Choosing a General Contractor

Interviewing a General Contractor…

WHAT IS IMPORTANT TO YOU – the first step in selecting a General Contractor is understanding what is important to you. Is the design phase of the project the most important? Are you working within strict time constraints? Do you want to be able to be involved with every aspect of your project? Do you want to be completely hands off?  Are you living in the house or going to be out of town throughout the project? Everyone has their own situation they need to work with. It is important that the General Contractor you hire has the ability accommodate you for your unique situation. Before you begin interviewing General Contractors put together a list of questions you want to ask each one. Make sure to hit the points that address your specific needs.

WHAT QUESTIONS SHOULD YOU ASK – Two questions I am repeatedly asked during a construction consultation are, ‘what is my square foot price’ and ‘do I use subcontractors’. This tells me two things, online research has been done and family and friends have been consulted. Even more telling is the questions that are not asked.

Here is the issue with doing online research, although there is a lot of good information there is also a lot of misinformation. So how do you separate the two? Asking friends and family is a great way to find a good general contractor but you also need to understand what the situation and the expectations of the person making the recommendation were.

What is most telling is the questions never asked. As the saying goes, ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’.

A few general questions you should ask a General Contractor are:

  1. How many years has your company been in business? Many contractors boast anywhere from 20 – 50 years in the business. But that does not mean that the company itself has been in business for 20 – 50 years it could simply mean they worked for someone in the construction industry. Why is this important? It is important because construction companies are businesses like any other. It does not matter what the work is like if the company is not around to honor the warranties it offers.
  2. How many years has your company been operating under the current license number? This is important because a company that has changed names and licenses multiple times is a red flag.
  3. What is your company structure? Any company should have a structure that offers checks and balances for all the projects. Who is the contact person for the homeowner when they have questions or concerns? Who is coordinating the work? What are the contingencies if something were to happen to the GC holding the license during my project, how will the work completed?
  4. What is your process for color selections? There are always many selections to be made during construction, paint colors, tile, plumbing fixtures, etc. This process should be in writing in the contract so you know what the general contractor expects from you the homeowner and what are the remedies if either party does not meet their obligation.
  5. What is your process for change orders? There are inevitably changes or additions to any project. Changes should always be in writing and agreed to by both parties. This process should be detailed in the construction contract so you are clear on how they will be handled.
  6. How do you communicate with your clients? With today’s technology there is no excuse to not be able to communicate with the company doing work for you. This is something that should be in writing, who the contacts are and how communication will be handled.
  7. How are warranty items handled? There should be a system in place for a client to access should any issues arise after work is complete. Does the general contractor you are hiring have the infrastructure in place to handle these issues or will it be left up to you to make the plethora of phone calls required to remedy the situation?