Selecting a General Contractor

Selecting a General Contractor

A general contractor or GC handles most medium and large construction jobs in the Virginia Beach – Hampton Roads area. You can call the general contractor a builder, building contractor, remodeling contractor, etc. What makes him a “general” contractor? He or she enters into a contract with the owner to complete a project and takes full responsibility to get the job done for the bid price. He or she is the most important person on the project. How do you go about selecting a general contractor?

Selecting a General Contractor?

When selecting a general contractor, what is the most important question to ask? Are you licensed?
Most states or counties as well as many large cities or townships license contractors; other jurisdictions require registration. As a rule, licensing entails passing a test to measure competency, while registering involves only payment of a fee. If a problem arises, a government agency may be able to pursue a licensed or registered contractor on your behalf.

Ask Questions

Consumers Report writes when selecting a general contractor “Ask for a list of previous customers; then call them or, better yet, visit their homes to look at the work. Ask some penetrating questions such as these:”

  • Would you hire this contractor again?
  • Were you satisfied with the quality of the work?
  • How did the contractor handle cleanup each day?
  • Was the contractor easy to talk to?
  • How did the contractor handle differences and work changes?
  • Was the job completed on time and at the bid? If not, why not?

Industry groups recommend that when selecting a general contractor, you get a written estimate from at least three contractors.  An estimate should detail the work, the materials needed, the labor required, and the length of time the job will take. Obtaining multiple estimates is a good idea. An estimate can evolve into a bid—a more detailed figure based on plans with actual dimensions. Seeking more than one bid will increase your odds of paying less. Once agreed to and signed by you and the contractor, a bid becomes a contract.

Beware the Lowest Bid when Selecting a General Contractor

The lowest bid doesn’t necessarily signify the best bid.  It could mean desperation.” Make sure you compare apples to oranges. You might also buy your own materials to make sure the contractor isn’t substituting cheaper materials.

With a contractor, you want a project manager who will manage the sub-trades and make sure they are cooperative and stick to the schedule. Ask how the subs get paid, and how often.

Get it in Writing

Draw up a contract that details every step of the project: payment schedule; proof of liability insurance and worker’s compensation payments; a start date and projected completion date; specific materials and products used; and a requirement that the contractor obtain lien releases (which protect you if he doesn’t pay his bills) from all subcontractors and suppliers. Insisting on a clear contract isn’t about mistrust. It’s about ensuring a successful renovation.

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Christian Dunlap

I am a family man with four kids and one heck of a beautiful wife. For work, I'm one of those, "We buy houses" guys, which basically means I buy houses for cash through out Hampton Roads, fix them up and then resell them. It's a very rewarding career that affords me to the opportunity to meet and help out people from every walk of life.

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