How To Choose a Contractor
Of all the decisions that go into the repair, remodeling or building of a structure, none is more important than selecting the correct contractor for the job.
Often, after a hailstorm, excessive rain, or some catastrophic event, ‘contractors’ appear out of nowhere. For those searching for someone reputable to make the necessary repairs, this can be confusing and risky. It is always best to select a professional local to the area -- someone that friends and neighbors may know and may have employed in the past.
To begin your selection, compile a preliminary list of contractors. Check with friends, relatives or business associates who have recently had work done. Your local Chamber of Commerce or Home Builders Association can provide a list of their members and possibly make recommendations. Also, just advertising in the newspaper doesn’t make a contractor legitimate. Check them all out!
Contractors coordinate a myriad of permits, schedules, and other subcontractors, necessary to complete the work. They are ultimately responsible for completing the project and pleasing the client. Because your contractor must translate your needs and plans into the finished product, it is crucial to work with someone with experience and with excellent references. Using your preliminary list of contractors, check their references, licensing, insurances, and backgrounds:
• Can the contractor give references from both recent and older clients? What do they say about the finished product? Has it withstood the test of time? Ask about the contractor’s work ethic. Would they recommend him/her? Would they choose him/her to work for them again? Did the contractor take longer than he/she said and was it justified? Was their estimate accurate?
• In addition to clients, contractors should furnish business references. Is he/she a member of your local Chamber of Commerce? Local or National Home Builders Association?
• If licensing is required, make sure the contractor has a business license and a contractor's license to operate in your area. Both are required in the State of Georgia. Call your local building inspections department and speak with the Chief Inspector. Make sure the license is current. When will it expire?
• Before choosing a contractor, make sure he/she will acquire the appropriate building permits. Personally check with the Chief Inspector to determine if a permit is required.
• Hire only a contractor who carries workers compensation and general liability insurances. Get an original certificate of the contractor’s insurance coverage from his/her agent (no copies) and show it to the agent who carries your homeowners insurance.
• Make sure his/her company is permanently based in your area. Hire someone who has been in business at least three years and has a good track record. What type of work is he/she best suited for? What is his/her experience level? Example: Don’t hire a roofing contractor to do plumbing work!
• Does he/she use other subcontractors to complete the job? What is their experience? Are they licensed? Insured? What is their reputation?
• Does he/she pay building supply firms and other vendors and subcontractors on time? Get names and phone numbers of other contractors and suppliers he/she may use. Call them. Does he/she owe them money from a previous job?
• Have any complaints been filed against the contractor with either the Better Business Bureau or the local or state consumer protection offices?
• Does the contractor offer a warranty on his/her work? Is it in writing?
• Has he/she submitted a written contract? Proposals are acceptable; however, there is very little room in them for the details you may need to know later. Remember, the more that you have in writing, the more protected you will be.
• Get everything settled on paper before the work actually begins. Making changes after construction begins on your project can be time consuming and costly.
With this preliminary research, you may want to select your contractor, negotiate his/her fees and get started. Or, the selection can be done through the formal process of competitive bidding. In this process, pre-selected contractors are invited to bid. Never let a contractor bid unless you are willing to use them. It is crucial that all contractors bid on exactly the same plan and specifications so that fair price comparisons can be made. While the bid is an important factor, the lowest bid isn’t always the best. Important factors such as reputation and workmanship also need to be considered.
Another pricing method sometimes used in residential construction is known as ‘cost-plus.’ This means the owner pays all costs of construction plus either a fixed fee or percentage of costs to the builder. Although cost-plus allows for changes during construction, any changes after the actual building begins can be costly. This is also true with a bid contract.
Contact us to discuss your residential or commercial remodeling or building needs.
Gaylord Construction, Inc.
Reference Source: Southern Living Magazine/November 1995