If you don't have the time, skills, tools, or experience to handle your own home repairs or remodel, you will have to hire a general contractor. These tips will help you find the professional contractor best suited for your project.
What Is a General Contractor?
A general contractor is the person or company hired to oversee your project. He or she will be responsible for the design, construction, supervision, and coordination of the entire project. They may also hire subcontractors for specialized aspects of the project, such as plumbing and electrical work.
Finding a General Contractor
Finding a reliable and skilled contractor is imperative for your project to be successful. Poor workmanship, unfinished jobs, using improper materials, neglecting to adhere to building regulations, and even fraud can plague your remodel if you hire an untrustworthy contractor.
The best ways to find a reputable contractor are:
- Getting a personal referral: Ask friends or family that have recently had remodels if they have any recommendations, making sure your budget and the nature of the projects are similar
- Local directories: Check the basic, local listings in the phone book or online for contractors in your area
- Online referrals: Organizations such as the National Association of the Remodeling Industry and Zillow have directories of contractors, sometimes pre-screened or certified
Choosing Your Contractor
After finding a potential contractor for your home remodel, you should conduct a thorough background check to ensure the individual or company is professional, skilled and reliable. This includes:
- Reading online reviews
- Checking licensing credentials
- Verifying insurance for workers' compensation, property damage, and personal liability--otherwise, you could be liable for any injuries or damage
- Requesting references
Be sure to request a formal estimate from at least three contractors before choosing one for hire. During the in-house estimate, ask detailed questions about the nature of your project, and share all of the pertinent details about your desired specifications for your remodel. Make sure your contractor is acutely aware of what you are looking for to receive the most accurate bid possible.
Remember--you should never automatically hire the cheapest contractor. The lowest estimate could indicate inexperience, lack of skill, dishonest practices, or poor quality materials. Years of experience, references from satisfied customers, outstanding online reviews and the proper licensing credentials are all important factors to consider along with affordable prices.
Dealing with Conflict
Sometimes, no matter how much research you've done, you may be displeased with your selected contractor. In this case, you may lodge a formal complaint with the contractor's licensing board and request an arbitration hearing. You could also file a claim with Better Business Bureau to resolve the matter. If all else fails, you can take the contractor to small claims court to settle your dispute.
To avoid potential problems be sure to thoroughly review your contract before signing it, and ask questions if anything is confusing or unsatisfactory. Never sign a contract you don't understand or disagree with.