Choosing a Contractor

Published 16 Feb 2015

The selection of an experienced, competent, trustworthy contractor is critical to the success of any project. Typically, if your job requires more than three subcontractors, a general contractor is a good idea. A general contractor can free you from such burdens as maintaining a work schedule, obtaining the necessary permits, and resolving disputes with suppliers.

They will also have more leverage than you do with subcontractors, since you’re only a one-time, one-off job. A general contractor also typically receives discounts at lumberyards and supply houses that are not extended to private consumers which translates to an overall job cost savings for your project.

Here are some guidelines to aid you in making the correct decision:

  • Ask for multiple current references that you can contact directly about work that the contractor has performed.
  • Ask the contractor to provide a cost-estimate in writing for any proposed scopes of work that they will do. An estimate should detail the specific work to be done, the materials needed, the labor required, and the length of time that the job will take. The cheapest bid isn’t always the best. Homeowners who accept a rock-bottom bid may wind up considerably less satisfied overall than those willing to invest more. Make sure that all bidders are bidding on the same specifications and job description so that you are comparing apples to apples where your scope of work is concerned.
  • 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 their job more profitable and uses this tactic to pad what they initially submit as the low bid in order to “win” the job.
  • Make sure that the contractor is both licensed and insured. While licensing can’t always guarantee success, it does however indicate a far higher degree of professionalism and demonstrates that the contractor is fully committed to his or her career by making the investment and effort to become professionally certified and properly educated. As a rule, licensing entails passing a rigorous test utilized to measure and ensure competency.
  • The contractor should certify that their work conforms to all local regulations and codes.
  • Most of all, take your time and choose carefully. This person will be with you throughout your project and it’s a substantial commitment to entrust someone with both your home and your money. Communication will make or break the relationship between you and your contractor so save yourself future communication headaches by interviewing your contractor in person before committing to his or her services. A company’s communication style often is revealed during your first contact and is critical to the decision making process.