How to Choose a General Contractor

Things to Consider When Selecting a General Contractor for Your Home

by Providence Custom Homes

The best contractors don't have to advertise, they get work through satisfied customers' referrals. Consult friends and neighbors who have had work done. Another great source is the National Association of Home Builders. This resource can help you narrow down a home addition contractor that is suited for your project.


Once you find a contractor you are interested in using, contact the Better Business Bureau or a local consumer-affairs agency for complaint histories of the contractors you're considering. But be wary of a contractor with a list of problems. Additionally check with the appropriate agency to see if the contractor is properly licensed and insured. Licensing won't guarantee success, but it indicates a degree of professionalism and suggests that the contractor is committed to their profession.



Evaluating bids


It is important to get a written estimate from at least three contractors. An estimate should detail the work to be done, the materials needed, the labor required, and the length of time the job will take. Obtaining multiple estimates is a good idea because it can evolve into a bid. Seeking more than one bid will increase your odds of paying less. Once the bid is agreed to and signed by you and the contractor, it becomes a contract.


Remember, you get what you pay for. The cheapest bid isn't always the best and homeowners who accept a rock-bottom bid may wind up less satisfied overall than those willing to pay more. Know your plans. It can be costly to change job specifications after the work has begun. Revising your plans can add substantially to cost overruns, with changes resulting in lengthy delays. A less-than-straightforward low bidder is counting on these changes to make the job profitable.



Negotiating a fair contract


A contract spells out all the terms of the work, helping you and the contractor minimize misunderstandings and wasted effort caused by poor instructions. It should include the contractor's name and address, license number, a timetable for starting and finishing the job, a payment schedule, names of subcontractors, and the scope of work to be done.


Do your homework and specify the materials and brand names of all the products, appliances, and fixtures to be used. The contract should also give the contractor the burden of obtaining all building permits.


Never make the final payment until you have obtained signed mechanic's-lien waivers or releases from all subcontractors and suppliers. These are receipts acknowledging payment for goods and services; and free you from third-party claims on your property in the event that you pay the contractor but they didn’t pay subcontractors or suppliers.