How to Choose a General Contractor for your Home Improvement Project

You’ve saved your money or taken out a loan for a home improvement project. Now, how do you find a great general contractor to take on the work? As you are probably aware, who you hire as your general contractor can be the difference between a successful project and one that is a disaster. You need to choose wisely.

Don’t automatically go with the general contractor with the slickest marketing materials or the biggest name in your area. By doing some research, you can find a great general contractor who will give you a great experience and a great end result on your project. Here are some things you can do to help you find the best general contractor for your project.

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Ask for Referrals and Read Reviews

The best way to find a great general contractor for your home improvement project is to ask for referrals. If you know someone who has had work done on their home recently, ask who did it and if they were happy with the overall experience. You can also ask others in the home improvement industry, such as residential architects and subcontractors who work with general contractors (electricians, plumbers, etc.). These types of professionals will have great insight into the best general contractors in your area (as well as the ones you should avoid).

If your personal network doesn’t include people with insight into local general contractors, you can also go online and read reviews. Sites like Yelp, Google, and Facebook often have detailed reviews that will tell you a lot. Of course, there is always the possibility that the reviews can be fake especially if they are overly positive but if there are enough reviews online, you can usually weed through the ones that seem too good to be true.

Check their Credentials

You should also check that any general contractor you are considering is licensed. Different areas of the country have different licensing requirements. In California, for example, all general contractors need to be licensed by the Contractors State License Board (CSLB). When you go to the CSLB website, you can find out all kinds of helpful information, such as how many years the contractor has been in business, whether or not they have any complaints against them, and if they are bonded and insured.

Hiring a licensed, bonded, and insured contractor doesn’t guarantee that you will get a great experience, but it does give you some recourse in case you don’t. For example, if a contractor walks away from your project before completing it, you can go after the contractor’s bond to recoup some or all of your money, or if they do damage to your home, a contractor’s liability insurance should cover it.

Get Several Bids

With any home improvement project, it’s important to get several bids. Bids—especially on larger projects—can vary quite substantially. When you get a bid, read it carefully. Take note of what it includes and what it doesn’t. If it isn’t clear, ask questions and then request that the bid be updated with the clarifications.

After receiving the bids, compare them carefully. You may not want to take the lowest bid if it comes from a general contractor with less experience or from one with a few blemishes on their record.

Be Prepared to Be Patient

The best general contractors are often in high demand. Word tends to get around when a general contractor does great work and completes it on time and on budget, and those general contractors will be busy. You should be prepared to put down a deposit with the general contractor you want and then sit back and wait until they are available to start your project. A good general contractor will stay in communication with you as you wait, updating you on their expected availability.