General Contractors Info
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A reliable general contractor is the key to getting any major construction or remodeling job off the ground. Top contractors are able to bring together numerous subcontractors like plumbers, electricians, and carpenters in a strategic way to make sure your project gets done on time and under budget. Residential Contractors and Commercial Contractors are the two main types of general contractor, so it is always a good idea to ensure that you go with the one who is a specialist in the field, unless you don't mind paying for a commercial grade residence, or vice versa.
The key to getting the best general contractors involves homework. First, get quotes from multiple contractors and compare the numbers. If you're building a house or doing a room addition, you should get a good estimate on materials and the cost of labor, and you should also have a clear idea of the timeline. It is best to get everything in writing up front. Next, ask for some recent references and then ask the references how everything went. This will protect you from the kind of contractors that leave jobs unfinished for weeks at a time, which can lead to major inconvenience and other problems. Better general contractors will have multiple reliable subcontractors who can step in when the inevitable problems spring up during the construction process.
Reliable contractors should also have a payment plan that is in line with state law, and should get all permits before the project begins. The payment part is important because there are always a few contractor horror stories (add link) involving work that was paid for up front but never finished. This is not an infrequent complaint among the more infamous tradesmen who are using your project dollars to either finance the last project (robbing Peter to Pay Paul) or are using the money to fight lawsuits from previous homeowners. The permit and design process is also essential, because a building inspector can (and will) order demolition for a project that does not meet with approved specifications, or did not get the proper permits. Many times you can ask your county building permit people to tell you if your quoted contractors have a good history with the local departments.
BBB Certified contractors are also recommended, but this is naturally not a guarantee of results. In the latest housing crisis, many contractors went out of business with projects half finished because they were expecting payments from developers who went bankrupt. This stopped work on a lot of downstream projects, because subcontractors were expecting money from general contractors, who of course did not get paid and so on. Try to make sure your contractor will be using your money for your project, and don't be afraid to talk to the subcontractors when they are on the project, because they may be able to give you a heads up on the project.
Notes and Special Information
Special note: Always get multiple contractor quotes, or you will not get the best deal.