When we wrote recently about “What do you need to consider when building a sunroom?” we failed to mention advice about selecting a General Contractor or GC.
Most medium and large construction jobs are handled by a general contractor or GC. The general contractor may be called a builder, building contractor, remodeling contractor, etc. What makes him a “general” contractor is that he enters into a contract with the owner to complete a project and takes full responsibility to get the job done for the bid price. She is the most important person on the project. How do you go about selecting a general contractor?
Selecting a General Contractor
In general, the GC purchases the materials, hires the tradespeople, and brings in subcontractors to get the work done. The subcontractors are responsible to the general contractor, not to you, the owner.
Make sure the GC is properly licensed. Most states or counties as well as many large cities or townships license contractors; other jurisdictions require them to be registered. As a rule, licensing entails passing a test to measure competency, while registering involves only payment of a fee. If a problem arises, a government agency may be able to pursue a licensed or registered contractor on your behalf.
Ask The General Contractor Questions
Consumers Report writes, “Ask for a list of previous customers; then call them or, better yet, visit their homes to look at the work. Ask some penetrating questions such as these:”
- Would you hire this contractor again?
- Were you satisfied with the quality of the work?
- How did the contractor handle cleanup each day?
- Was the contractor easy to talk to?
- How did the contractor handle differences and work changes?
- Was the job completed on time and at the bid? If not, why not?
Industry groups recommend that when selecting a general contractor, you get a written estimate from at least three contractors. We suggest at least five bids. An estimate should detail the work to be done, the materials needed, the labor required, and the length of time the job will take. Obtaining multiple estimates is a good idea. An estimate can evolve into a bid—a more detailed figure based on plans with actual dimensions. Seeking more than one bid will increase your odds of paying less. Once agreed to and signed by you and the contractor, a bid becomes a contract.
Beware the Lowest Bid when Selecting a General Contractor
The lowest bid doesn’t necessarily mean it is the best bid. Make sure you are comparing apples to oranges. You might also buy your own materials to make sure the contractor isn’t substituting cheaper materials.
With a contractor, you want a project manager who will manage the sub-trades and make sure they are cooperative and stick to the schedule. Ask how the subs are paid, how often, and if they are paid as work is completed.
Get it in Writing
Draw up a contract that details every step of the project: payment schedule; proof of liability insurance and worker’s compensation payments; a start date and projected completion date; specific materials and products to be used; and a requirement that the contractor obtain lien releases (which protect you if he doesn’t pay his bills) from all subcontractors and suppliers. Insisting on a clear contract isn’t about mistrust. It’s about ensuring a successful renovation.
In summary, selecting a general contractor is very important to the success of your sunroom project and your future enjoyment of the sunroom. Selecting a GC means asking questions, check his referrals, don’t just choose the lowest bid, and get it in writing.