5 Tips for Hiring a General Contractor

by Miranda Marquit

Whether you are building, remodeling, or just doing a few home improvements, it can help to hire a general contractor. There are those who point out that you can be your own general contractor, and this is true. However, if you don’t have the time, skills, or the inclination to be your own general contractor, it is always possible to hire someone.

A general contractor can simplify the process. You hire the contractor, and he or she hires everyone else that works on your project. However, you do need to be careful. Here are 5 things to keep in mind as you hire a general contractor:

1. Check for Licenses and Insurance

how to hire general contractor

Don't have the skills? Hire out!

You want to make sure that the general contractor you choose is properly licensed and insured in your state, as well as bonded, where necessary. Ensure that the general contractor only works with others who are properly licensed as well. You want to make sure that any contractor you hire is likely to be following state regulations. It’s also a god idea to do some background research on them by reviewing their profile on the Better Business Bureau, or other review boards.

2. Look for Specialists

It can help to find a general contractor that specializes in your project. Check around for those with experience. You want someone who knows your project. Even if the general contractor doesn’t specialize, it’s still possible to work with a general contractor who knows how to work with specialists. Find out who the contractor plans to hire, and find out whether these sub-contractors are specialists.

3. Get Estimates in Writing

As you shop around for estimates, make sure that you get them in writing. While no estimate is going to be the final, it can still help to have estimates in writing in order to better compare services of different contractors. You can also ask for a detailed estimate that allows you to get a better idea of what to expect, and that offers a more accurate expectation of costs. Be wary of contractors that seem to offer a much lower rate than others. They might be lowballing, or you could end up with inferior work.

4. Create a Detailed Contract

Once you have chosen a general contractor, you need a detailed contract. This contract should include the work that will be done, as well as information on the rates and costs involved. In some cases, it might be possible to stipulate a cost cap on the project. Your contract should also include your responsibilities. You need to know what you are responsible for, as well as what the contractor will accomplish.

5. Use Your Gut

If you want to know about someone, one of the best ways is to look him or her in the eye. This is especially true if you are doing business. While you can’t always avoid being swindled this way, meeting with potential contractors can help you get a gut feeling about them. If you have doubts about someone, don’t hire him or her. Instead, hire a general contractor that you feel you can trust. Meeting the contractors, and watching how they conduct themselves as they look at your project area, can give you a good feel for what to expect.

Photo credit: USACEpublicaffairs

Published or updated May 11, 2012.
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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kurt @ Money Counselor

How about check references of candidates?


2 Ryan Guina

Excellent tip, Kurt. It’s always a good idea to get a reference when possible.


3 Kris

And shop around for a few quotes. This way you’ll be able to hear bout your project from a few different perspectives and you might find out a few things that you never even thought about.


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