Unless you’ve previously managed a major home construction or renovation project, chances are, you’ve never experienced hiring a general contractor.
What do general contractors do? Why should you consider hiring one? Below we discuss some important things you need to know about general contractors.
What are general contractors?
As a homeowner, you might be familiar with hiring repairmen for minor home projects such as repairing clogged drain, fixing broken windows, re-carpeting, re-painting, etc. For these minor projects, you only need to call up a specialist, agree on the terms, buy some materials, and then it’s done. However, when you have a major project, like redesigning your living space or renovating the entire home, things tend to be more complicated.
There are a lot of things to consider – from securing permits and insurances to hiring specialists to purchasing materials to running the day-to-day work. You need to get all of these managed and coordinated. Without proper coordination, your plan may never be realized. This is where a general contractor comes to the rescue.
What do general contractors do?
A general contractor is on top of the entire project. He will assess the project and develop a program of works that will guide the workers from the planning stage down to completion. Experienced contractors have a strong understanding of the different aspects of construction. They are also well-versed with the necessary building permits, timelines for completion, various building materials and equipment, and manpower requirements. General contractors ensure that a project is done on time, within budget and in a safe manner.
Usually, general contractors get paid a certain percentage (between 10 and 20 percent) of the overall project cost. It’s rare but some contractors may charge a flat rate.
Why you need a general contractor?
You need a general contractor for large projects to oversee and supervise the day-to-day operations, making sure that all parties involved are on the same page and are working in unison towards its completion. With the right contractor, homeowners can rest assured that their renovation or redesign plans are implemented successfully.
As a homeowner, the only thing you need to do is to choose the best contractor and see to it that he completely understands your intentions. However, selecting the right professional isn’t that easy. When comparing contractors, there are several key considerations to keep in mind.
Make sure you work with a licensed general contractor. Every jurisdiction has its specific licensing requirements and procedures for contractors. For instance, Florida contractors need to pass a stringent certification process that involves an examination, review of experience and education, financial and credit requirements, background check, certain fees, etc. Before moving forward, verify with your state regulator if a contractor is licensed.
Choose a general contractor with comprehensive insurance to protect yourself from potential liabilities arising from the performance of the project. Find out if the contractor has a legitimate and appropriate coverage by asking him to submit a copy of policies.
A written agreement is essential as it will specify the responsibilities of the contractor and the project owner. Make sure the document defines the details of the project that include the costs, program of works, timeline, payment schedule, and other agreed terms. Review the contract thoroughly and never sign until it is transparent and amenable to both parties.
When reviewing the terms of the contract, pay attention to the payment schedule. Usually, the customer pays an upfront fee (a certain percentage of the entire project cost) and then the following payments are paid in increments based on the accomplishment. Final payment should be made only upon satisfactory completion of the project. Be sure to demand receipts for every payment made.
An excellent way to find the best contractor is by asking for a cost estimate from at least three different providers. Reputable contractors normally don’t charge for quotations.
You want the bid to be itemized so you can scrutinize its specifics. If a contractor submits a proposal with lump sums, you better look for another one. Inquire about the details and scope of work covered by their estimate. Check the materials to be used, the projected timeline, and the manpower. Be cautious of contractors that offer an unusually lower rate than the rest. They might be using substandard materials or are into some shady deals.
A great way to know more about a prospective contractor is by verifying with their past or current clients. Ask for references and place calls to these customers. Inquire about the work ethic of the contractor and their output. You can also check reviews about the provider in third-party sites.
Finally, it’s important to remember that working with a general contractor is all about trust. As such, you need to choose one whom you can openly communicate with and put your trust to. Most of the time, your gut feelings will warn you about people who can be trusted and not. So, when choosing the right contractor, you have to follow this instinct. This makes it necessary to personally meet each prospective contractor so you can see what to expect working with them, as well as, who could be trusted.