’re going to get what you’re paying for? How do you find someone in the first place? What makes them qualified for the job? Well, if you follow these tips on how to pick a contractor that’s right for your project, your remodel should go as planned.

Ask Family and Friends for Recommendations

You may already know someone that’s had new flooring installed throughout their home, had a bathroom renovated, a kitchen update or even an entire house renovation. Don’t be shy, pick up the phone and asked them what general contractor they used.

Be sure to ask:

  • Did they trust the contractor?
  • Did the contractor listen to their needs?
  • Did the contractor complete the job on time?
  • Is the contractor licensed, bonded, and insured and did they get any required permits?
  • Would they use the contractor again?
  • Ask if you can inspect the renovation.

You can also ask about price, but Tom Silva of This Old House says, “Throw out the lowball bid. This contractor is probably cutting corners, or, worse, desperate for work.”

Make Phone Calls and THEN Schedule Interviews

With recommendations in hand, call each contractor and ask if they:

  • Have they completed the renovations you need?
  • Do they have contacts with well-known suppliers?
  • Does the company have financial health or will they only rely on your payments?
  • Can they give you a client list with phone numbers for references?
  • Do they specialize in any type of home renovation, i.e., bathrooms, kitchens, etc.
  • Do they employee subcontractors? Who are they and do they carry the correct license and insurance? Will they take responsibility for their subs if the need arises.

Once you have asked all these questions to the general contractors on your list, schedule times to meet with each one. Be sure to ask them to bring along a portfolio of prior jobs.

Check for Licenses and Your Local BBB

Once you’ve narrowed your list down to two or three, check their licenses with state contracting boards to make sure they are current and see if they have any complaints at your local BBB. Investigation on your part will help in the long run.

Spend Time in Your Home with the Contractor

Give contractors any lists you may have put together on wants and needs for each room to be renovated. Get their ideas and listen to them closely. What you’re looking for is someone who knows what they are doing and points out problem areas and solutions.

Review the space you want to remodel with your contractor in your home. This is the time when both you and the contractor can get to know one another. If you feel comfortable with one more than another, that too will help you narrow down your decision.

Start the Bidding Process

Ask the two or three contractors on your list for bids on the renovation job. Remember to throw out the low-ball bid.

Compare your lists and take note of what you liked and didn’t like about each bid. Before you choose a bid and sign on the dotted line ask:

  • Will they give you a timeline and stick to it?
  • What about change orders if they find something not in the bid?
  • Do they offer any sort of guarantee or warranty?
  • Many appliances, fixtures, and flooring you put in your home during a renovation may have warranties of their own. Ask about those too.
  • What do they do to keep the rest of your home debris free? Will they provide cleanup?

Hiring the right general contractor to complete your renovation job takes a little detective work on your end. Be willing to do it first and don’t just jump right in and you’ll be happy when the job is done. But if managing a project of this size is too much for you, be honest with yourself. If you really want to make things easy, consider a design-build firm to take on the entire project.