April 15, 2015

Tips for Choosing a General Contractor

We have been in the process of renovating our home for the past twelve months.  We purchased our home in September of 2013, and began remodeling in April of 2014.  This remodel has had its fair share of highs and lows, and at one point there were more low points than highs.  Today's post is all about some of the lessons that I have taken from this whole experience and would like to pass onto every homeowner who is considering construction.

  1. Do your research first.  Make sure that you know exactly what you want done for your project.  Consider outlets that you would like changed out or upgraded, the current layout of specific rooms in your house (like that kitchen and bathrooms) and if you are presently happy or would like to make adjustments, flooring types, cabinet style and make, color choices, etc.  The more information that you have the more informed you will be and therefore any potential contractors.
  2. Get lots of pictures and samples.  When meeting with contractors initially, try to have as many pictures, photos, and samples of products that you are interested in.  These are the people that need to make your vision come to life and since they can't access your imagination, you need to bring your imagination to them.  This also helps the contractor determine the types of materials and sources of labor that they will need (carpenters, sculptures, window makers).
  3. Determine your absolute budget.  Most projects tend to exceed the original bid by 10-20% due to unforeseen circumstances, added projects, or changes that are made.  Be sure that you allot for this when you are considering your bids.
  4. Get a licensed contractor, and check their license!  Just because a contractor says that they are licensed, or because their contract states their license number it does not mean that their license is current or not suspended.  Click on this link to check out a potential contractors license number.  Also, do your due diligence and call about their bond as well.  Every licensed contractor should have a minimum of $12,500.00 for their bond insurance, but it may not all be available because there may be a claim against the bond.  If anything goes wrong, your greatest asset is their license and bond-it is there to protect you.
  5. Get lots of quotes.  The more bids that you get, the better informed decision that you can make.   A professional contractor will also itemize the project from the doors to the painting to the number of outlets being switched.
  6. Word of mouth is key.  If you have a friend who had a great experience with their contractor, take their name.  Having a reliable reference will help a great deal.  If you don't have any contacts that recently had work done, make sure that each contractor provides you with references and call on those references.  You will be glad that you did.
  7. Get permits and get to know your inspector!  Our saving grace was having permits for our remodel.  We got to know our inspector very well and he saved us a lot of grief.  The home inspectors and those permits are for your protection-and to be honest, they really aren't a hassle at all.  I will be sure to permit everything from here on out.  
  8. Don't be afraid to speak your mind.  If you are not satisfied with the job that is being done, or with a specific project, let the contractor know-especially before it is too late so that they can fix it and make it right.
  9. Consider making your own contract.  We chose to make our own contract and created the necessary stipulations with the second contractor that came onto the job to be sure that we would not end up in a predicament again (our previous contractor left us in a shell of a house.  we were living in one room, the whole house was concrete and 2 x 4's, and we had no kitchen.).  Make sure that your contract (whether you make it or not) specifies a timeline and what will happen if the timeline is exceeded (monetary fees to be paid by contractor to homeowner is standard).
  10. Know the law.  Many contractors will try to walk a fine line between what is allowed and what is not.  Be sure that you know the law regarding contractors.  For example, a contractor can NOT ask for more than $800.00 or 10% of the total job-whichever is LESS at the start of a job. They may also not collect money until a project is complete.
  11. Don't be afraid to be your own general contractor.  That means that you can hold the permits yourself, choose the specialists that you need for each projects that you are undertaking, and can have better control of the situation and potentially prevent a lot of stress and heartache.
I hope that these little tips help you, I know that I have learned a lot about remodeling, construction, and myself throughout this process!


  1. We just moved to a new city and I don't know anyone to ask for referrals, so I'm really glad I found this article. I like the idea of getting lots of quotes. It makes sense that lots of quotes would give me a good idea of the actual cost of a project. Would you recommend telling potential contractors if I've found a cheaper bid from someone else to try and get their price lower?

  2. Choosing a home builder or contractor can sometimes be hard. You have some really helpful tips here though, I especially like the one about not being afraid to speak your mind. That is really important when hiring the right contractor. http://www.galleryhomes.ca/custom-homes/