Modern house under construction

What Steps to Take When Looking for a General Contractor

Hiring a general contractor for a new construction project or site improvements can seem like an overwhelming process. There’s no doubt it requires a great deal of trust, which can be hard to come by when you have never worked with this person or company in the past. For your own peace of mind and to ensure you receive the highest quality and greatest value, it pays to have a set process in place that you follow each time you need to hire a general contractor. According to, this starts with compiling a list of up to five potential candidates.

How to Choose General Contractor Candidates for Possible Hire

No matter what your industry, you likely have a close circle of business associates you can trust. Be sure to ask some of these people for recommendations for general contractors they have previously used. Word-of-mouth advertising is still one of the best ways to find the right person or company for the job. Other possibilities include checking with the Better Business Bureau and websites that list general contractors such as Angie’s List. The benefit of these organizations is that they also include reviews from previous customers as well as a letter grade or star rating system.

Your local building inspector is also a good resource when trying to locate a reputable general contractor. He or she knows who routinely meets building code requirements and who does not.

Interview and Complete a Walk Through with Each General Contractor on Your Short List

It’s imperative that the general contractor you choose to work with can communicate well. This is the best way to ensure that you will receive timely updates on your project once it gets underway. Start the interview by asking the general contractor to describe his or her experience, especially in new construction or upgrade projects similar to yours. Those with extensive experience are proud of it and won’t hesitate to show you photos of previously completed work.

Be sure to ask how the general contractor would plan the project and deal with any problems that would threaten to derail the schedule. Another thing you need to ask about is workman’s compensation and liability insurance to cover potential injuries to employees on the job. This is a risk the company providing the work should take on, not you. It’s fine to ask for copies of the insurance requirements as added protection. Lastly, don’t forget to walk through the planned project to give the general contractor the chance to see the work firsthand.

Request a Detailed Itemized Estimate from Each Candidate

Beyond the in-person interview, the estimate is the most important tool for choosing the best general contractor for your needs. It should indicate the anticipated time to complete the project as well as the cost. It will typically include cost of labor and materials as well as the company’s profit margin and miscellaneous expenses. Be sure that you understand payment expectations upfront to avoid a conflict later in the project. It’s common for general contractors to request up to 50 percent of the balance to start work and then require you to make payments at regular intervals.

Keep in mind that the general contractor offering the lowest rate isn’t always the best one. The old saying that you get what you pay for is as true in construction as anywhere else. Once you have evaluated each candidate’s reputation, experience, and fees, you should be ready to choose one. The last step is to draw up a contract outlining specifications of the job.

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