Things to Keep in Mind When You Hire a General Contractor

When it comes to home renovation projects, it is vital that you find the right team of trustworthy, ethical, dependable and experienced professionals to work on your home.

When you don’t have the right people in place, you can end up being one of the horror stories you hear about home renovations that end disastrously: unfinished jobs, damages done to the home leaving it in worse shape than before and even shady character gaining access to your home.

So to ensure that you have a successful home renovation project, here are 10 things to keep in mind when hiring a general contractor.

Interview the contractor

Ask the contractor how long he or she has been in business and specifically what experience they have with projects similar to yours. As a rule, five years of being a reputable contractor in your area is what to look for. Be sure to identify projects the contractor has done similar to yours.

Ask for references

Ask any contractor you are considering hiring for references, and follow up with them. We recommend you request a minimum of three references from customers the contractor has worked for within the last six months. This will allow you to get a good idea of the current quality of work the contractor is providing.

Make sure you speak with the references and ask them the questions in #4 below.

You can also ask a prospective contractor if you may visit any of his current sites. This will really give you good idea of how he or she works on site.

Questions to ask past clients of a prospective contractor:

Once your contractor has provided you with a list of references, you can begin you due diligence by asking them the following questions:

  • How was the quality of the contractor’s work?
  • Was he or she easy to work with?
  • Were they happy with the contractor’s work?
  • Was the jobsite kept clean and in order during the work?
  • What grade would you give the contractor overall?
  • Did the contractor make his or herself available for your questions or concerns in a timely manner?
  • Were there any problems during the job?
  • How efficiently and quickly did the contractor handle those problems?
  • How willing was the contractor to make corrections when necessary?
  • How many workers did the contractor use, and were they always properly supervised?
  • Was the job finished on schedule?
  • Did the project stay within the budget agreed upon at the beginning?
  • Would you recommend the contractor?
  • Would you hire the contractor again in the future?
  • Did the contractor complete all final punch list items promptly?

Verify insurance

You should also verify that the General Contractor and subcontractors have the proper insurance. You want to make sure of these things:

  • That you’re person and property is covered against damage and injury by the contractor’s insurance.
  • That the contractor’s employees are covered by workman’s compensation in the case of injury.
  • Get a copy of the contractor’s general liability, workman’s compensation and all other applicable insurance policy and verify they are sufficient. You should be able to get a copy of the policies by contacting the insurance companies.
  • Require that you be listed as “Additional Insured” on the contractor’s policy.

You should keep a copy of the insurance policy on you at all times. Also, in the case the contractor’s insurance policy expires during the job, you should request the updated certificate as soon as it is available.

You should be aware that if a worker is injured on your property and the contractor(s) does not have the appropriate insurance, you may be liable for medical bills. So under no circumstances should you work with a contractor who does not have the proper insurance. You don’t want to let the contractor use your personal homeowner’s insurance as their liability policy.

Verify financial responsibility

A good sign of a quality contractor is good relationships with vendors. So you may want to check on credit history of a potential contractor with relevant materials suppliers. Does the contractor have a good payment history? Have they been granted credit by suppliers?

You can also contract subcontractors and ask them if a general contractor pays on time or not, or if they have ever not been paid at all by a particular contractor.

This simple check can potentially help you avoid a disastrous situation with an unreliable and unprofessional contractor.

Compare bids carefully

When you are shopping for a contractor, as with any other item or service, it is wise to obtain multiple bids (prices). However, when you are comparing different bids, make sure you know what you are reading. You need to make sure you comparing apples to apples.

If you are not familiar enough with construction terms to handle this on your own, you should get the help of someone who is.

You don’t want to get in a situation where you go with a low priced bid, only to find that at is much more expensive after additional costs may be added. You also don’t want to make sure that while a bid may be the lowest now, that it won’t cost you more in the long run by using cheap materials and cutting corners on the job.

You’ll also want to make sure you carefully read and quantify each allowance before signing the contract. If high quality materials are important to you, be very specific amount the brands and materials you require. Do not leave it up to the contractor’s judgment if this is the case. Also, be sure to make known your requirements for sizes, color, etc.

All these details should be written and agreed to beforehand. Don’t leave them up to chance or to just a verbal agreement that could be denied or claimed to have been misunderstood later.

Pay attention to your gut

As you’re speaking with different contractors, asking them all of the questions we’ve mentioned here, don’t forgot about your gut feeling. Even though a contractor may have all the right answers, references and history, if you just don’t feel right about him or her, or even if you just don’t like them for whatever reason, you may want to stay away from them.

Remember, you’re going to have this person in your home and in your personal space for a good amount of time, sometimes months. So you need to make sure this is a person you are going to be comfortable with.

Never sign anything without a full understanding

Leave nothing to a handshake or a verbal agreement. Every important detail that matters to you needs to be in writing.

Once you get the contract in writing, however, don’t be too quick to sign it. Take your time to read through it and make sure you thoroughly understand it, and that it accurately represents all of your requirements.

Always ask for a written contract but sign nothing until you completely understand the terms and conditions. You may even want to consult with someone you trust form the construction field, or even a lawyer, before signing the agreement.

Here are some things to make sure is in your contract with a contractor:

  • Drawings and any specifications to be used
  • How changes to your order are handled
  • A detailed payment schedule: How much you will pay at which points along the way for what levels of progress
  • How payments will be distributed
  • Requirement that partial or final lien waivers be submitted when payment is made
  • What happens in the case of default

The American Institute of Architects, AIA, produces one of the most widely recognized contract forms used in the construction industry today. Depending on the size and the scope of your job, an AIA contract may be right for you.

Remember, constructions projects of any size carry inherent risk, both to the job site and to the financial well-being of all parties involved. Thousands of dollars are usually on the table, and for them to be spent properly, many moving parts must work together cohesively. This can often lead to very stressful situations.

So it is important that you put together the right team for your home remodeling job, and that you ask all the right questions ahead of time. There are of course no guarantees that everything will turn out perfect, but the right preparation greatly increases the likelihood of it.

For more details on how Reliant Construction can help you today, or just to ask us the questions in this article, contact us any time by phone at (281) 786-5199 or online HERE.