Any type of home improvement work is stressful. It can be even more overwhelming if you don’t know what to look for in a general contractor. It’s essential to research and understand what qualifications to look for, the services that are offered, and what questions to ask when hiring a general contractor.
At HOMEfix, a Colorado Springs home improvement company, we understand the importance of making sure you get the perfect contractor for your home improvement project. Sadly, not all contractors do good work. You should always be careful when choosing a contractor and make sure they check all the boxes needed for a successful job.
If you’re looking for an expert-level contractor, here are a few things to look out for.
What is a General Contractor?
A general contractor is a professional skilled in various aspects of construction and remodeling projects. They are responsible for managing the entire process from start to finish, including scheduling subcontractors, getting all the necessary permits, purchasing materials, and more.
A reputable general contractor will have good relationships with local suppliers and be knowledgeable about local regulations and building codes. Your general contractor will also work with you to style your home according to your vision, budget, and timeline.
General Contractor Qualifications
Before hiring a contractor, it’s important to make sure they have the appropriate qualifications. A qualified general contractor should:
- Have at least 5 years of experience in the construction field
- Be licensed and insured
- Have a good reputation in the community
- Offer references from past work
- Have a portfolio of completed projects
You should also research various home renovation companies to read their reviews, get estimates, and compare prices.
Remodeling Services Offered by General Contractors
Depending on your project, you may need different services from your general contractor. Some of the most common services they offer include:
- Design and planning: Your contractor can help you design your project and ensure that it meets all the necessary regulations.
- Electrical: Your contractor will be able to install and repair any electrical work, such as wiring, lighting systems, outlets, etc.
- Plumbing: If you need plumbing repairs or installation, your general contractor can handle it for your home renovation project.
- Carpentry: When installing cabinets, shelving units, decks, etc., make sure your contractor is qualified in carpentry.
- Building codes and permits: Your contractor will know the local building codes and be able to obtain the necessary permits.
- Painting: If your project requires any painting, you should make sure your contractor is experienced in that area.
- Customer service: Most importantly, your general contractor should provide excellent customer service and be available to answer your questions about construction.
Questions to Ask a General Contractor
When interviewing potential contractors, here are some key questions to have in mind:
- What is your experience with this kind of project?
- Are you licensed and insured?
- Do you have any references I can contact?
- How long will the project take?
- Can you provide a timeline for each stage of the project?
- What does your price include?
- Do you offer any warranties or guarantees on your work?
- What are the payment terms and timelines?
Boxes Your General Contractor Must Check
When hiring a general contractor, make sure they check off all the following boxes:
1. Do they eat unforeseen circumstances?
Your contractor should catch unforeseen circumstances in the initial appointment and it should be included in your estimate — NOT added on during the project.
Once you sign your final estimate, that price should be locked in and won’t change unless you decide you’d like to change the scope of work. That means that if your home contractor misses something, they’ll “eat” the cost.
But the truth is that doesn’t happen that often. Not every contractor eats the cost of unforeseen circumstances. When you work with a reputable one, they should build that cost into the initial estimate.
2. Have they been in business longer than 5 years?
Ron had his roof replaced a few years ago and went with the cheapest roofing contractor he could find. They had a warranty so he figured he’d be covered. Last year, his roof started leaking. He went to call the roofing company but his call could not be completed as dialed. His contractor had gone out of business and Ron had run out of luck.
It’s important who you choose to hire runs a stable business because there’s a chance you may need them to come back out to patch something up at some point. That’s one reason why cheaper isn’t always better. Your contractor needs to have been in business for a minimum of 5 years.
Now that you know they’re legitimate, make sure they treat people well and do things the right way. Google them. Read some reviews. Know who you’re doing work with.
3. What’s their start time?
“We can start tomorrow!” If a business says it can start tomorrow, that’s a huge red flag. If they’re reputable and stable, they’re scheduled out at least a week for the vast majority of the year.
Once they do start, a typical remodel should take between 4-8 weeks depending on the size and scope of the project. Typically, the biggest factor in a project’s timeline is the availability of chosen materials.
Before you start, they should always give you a detailed renovation schedule with a hard deadline and payment schedule.
4. What about a warranty?
Just having a warranty isn’t good enough. Ask how often your contractor gets warranty claims. If it’s more than a few per month, that’s a sign of poor quality.
If they claim they never have warranty claims, they might not be telling the whole truth (everyone makes mistakes) and may find ways to avoid actually fulfilling their warranty.
5. Are they licensed and insured?
Leslie hired a friend of a friend to save some money on a small bathroom refresh. The guy ended up getting hurt during the project. It happens. Unfortunately, he was unlicensed and uninsured. So when he filed for worker’s compensation, Leslie was responsible for his medical bills and lost wages. Total nightmare.
Not everyone who claims to be a contractor is a reputable one. If your contractor is unlicensed and uninsured, you are responsible for their work.
Check and make sure your company is licensed and insured. Don’t just take their word for it. Look them up on the Pikes Peak Regional Building Department’s website to be sure.
6. Do they have the necessary permit?
Your contractor needs to be able to pull a permit for the work. If you go with the cheapest company, you could go to sell your house only to learn that your “contractor” never pulled a permit. That could be a deal breaker for the sale and cost you thousands by having to lower your asking price or tear apart your house just to pass inspection. Not fun.
If a contractor ever asks you to pull a homeowner’s permit, fire them immediately. They’re almost certainly trying to shed accountability and put it on you.
Also, scammers will sometimes pose as contractors, ask for a deposit and then do a vanishing act. It’s awful, but it does happen. Don’t make a deposit, pay in cash, or sign ANYTHING until you’ve had a chance to check them out.
Start Your Home Improvement Project with HOMEfix
Not all local contractors are made the same. When it comes to home improvement projects, it’s important to hire the right team for the job. Make sure you ask questions, explore different companies, get estimates, and compare prices before signing any contracts or agreements with a general contractor. Doing your homework upfront will ensure that you have a successful project with minimal delays or surprises along the way!
When you work with HOMEfix, we’ll walk you through the process step-by-step and make sure that your project is completed on time and within budget. Our licensed professionals have completed thousands of projects in the Colorado Springs area and are ready to help you with yours. Contact us today for a free estimate!