Choosing a General Contractor: Know and Convey What You Want

Have a detailed description of your project. The more information you can provide a contractor about the proposed job, the more confidence both of you will have in any forthcoming bids. Although not absolutely required at this point, some actual project plans will help the contractors accurately determine the scope of the project. At the least, you should be able to sketch out the project to scale, denoting dimensions, fixtures, doors, windows, etc. Also be prepared to supply your finish ideas, including types of materials and colors.

Generate a list of candidates. Start by asking friends and relatives (who’ve recently used contractors) for their recommendations. If necessary, augment this list from your local chamber of commerce, better business bureau, or one of the many referral services on the web.

Call the companies on your list. Ask for their builder’s license number. Most states have a way to verify licenses on-line. Michigan residents can use this link: Ask for references – past clients whom you can ask about their satisfaction with the contractor. Ask the contractor for the company’s bonding and insurance information. If the contractor is reluctant to provide any of these items, cross them off your list.

Check up on them. Verify the insurance and bonding information by contacting the carriers or the state board. Call two or three of the references (or more, if you have any doubts) and ask about their experiences with the contractor. If feasible, ask to see the work that was done.

Examine the contractors’ quotes. Make sure they include everything you expected. Ask about the quality and quantity of material used in figuring the quotes. Different contractors may have different assumptions when allowing for flooring, wall covering, etc. This makes comparing the quotes from competing contractors harder, which is why item #1 above is so important.

OK, I’ve selected a contractor – Now What?

Get a Written Contract! Make sure it spells out everything upon which you and your contractor have agreed. This includes the cost of the job, the payment schedule, the estimated completion date, change-order provisions, and specific legal actions either party is entitled to take in case either of you breach the agreement.

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