What You Need To Know Before Hiring a General Contractor

Posted by HJT Design

The best way to find a general contractor for your project is to have your project architect help. He or she may already have a working relationship with a potential contractor with demonstrated experience for the project. But if you’re tackling the task on your own, here are a few pointers to help you along.

Dental Office Waiting area designed by HJTLicensure, Insurance and Professional Certifications – Many states requires contractors to be licensed and carry minimum insurance coverage for the work that they perform. In addition to these requirements, local municipalities may also require that the contractor also be registered and approved to do work within the jurisdiction. Make sure that the contractor interested in doing the work can provide you with copies of all certifications required.


References and Project Portfolio – What type of projects do they have experience in doing? Are they more skilled at renovation work or building brand new structures from the ground up? What size, in square footage and cost, of projects have they completed? What quality of work do they produced? What do they personally have experience doing and what do they sub out? Are they reliable when it comes to working with and paying their suppliers and subs? Do they have any ongoing litigation? What is their rating with the BBB? Do they have any filed complaints and if so how did they resolve them? The answers to these questions will give you a better idea of a particular contractor’s qualifications and whether they will be a good fit for your project.


Budget Concerns – You’ll need to deduce early on which project delivery methods you are most comfortable with and which you will employ for your project. Once you’ve determined that you can then dig into determining the final costs of projects which were similar in scope and size to yours that the contractor had completed previously. Learning in advance about any potential issues can help you create a more accurate budget. Remember, your real budget is not just in the bigger picture but the details as well. If you’re competitively bidding your project and are using a well detailed construction document with everything specified then staying on your agreed contracted budget will be easier. This assumes that you don’t encounter any major unforeseen issues or decide to change elements of the project in midstream.


Here are a few questions to consider before you begin working with a general contractor:


  • What does their bid really mean? Does the bid only cover specific parts of the build? Are there likely to be any additional costs that will exceed their bid? Is the bid based on the actual design plans or just a general estimate based on square footage? It is hard to compare contractors without knowing that the bids are for similar services. If we are simply pre-qualifying the GC then this item should not be part of the process.


  • What is their timeline? How long will it take to order and receive materials? How many people will be working on their team? When do they expect to start and complete the project? This can be one of the biggest factors in determining whether a contractor will be a good fit or not, depending on how quickly you need your new office to be ready. If we are simply pre-qualifying the GC then this item should not be part of the process.


  • Did they complete their project on Time? Project schedules can be driven by the client’s needs and/or set by the contractor prior to being awarded the project. There are many things that can have an adverse effect on the project schedule. These occurrences are often referred to as “unforeseen”. These include labor and material availability. If their projects were completed early then be sure to ask what they did to make that happen. If there were delays and the project came in late then ask them about the causes and what they did to get the project back on track. Ask their reference the same.


  • What do they require up front? Depending on the complexity of the project and whether there’s a need to pre-purchased any equipment or material with long lead time, the GC may request a down payment to cover the order; however, it’s not a common industry’s practice to give the GC any money or down payment up front, prior to starting work on the project. If down payment and or upfront money are a condition for the GC to start work on your project, consider your selection wisely and cautiously.


A general contractor qualifies as a “Good Fit” if they can make the entire construction process less stressful and less costly; reducing your level of risk and improving your success rate. A competent and seasoned general contractor would be more than willing to share their accomplishments and demonstrate their knowhow to earn your trust and business. Selecting a GC with demonstrated experience who will deliver value to your project should be your first consideration. This is one decision that should not totally be based on price.

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