For most people, the biggest investment they will ever make is their home, so naturally, when looking for a general contractor to facilitate your home improvements or when building a new home from the ground up, you will want to follow a few simple steps to ensure that you find a competent and reliable contractor who will perform at a high level from start to finish.
We’ve all heard the horror stories about general contractors that ripped apart the bathroom only to never come back to finish the work, or the contractor that quoted a fair price at the beginning then charged you 4 times the original estimate after the supposed “unforeseen surprises” that often crop up during the renovation process.
Choosing the most qualified and experienced contractor can be the difference between a successful renovation project or a renovation nightmare. To avoid all of the pitfalls and mistakes when hiring a general contractor, here are a few tips to ensure that your home renovation project is as successful and streamlined as you hoped it would be.
Know exactly what you want before researching contractors and getting estimates. Have a good idea about what you want for your renovation project. Collect magazine tears, check out sites like Pinterest and visit specialty stores to research materials and styles that appeal to you.
The more you know about what materials you want to use and the look and feel of what you want to accomplish, the easier it is for the general contractor to give you an accurate estimate.
Once you have a good idea about what you want to accomplish, you can start to research contractors who may have experience in the particular style or work that you are looking to complete.
Ask friends, family and other trusted individuals for references. Do you know anyone in your area that recently had similar work done on their house with successful results? Do you know anyone in the industry? Interior designers, real estate brokers, electricians and architects are all great sources for referrals as they usually have a lot of experience working with many different general contractors. Know a building inspector? They too can be a great resource as they will know which contractors regularly meet code requirements. You can also check associations such as the Better Business Bureau, Yelp and the National Association of the Remodeling Industry for a list of members in your area.
Interview at least 3 different general contractors. Have a list of questions prepared and make sure you receive a written bid from each contractor. Some examples of very good questions to ask are:
- How long have they been in the business?
- Are they licensed, bonded and insured?
- Ask to see their certificate of insurance. They should have both their worker’s compensation as well as liability insurance.
- Will they obtain the permits and set up the inspections required for the job?
- What is the timeline for completion?
- What is the payment schedule?
- Will I have a dedicated team working on my job?
- Do they work with subcontractors, how long have they been working with them, how do they vet the subcontractors and are they covered by his liability and workers compensation insurance?
- What measure will be taken to protect your property from damage while remodeling?
- How will additional charged be dealt with? Make sure that the contractor will not go over the agreed upon budget without your approval.
- See if the contractor offers a warranty or a guarantee on their work and find out the terms of the warranty and make sure it is in writing.
Check references. It is wise to talk to both former clients as well as subcontractors so you can see if past clients were satisfied with the work performed, how it was performed and if it was performed on time and on budget. Subcontractors can also give you insight into whether or not the contractor pays them on time etc. which will give you an idea about the contractor’s ethics and reliability.
Sign a detailed contract. Once all of your questions are answered and the references have been checked, you will want to make sure to sign a detailed contract that specifies what exactly will be done, deadlines, payment schedules as well as the exact materials that will be used. Unless you document these items in detail, it will be the homeowner’s word against the contractors should there be any legal issues. If changes are made, they should also be in writing that includes what changes were made, the cost of the materials and work cost associated with these changes.
Get the appropriate permits. If your contractor is legit, he or she will get the proper permits required for the job. Be wary of contractors that suggest not getting the permits to save money etc. This not only is a violation of local ordinances which could get you fined, but it will also forfeit your chances of getting the work inspected by the city to make sure it is up to code which in turn could hinder your ability to sell your home in the future.
Obtain lien releases as well as receipts for materials/products. In the event that your contractor doesn’t pay their subcontractors/suppliers, they will be able to put a mechanic’s lien against your house. To avoid such headaches, get lien releases from all of the subcontractors as well as the general contractor and make sure you get receipts for all materials.
Do not make the final payment until the job is completed. Unfortunately, some contractors will not finish the project if you pay them 100% upfront for their work. Make sure that you do not release the final payment to the contractor until the work is 100% finished and you are satisfied with the work and have everything you need to cover yourself such as lien releases, receipts, signed contracts, warranties and permits.
By following these steps, your chances of having a successful renovation or building project will be exponentially better and you will thank yourself later for taking the extra precautions.
At Holly Development Inc., you can rest assured that we will be honest, reliable and skilled in our renovations and building projects. We only work with the most qualified professionals in the field to ensure that your home renovation projects are done right while staying within your budget and meeting your deadlines. Feel free to call or contact Brian if you have any questions or would like an estimate for your next home improvement project! 310-925-2781