Tips and Articles

Working with a General Contractor

Finally, it’s time to build. You’ve selected your plans, arranged financing and are ready to hire a general contractor and get the hammers swinging.

Unfortunately, finding a good contractor may not be as easy as you’d think. Nowadays, demand for top-notch contracting services often outstrips supply, putting homeowners in a vulnerable position. Plan ahead or you may find yourself "settling" for anyone that is available.

General Contractors and Their Responsibilities

General contractors are hired to oversee construction and are paid anywhere from 10 to 25% of the total project cost. Their responsibilities include seeking bids from subcontractors, estimating project costs and hiring and supervising subcontractors through to project completion.

Price and availability are just two of the many things to consider when selecting a general contractor. It is important to ensure the contractor you hire is one you can work with? Will the person return your calls prompted? Will your questions be asked?

Start by asking friends and neighbours for the names of general contractors they have worked with and recommend. Get names through realtors, the Chamber of Commerce and the yellow pages and create a list you can use to interview potential contractors.

Know What You Want

Know exactly what you want and how much you have to spend. Providing details to the General Contractor will save time and money and make for a much smoother working relationship.

Be Respectful

General contractors are busy so it is essential you respect their time. Know what you want and be on time for appointments.
Check References

Insist on references and check them personally before making a decision. Visit homes the contractor has built and make note of aspects of the construction that you like or dislike.

Get it in Writing

Request a detailed written contract specifying the timeline, an estimate of hours, a list of materials and a payment schedule outlining how much the contractor is to be paid and when. Make sure the contract clearly outlines the responsibilities of contractors and subcontractors, including post construction clean up. All contract changes should be in writing and signed by the contractor.

Protect Yourself

Make sure the contractor has appropriate insurance including workers compensation insurance and general liability insurance to cover accidental damage or injuries that could occur on your property during the job.

Stay Involved

Don’t make the final payment until you have reviewed receipts showing all bills for materials and labour have been paid in full. As a homeowner, you may be held responsible for bills that are not paid by a general contractor.
Do it on Your Own

Not everyone hires a general contractor. Some homeowners chose to cut costs by acting as their own general contractor. This is an option, but one you should consider carefully. Acting as your own contractor is a time consuming and stressful job that may not generate the savings you expect.

Watching your home emerge from the dirt is an exciting, but stressful, experience. Surviving the experience is a simple matter of knowing what you want and hiring a professional with the experience and skills to realize your dream. Good luck!