What You Should Look for in a General Contractor
Updated: Mar 9
Choosing a contractor for your home project – large or small – can be overwhelming. It’s an important decision that requires research, meetings and thoughtfulness. After all, the reality is you’re entrusting someone with your home, your money and your time.
Most homeowners begin with a simple Google search (i.e. “Los Angeles general contractor”), which unearths a seemingly endless list of options. So, how do you sift through the results to find a home pro that’s trustworthy and reliable?
Here’s a thorough checklist to help. It will guide you when hiring a contractor for your home remodeling project, be that a kitchen remodel, bathroom renovation, home addition, whole-home remodel, accessory dwelling unit (ADU) and more. While we warn you that completely the checklist can take some time, it’s well worth it in the end. In fact, it’ll likely save you a lot of time, money and stress – or even from having to find a new contractor to finish a job that went awry.
Here’s How to Find a Quality Contractor:
1. Check the Contractors’ Reviews & References
When looking at that massive list of Google results, cross-check contractors’ reviews on Google, Yelp, Facebook, HOUZZ, etc. Read what people have to say about their experience with that pro. It’s enlightening. Additionally, feel free to ask contractors for references so you can directly speak to their clients about their home remodeling experience.
2. Ensure the Contractor is Licensed, Bonded & Insured
This is one of the biggest safety precautions that protect you and your home. Ask your prospective contractors if they’re is licensed, insured and bonded. In fact, go a step farther and check that their license number is still active by searching your state’s contractor license database. Click here to search the California license database.
3. Meet at Least Three Contractors
After doing your online research and speaking to the contractors via phone, it’s important to compare contractors in-person. This gives you a sense of the contractors’ disposition and allows you to ask more questions face-to-face. And, ask questions, you should! These can include:
How many similar projects has the contractor completed?
Will the project be completed in a timely manner?
What is the contractor’s expected completion date?
What are the days and hours in which the crew will work on your home?
Who else is a part of the contractor’s team, including subcontractors and suppliers (thus who else could be in your home or supporting the project’s progress)?
Who is your point of contact?
How regularly will you receive progress reports?
Can he/she help with building permits, if necessary?
How will the contractor keep the job site clean?
What happens if the crew damages something during construction?
How much will the project cost and what is the payment schedule?
What can be done if you’re dissatisfied with any of the finished work?
4. Compare Prices & Up-Front Costs
After those meetings, you’ll likely receive a formal bid. Compare those bids to get a good sense of who is in-budget and who may be overcharging. Also, be cautious when hiring anyone who requests more than 10% or $1,000 up front. Legally, the standard is to charge 10% of the total contract or $1,000, whichever is lesser.
5. Read & Re-Read the Written Contract
This very important document should protect the contractor and you. Make sure it does the latter. A detailed contract will include specifics on the construction, timeline and costs, and your interests/concerns should be addressed. Don’t be afraid to ask the contractor questions and for appropriate revisions.
6. Go with Your Gut
After your research, phone meeting, in-person meeting and cost/contract review, you should have a solid sense of your contractor as a professional and as a person. Trust your intuition, particularly regarding any red flags. Does he/she have a personality that jives with yours? Does he have integrity? Do you believe he’ll keep you in the loop and respect your home as well as your wallet? In the end, it says a lot if your gut is telling you he’ll make a good partner in your home project.
Do you live in the greater Los Angeles area? We’re here to help! Contact us today for a free quote on your home-improvement project.