Homeowners generally lack the expertise and experience to complete complicated projects around their home. Hey, it makes sense, and it's okay! With the average American working well beyond 40 hours per week in order to make ends meet, our time is limited and not all of us are as handy as we used to be. Plus, with all of the local and state government regulations surrounding home improvement projects, it's easier to bring in a professional who can take care of the heavy lifting and turn your dreams into a reality.
A General Contractor is a professional who manages the entire project for you, from start to finish. They oversee the process of hiring sub-contractors that specialize in their particular field, and come together as a team to complete your project on time. These projects can be as simple as making some updates to a bathroom, or as complex as building a multi-story addition to your home. Projects that a General Contractor works on are completed in phases.
You'll first meet your General Contractor as you begin setting up consultations with local companies to compare their capabilities and ability to work within your budget. The written quote is a proposal made by the General Contractor to complete the work you're requesting at a set price. There are a couple of ways that the General Contractor can price the work you're requesting. One is a fixed price proposal, which is a set price for the entire project. The second is cost plus price, which means the General Contractor is guaranteed a set fee for his services, but he will not guarantee the cost for materials and furnishings as part of his bid. Finally, the most common is an estimate, which provides the homeowner with a clear idea of the cost for completing the project, but the final cost is not set in stone.
Signing of Agreement
At this phase, you'll select your final choice out of the General Contractors that provided bids in order to complete the work. This will be someone that you feel shares your vision for the final product, and is capable of completing the work within your agreed budget. At this point, the General Contractor will provide a written agreement that outlines the finer points of your agreement. Take time to read through this agreement, and ask for any clarification on points you're unfamiliar with.
Detailed Planning and Permitting
After the "T's are crossed and the I's are dotted" on your contract, your General Contractor will take care of acquiring any permits required for your home improvement project. Because of their intimate knowledge of local and state building codes and requirements, they can streamline the process of getting your project off the drawing boards and into motion. Speaking of drawing boards, you'll also sign off on any plans or blueprints for your project at this stage. These will be carefully crafted to meet all local and state building codes.
Your General Contractor should have a network of electricians, plumbers, painters, and carpenters that they know and trust from past work. They'll reach out to their network, and build a team of sub-contractors who specialize in the various aspects of your project. When negotiating your contract, you'll want to have made sure you stipulated that only licensed, bonded, and insured sub-contractors are hired for your project. This helps ensure that you aren't held personally liable if your General Contractor or Sub-Contractors are injured while completing your project.
Per your contract, you should receive regular updates from your General Contractor with information about the progress made on your project, and the final cost of the work completed. You'll then need to make any agreed payments based on progress made. Always make sure that payments are tied to progress on your project, and your payments are made readily available per your agreement. A happy and motivated General Contractor is one of the many keys to an on-time and well-constructed home improvement project.
The dust has settled, and you're happy with your upgraded bathroom or new addition. Now is the time to cut a check and enjoy your newly improved home! If your General Contractor does an excellent job, make sure to leave them public feedback on sites like ours so that they can get the credit they deserve.
Requirements for General Contractors
The licensing and certification process for General Contractors is managed by each state. Beyond acquiring a license, many General Contractors have attained a bachelor's degree in construction science, or another field that relates to the work they encounter in their day-to-day responsibilities. Additionally, a large percentage of General Contractors start out as hourly construction laborers who take advantage of opportunities to learn as much about the trade as possible. These top-performers gain experience until they have the financial backing to either start out on their own, or climb the ladder to become a General Contractor in another firm.
Negotiating The Contract
Once you've received a written estimate for your work from the General Contractor, take time to review the finer points of the contract. As mentioned above, be sure to work in reasonable milestones that reward the General Contractor for getting your project completed ahead of schedule. Also pay close attention to the stipulations regarding sub-contractors that are hired for your project. While almost every General Contractor is licensed, bonded, and insured due to state requirements, the sub-contractors may not be. Confirm that these protections are written into the contract in order to minimize your family's liability, and provide peace of mind.
Finding Your Perfect General Contractor
The first place to start when looking for a General Contractor is a site just like ours where you can review in-depth listings of local General Contractors. Pay close attention to past reviews from customers that have worked with the General Contractor in the recent past. Always take an over-the-top review with a grain of salt, and give a promising contractor a chance to explain any past performance reviews that include one or two negative experiences.