General contractors are construction professionals who offer every service needed to finish your project. Whether you need a new roof, floor, piping, windows, siding or painting, a general contractor will manage all the required work from start to finish.
If you have a reputable, experienced general contractor, you can rest assured your construction or remodeling project will be completed successfully. However, if you’ve never undertaken a construction project before, the search for a contractor may seem intimidating. In this guide, we’ll share some tips on hiring the right contractor and give suggestions on the questions you should ask them.
Tips for Hiring a General Contractor
When looking for a general contractor, the first thing you should do is ask around about good contractors in your area. You can start by asking family and friends, but we also recommend taking advantage of the following:
- The National Association of the Remodeling Industry: This helpful resource will provide you with a list of certified members near you.
- Building inspectors: If you speak with a local building inspector, you’ll find out which contractors regularly meet code requirements.
- Lumberyards: Visit a lumberyard near you. The people working there interact regularly with contractors and know which ones purchase high-quality materials and pay their bills in a timely manner.
Once you’ve compiled a list of names recommended to you, you can narrow them down by doing the following:
1. Interview Contractors Over the Phone
Briefly call each of the names on your list and ask the following:
- Do you take on projects of my size?
- Could you provide a list of past clients?
- How many projects do you typically have going on at any given time?
- How many years have you worked with your subcontractors?
How a contractor answers these questions will reveal their company’s reliability, availability and the amount of attention they can devote to your project. You’ll find more helpful questions to ask general contractors later in this article.
2. Meet in Person
Based on your phone interviews, narrow your candidates down to three or four options and meet with them. They should be good communicators who can answer your questions satisfactorily. However, don’t be fooled by personality. Look them up in your local Better Business Bureau to confirm they have no history of client disputes.
With the list further narrowed down, do some research on the remaining candidates. Call up former clients to ask about how their projects went, and see if you can visit the finished project. Even more importantly, go to a current job site and get an idea of how the contractor works. Note how safe the site is and how careful the workers are with the property.
4. Make Plans and Receive Bids
From your site visits, you should have further narrowed down your list. Now it’s time to think about your project. A good contractor won’t just ask for the blueprints, but they’ll also ask about what you want from your project and how much you’re planning to spend. To compare bids, ask all remaining contractors to provide a breakdown of costs.
5. Set a Payment Schedule
It’s also a good idea to work out a payment schedule, which can speak to a contractor’s work ethic and financial status. For instance, if they ask for half the amount ahead of time, this could mean they’re struggling financially or don’t think you’ll pay the rest once you’ve seen their work.
6. Put Everything in Writing
Finally, you should form a contract detailing your entire project. This document should include components like:
- Proof of workers’ compensation payments.
- Liability insurance.
- Payment schedule.
- Materials used.
- Project start and completion dates.
- A requirement that your contractor will secure lien releases, which will protect you if they fail to pay their bills.
Questions to Ask a General Contractor Before Hiring
Whether building a house from the ground up or renovating one, you’ll make many complex and important decisions throughout the process. This is why it’s critical to have a good team helping you out. To make sure you have a quality general contractor for your project, ask them the following questions:
- Are you licensed for this kind of project? Ask for their license and speak with the issuing authority to confirm it’s in good standing.
- What kinds of insurance do you carry? The contractor should have several kinds of insurance. This includes general liability insurance, which protects your property in case of an accident, and workers’ compensation insurance, which projects you from liability if a worker is hurt on your property.
- In the past two years, how many building permits has your company obtained? It’s important that the general contractor has recently worked in your area and is familiar with local building codes.
- Can you provide references? Speak with some of the contractor’s past clients and ask about what the process was like and whether they liked the finished product.
- What is the project timeline? Find out whether the contractor can give you an idea of when work will begin and end.
- Will you hire subcontractors? In most cases, a general contractor won’t have all the workers they need under one roof, especially for homes built from the ground up. They will often have to subcontract work out to painters, plumbers and other professional tradespeople. Get the names of everyone the contractor will hire and the kind of work they do. Use this information to verify these credentials and find out whether they have the necessary insurance.
- How will you supervise my project? Find out how often they’ll drop by and ensure the project is progressing smoothly. If they cannot check in daily, find out who will.
- What kind of written warranty do you have? Most contractors guarantee their work, with some even using a written agreement. A one-year warranty is good, and a two-year one is even better.
- What is your payment schedule? Discuss payment amounts, due dates and key deliverables.
- Will you get all the needed permits? A good general contractor will know which building permits are needed, and they should obtain these for you.
- When the project is finished, will you provide a written lien waiver? This is a legal document verifying you’ve paid the contractor and all subcontractors for their work. It’s sort of like a receipt. You will want a contractor who keeps thorough records for all work done.
Benefits of Hiring a General Contractor
Some homeowners choose not to hire a general contractor for home renovations because they’re tempted by the money they think they’ll save without one. However, those who do this are often unaware of everything that goes into a construction project and the many, many decisions these jobs involve. In this section, we’ll discuss some advantages of hiring a general contractor over taking on the daunting responsibility yourself:
- General contractors have a large network of subcontractors: They also know how to manage subcontractors effectively so the project is finished efficiently.
- There are fewer worries during the construction process: General contractors will handle everything from obtaining permits and buying supplies to scheduling inspections and hiring subcontractors.
- Their insurance will cover your project: Reputable general contractors have general liability insurance, meaning you won’t be held liable for damages or accidents that occur on your property.
- General contractors will save you money: They often have a big network of suppliers who can get them discounts on otherwise costly materials.
- They have more experience: The person working on your construction or remodeling project should be an experienced professional. Construction projects are extremely complex and involve making thousands of important decisions that can only be made quickly and effectively if you have lots of experience in the field.
Hire Daniel’s Development Group Inc. as Your General Contractor
If you’re an L.A. homeowner in need of a general contractor for your remodeling or construction project, go with Daniel’s Development Group Inc. We are one of the city’s leading general contractors and offer comprehensive construction and remodeling services, along with a Design-Build approach. Contact us to schedule a free initial consultation and estimate so you can find the perfect match for your next home project.