Finding the Right Contractor for You

By Tiffany Gomes, Classic Design Floor to Ceiling

You’ve saved and planned for your upcoming remodel project, possibly for years. You’ve clipped photos from home décor magazines and printed from Houzz. Perhaps you’ve even browsed local showrooms. But the most important decision you make is hiring the right contractor. How do you choose?

First and foremost, decide if you are going to hire a General Contractor or if you are going to “be the General.” This is often the critical mistake most homeowners make while trying to save money. Understand that a good General does so much more than schedule the subcontractors. Your General is responsible for permits, cohesive design, cost containment, warranties, and most importantly, dealing with all of the unforeseen issues that arise when dealing with overlapping trades. Whose fault is it that the tile backsplash looks bad? It could be the tile installer, the tile manufacturer, the framer, or possibly the sheetrock installer. Unless you have worked in construction, it is highly inadvisable to scrimp on hiring a qualified General.

Once you’ve decided to hire a professional GC, it’s time to do your homework. Word of mouth is a great place to start. Then, go to Cslb.ca.gov to verify licensing under “Instant License Check.” Look for a current and active B-class license. In addition, this site will show you Bonding and Worker’s Compensation details.

After you are satisfied with licensing, it’s time for an interview, where you will ask for references, testimonials, awards and photos of previous jobs. Find out if the contractor has General Liability Insurance. Ask for letters of credit from vendors, subcontractors or banks. Did you know that if your General Contractor doesn’t pay the subcontractors, those subcontractors can place a lien on your home, even if you’ve paid your bill in full? Shaky credit is an absolute red flag.

During the interview, you should also find out how the design process will work. Will the contractor provide any design help or resources for materials? Or, will he or she simply send you to different supply houses for each product and promise you a “contractor’s discount?” If you’ve found a contractor you are happy with, yet the design portion is left out, factor in an additional cost for retaining the services of a qualified designer who will show you products from various manufacturers while ensuring a cohesive design.

Finally, be sure your chosen General Contractor provides you with a professional, written contract that includes fixed costs as well as estimated start and finish dates. And if you aren’t given detailed information about what to expect during the entire process, it’s up to you to ask. A remodeling project isn’t easy; but with a great General Contractor, the gain will be well worth it.

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