8 Things To Look for in a General Contractor
Renovating your home can be a rewarding (but oftentimes stressful) experience. Whether you're restoring an older house, remodeling a kitchen, or building a new addition, it's important that you and the construction team are on the same page. The relationship between homeowner and general contractor (GC) is often compared to dating. When the relationship works, it leads to all kinds of joy. But when it doesn't, the results can be heartbreaking (not to mention expensive). Dan DiClerico, Home Expert at HomeAdvisor, shares his top eight rules for maintaining a healthy relationship between homeowner and GC.
1. Play the field.
"You wouldn't marry the first guy you date, no matter how perfect he might seem. The same goes for choosing a GC. For a major project, like a gut kitchen renovation, HomeAdvisor recommends starting with a list 7 to 10 pros, which you should be able to whittle down to 3 to 5, based on things like availability and online reviews. Meet with the short-list candidates in person. The process is time-consuming, but every meeting will teach you more about the project, as well as what you're looking for in a contractor."
2. Trust your gut.
"Remember, this is the start of a long-term relationship. Any negative impressions you have in the initial meetings will only intensify over time. Does the GC return calls promptly and show up on time? Is their tone respectful or condescending? Are they in a hurry to get to their next meeting? These are all clues about what kind of partner they'll make once the work project gets underway. Trust, respect, and rapport are the building blocks to any healthy homeowner/GC relationship."
3. Look for team chemistry.
"If you're working with an architect or designer, it's important to make sure they get along with your contractor as well. Ever date someone who can't stand your best friend? That's nothing compared to the tension you'll put up with if your GC and architect don't get along. Worse yet, the project will suffer if your team can't collaborate and problem-solve effectively."
4. Insist on a written contract.
"A written contract on a remodeling project is vital, since it eliminates the chance of false expectations. The document should spell out the full scope of the project, including an itemized list of products and materials, right down to model numbers and choice of finishes. It's also worth including a target start and end date, with penalties if the project goes long through fault of the GC and incentives if they finish early."
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5. Keep the lines of communication open.
"Start by establishing the GC's preferred mode of communication. You know how some boyfriends/girlfriends hate talking on the phone? GCs can be the same way, preferring email, text, or face time. Make sure you and your GC are simpatico. And remember that communication is a two-way street. You can't check out of the project once the work begins. Plan on visiting the job site at least once a week and more often during critical times, like the demo stage, when a lot of major decisions are made. Conversely, avoid over-communicating with your GC. Most pros will tell you that long-winded emails or texts are one of their biggest pet peeves."
6. Don't make the GC your marriage counselor.
"The stress of home renovation can take a toll on your relationship with your spouse or partner. Your GC is not there to mediate. Most pros prefer to deal exclusively with one partner. That way they're not hearing one thing from the husband and another from the wife. As for keeping the peace with your partner, recognize that home remodeling tends to bring any existing issues in the relationship to the surface. So, you'll have to show extra patience and communication."
7. If you must part ways, do it graciously.
"Irreconcilable differences do occur in remodeling. Best case scenario is to part ways amicably, agreeing to disagree. If that's not possible, it's better to work with a professional mediator than end up in small claims court, where neither party is likely to walk away satisfied."
8. Share the positive experience.
"Referral and repeat customers are the lifeblood of any remodeling company. If you're thrilled with how the project turned out, make sure to share the five-star experience via online review. And don't be shy about telling the GC directly. As with any relationship, letting your GC know how much you appreciate them will make them want to keep doing the same."