Dec 10, 2018

How to Hire a General Contractor

Westmark Construction is a Nanaimo general contractor and construction management provider. So, we know that it can be overwhelming to choose one when there are so many options available. This month, we are here to give you some tips on how to hire a general contractor!

Research your Options

You don’t have to pick the first contractor you find. It is always smart to do research on different contractors to find the best fit. You could look into their websites, portfolios, social media accounts, and reviews on Google and social media.

From this research, you can get a general sense of each contractor. You will see the type of work they do, their project and construction management process, how they interact with people, and if past clients were generally satisfied with the work they had done.

Additionally, you could reach out to local building inspectors or others affiliated with the construction industry to see if they have any suggestions on who to hire. Combining all of this research will ensure you can make an educated decision when you hire a general contractor.

Check with Past Clients

The best way to get an understanding of what a contractor will be like is to talk to their past clients. Any contractor worth hiring will provide a list of clients they’ve worked with in the past that you can contact. From there, you will want to ask them a series of questions, similar to a reference check for a job interview.

Potential questions you may want to ask include:

  • How well did they communicate with you throughout the project?
  • How did they handle problems or issues during the project?
  • Were they able to stay reasonably on schedule?
  • Was their original bid close to the final price?
  • Were you satisfied with their work?
  • Would you work with them again?

Have your Project and Goals Clearly Outlined

Make sure you know what you want. This will help you find a general contractor who understands your vision and will be able to make your dreams come to life! If you are planning on renovating your house, have an idea of what types of layout changes, materials, and timelines you are trying to work with. You will probably need to allow for some flexibility to match what is feasible, up to building codes, and realistic for timelines, however. Having a plan will also help the contractors put together their own modifications to your plans so they can achieve what you are wanting in your project.

Meet With Each Potential Contractor

You want to hire a general contractor who feels confident they can achieve your project goals. If you have a conversation with each contractor, you will likely be able to tell if they are knowledgeable and how well they communicate. These will be important considerations moving forward, as you want a construction manager who knows how to handle changing circumstances and someone who will be a proficient communicator to keep you in the loop during construction.

Ask Questions About Your Project

This step is important to get an idea of what to expect during the project. You will want to ask questions and hear what the contractor has to say to help determine if they will be a good fit for you and your plans. The types of questions you may want to ask include:

  • What a rough outline of the process will look like and the different stages of construction;
  • What types of materials and supplies they will use (and how);
  • How have they handled similar projects in the past;
  • Do they have people on their crew who handle all different parts of the project (electrical, plumbing, etc.)? Or, do they subcontract those jobs out (and to who);
  • How do you handle clean-up (and when)? And how do you handle fine dust and debris?

Check if the Contractor has the Proper Licenses and Insurance

Ensure that the contractors are operating legally by checking that their business license number is valid, that they have the proper operating licenses for the type of work they do, and that the contractor has insurance, especially on their employees.

Request an Estimated Budget from Each Contractor

By getting estimates, you will get a general idea of what your project will look like. The more detailed the estimate the better, as you will be able to track any fluctuations that happen during construction. It also gives you an idea of what your money will be going towards. With these budget estimates, it may also be a good idea to work on a tentative payment schedule to see when the contractor would be expecting payment at different stages through the process. It is important to note, however, that the most budget friendly option isn’t necessarily the best for quality, especially with something as important as a construction project, nor is the most expensive always the best quality.

Draw up a Contract

This contract should cover every step of the project and can be looked at as a guiding document to lead to a successful construction project. Your contract should include everything, including the different steps of the project and a schedule, a payment schedule (dates and amounts), details of the contractor’s insurance, and any other conditions or requests that you may have for the project. It is always a good idea to have a lawyer help with this if you are uncomfortable or want assistance interpreting a legal document.

If, through this process, you encounter a contractor you feel uneasy about for any reason, you are likely best off not hiring them. A few things to be on the lookout for include:

  • No fixed or business address
  • Hesitancy, unpreparedness, or lack of interest in signing a written contract
  • Request large, upfront deposits greater than the normal deposit of 10-20%, especially if they cannot provide a reason for it
  • On reviewing their bid/budget estimate, you find excessive or inexplicable costs for materials or extra budget items
  • They do not have the proper license or insurance for the work they do

We hope these tips can help you hire a general contractor for your construction or renovation project!