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Choosing a General Contractor


When you're planning is done and you have gotten a good idea of the scope of your project as well as what your budget is, it is time to pick a quality general contractor. Choosing a general contractor requires time, patience and instinct. A good general contractor appreciates an informed customer; so be sure that you have educated yourself on the project and the expertise required to complete the job. Below are some tips to help you select the general contractor for you:

  • When you talk to a general contractor, clearly communicate your ideas. Ask questions and listen to the responses given. Effective communication is extremely important for a customer/general contractor relationship.
  • Always give each general contractor the same information regarding the project.

When interviewing a general contractor, ask:

  • Are you a licensed general contractor in this state?
    Check with the Department of Labor & Industries to insure the general contractor is licensed and bonded.
  • Can I have three references from customers in the past 12 months? Past three years?
    Use references to check the general contractor's current and past work history.
  • Can I have a banking and/or financial reference???
    Check financial stability. If the general contractor is unable to pay for materials, labor, and overhead costs, the job could go unfinished.
  • What professional/trade organizations are you are a member of?
    Check membership standing in the organization provided. Such as Master Builders Association or Built Green
  • What insurance coverage do you have?
    At a minimum, general contractors should have Workman's Compensation, general liability (including property and personal liability), and automobile insurance. These policies help protect you and your property from potential legal problems should an accident occur. Call the insurance agency to confirm effective dates of the insurance policies.
  • When a general contractor starts a job, it's good practice to have a valid certificate of insurance naming you and your property as co-insured. Have the general contractor contact his insurance agency and request that a copy be mailed directly to you. Do not accept a photocopy.
  • How long have you been in business?
    A general contractor with at least five years experience usually has a stable business foundation and is reliable.
  • Based on the project detail, what permits may be required?
    The general contractor should be familiar with local building code requirements.
  • May I have an itemized estimate on the project and a time frame?
    The estimate should be in writing.
  • Do you have a "before and after" picture portfolio?
    Most general contractors have pictures of past work.



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