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What We Look for in General Contractors: Part I


Hiring a contractor can be a big decision. There are many factors to be considered during this process. Regardless of what type of project you are undergoing, it’s important to have the right company to do the job.

The first step in selecting a commercial general contractor for your project is identifying what you need in terms of construction or renovation. Some key questions to ask include: What are your goals for the project? What is your budget for the project? What is the desired schedule for the project?

In finding the right contractor, it’s important to look at some noteworthy criteria.  


Verify your contractor’s registration, bond, insurance and infractions

Check to ensure they have the qualified license and request insurance verification directly from the insurance company. Be sure to compare the coverages between contractors as it can vary tremendously.

Contractor's license bonds are established as based upon the volume of work within the state and the classification contemplated by the licensee. A company that is licensed to offer surety products in a specific state does not mean that the company actually does. You will need to contact the business directly for additional information as to what services they offer.


Check contractor histories, credentials, and reviews

Look into the company, their qualifier name (the license holder), verify it exists and is active. Is all their documentation up to date? What does their history look like? Any complaints? Also, check with the local Better Business Bureau for ratings, complaints and how they resolved those complaints.

Protect yourself. Do your due diligence. States offer resources, such as Arizona’s Contractor Search and Building Confidence Program.


Get answers about costs

How a general contractor arrives at a bottom-line fee requires asking a lot of questions. All costs should be illustrated in a divisional itemization with as much detail as may be required to make accurate comparisons.

It isn't uncommon for contractors to give an “estimate” of how much they anticipate the work will cost. The quoted cost should be the exact amount that a particular task will cost, without much “wiggle room.” There should be no such thing as charging too much if a price has been agreed upon.


Learn about the team and subcontractors

It’s important to know who will supervise your project, who are your points of contact, and who will the subs be. Since subs are under the direct supervision of the GC on any project, it’s imperative that they work as a team. Both have to be a good fit.

Contractors and construction businesses often depend on subcontractors to complete specialized tasks or work on the job. There are upsides for GCs using subs: since subcontractors are usually only skilled in one or two specific jobs, they have a much higher quality of work than someone who is a jack-of-all-trades; GCs can focus on other important tasks while subs focus on the job at hand.

If a sub you hire causes damage to a client's commercial project, you could be held liable for their mistake. Require subs to have their own insurance coverage.


Nail down timing and execution

Timing and execution are obviously crucial for all involved parties. Ask for a timeline and inquire about other projects that may be happening simultaneously. A qualified commercial general contractor will keep things organized and moving smoothly.

Since they oversee the entire job, they make sure all of the materials are in place as they are needed and will always keep you up to date on the progress of the project. The contractor is in charge of all of the paperwork and scheduling, making sure each part of the project is completed on time and as efficiently as possible.

The goal for any commercial construction project is to find a reputable company that provides quality work and in the defined timeline. Remember, the company you choose for your commercial general contractor will be your business partner, so choose the company that is a fit for your project and has the qualities you’re looking for. Doing so starts with knowing what criteria are important and the right questions to ask.

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