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How To Hire A General Contractor: Ultimate Checklist And Tips

Have you just decided to embark on a home improvement project? Ready to bring your dream kitchen or that beautiful deck into reality? You must be eager and excited about the transformation that awaits. But there’s just one small hurdle – finding the right person for the job—a general contractor!

Hiring a general contractor is vital when it comes to making your construction dreams come true. Whether it’s remodeling an entire house or adding an extra room, these professionals have expertise and experience that can save you time, money, and headaches along the way.

But how to hire a general contractor, you ask? The process of hiring a general contractor may seem overwhelming at first glance. With our ultimate checklist and tips, we’ll break down everything step-by-step so you can confidently navigate through this adventure without breaking a sweat.

What is a General Contractor?

A general contractor (GC) is like the maestro of your construction project, overseeing and managing every aspect to ensure its successful completion. They act as the bridge between you, the homeowner, and all the various contractors and experts working on your property.

Unlike specialized tradespeople (like electricians or plumbers), a general contractor doesn’t specialize in one specific area. Instead, they have a wide range of knowledge to oversee everything from foundation laying to roofing and wiring. They handle bidding, planning, and construction oversight – right up until post-construction tasks like final payments or scheduling inspections.

What Makes a Great General Contractor?

When it comes to hiring a general contractor, you want someone who not only has the necessary skills and expertise but also possesses certain qualities that will make your experience smooth and successful. Here are some traits of a great general contractor:

A great GC is an excellent communicator. They listen attentively to your ideas, concerns, and vision for the project while keeping you informed every step of the way.

While we all dream big, a fantastic general contractor knows how to balance dreams with reality. They provide realistic timelines, budgets, and expectations, so there are no surprises down the road.

Construction projects can be unpredictable at times; therefore, flexibility is key! A top-notch contractor adapts quickly in case unexpected challenges arise during construction without compromising quality or efficiency.

When it comes to intricacies like craftsmanship or finishes, details matter. From perfect joints between tiles on your new bathroom floor to choosing hardware with exact sagging points on deck rails – nothing goes unnoticed by a quality general contractor. 

Let’s face it – construction sites often resemble organized chaos! But an outstanding contractor holds cleanliness paramount by maintaining tidy workspaces that minimize disruptions while ensuring safety remains a priority.

Finding these qualities in potential contractors can give you peace of mind, ensuring that your home remodeling journey flows seamlessly from start to finish.

How To Hire A General Contractor

Services a General Contractor Offers

When it comes to home building or remodeling, a general contractor has got you covered. They offer an array of services that can tackle any project, from new construction projects where they bring your dream home to life from the ground up to renovations and remodels that breathe fresh life into your existing spaces.

General contractors also handle specialized services such as painting, electrical work to install those dazzling light fixtures, plumbing for kitchens and bathrooms, and woodworking for custom cabinetry or trim details that wow guests.

Need flooring expertise? A general contractor will ensure you have smooth surfaces beneath your feet. And when it’s time for a solid roof overhead or exterior protection with siding – they’ve got the know-how!

With their broad skill set and subcontractor network at hand, hiring one is truly value-packed!

General Contractor Qualifications

When hiring a general contractor, it’s essential to ensure that they have the necessary qualifications. Firstly, check if they have relevant experience handling similar projects. Additionally, make sure they have all the required permits to legally operate in your area.

It’s also crucial to review their reputation with good reviews and testimonials from previous clients. To protect yourself and your property, confirm that the contractor has personal liability insurance for any mishaps on-site. Equally important is worker’s compensation coverage for their employees’ safety.

How to Hire a General Contractor

Start your search for a quality general contractor by reaching out to trusted friends, family, or neighbors and asking for recommendations. You can also scout the web for reputable contractors in your local area. Consider contractors who have experience with projects similar to yours.

Remember that some contractors operate independently, while others are part of larger construction companies. Don’t rule out either type as long as they meet all necessary requirements.

Questions to Ask a General Contractor

Hiring the right general contractor for your project is absolutely crucial. You want someone who not only has the skills and expertise to get the job done but also understands your vision and can bring it to life. To make sure you’re making an informed decision, here are some key questions you should ask potential contractors:

  1. How long has your company been in business? 

Experience matters when it comes to handling complex construction projects.

  1. What experience do you have with this type of project? 

It’s essential that they have direct experience with similar projects, so they know what challenges may arise.

  1. Do you have all the necessary permits or licenses? 

Compliance with local building codes ensures a smooth process without any legal complications down the line.

  1. Do you have references? 

Checking past work and speaking directly with previous clients will give insight into their reputation and reliability.

  1. What is the cost estimate for my project? 

Understanding upfront costs helps ensure there won’t be any surprises during construction.

  1. What is the timeline for this project or particular work? 

A clear timeline allows expectations to be set from inception until completion.

  1. Are you insured? 

There can often be contract accidents. So you better be safe than sorry!

Tips for Hiring a Contractor

Finding the right contractor for your home project can be challenging, and that’s because it’s a priority! I’ve got some insider tips to make this journey smoother. Let’s get started!

  • Get Recommendations

When it comes to hiring a contractor, recommendations are gold. Start by reaching out to your friends and family for any trusted suggestions they may have. Additionally, you can consult the National Association of the Remodeling Industry for a reliable list of contractors in your local area.

Another great source is your local building inspector, who can recommend contractors that consistently meet code requirements. You may pay a visit to your neighborhood lumberyard because they often have insights into which contractors purchase high-quality materials and maintain good payment practices.

  • Get Multiple Estimates

Don’t settle for the first contractor you come across! It’s important to talk to several contractors and get written estimates from at least three. But remember, don’t just compare prices. Look into aspects such as building materials, work methods, and project timelines—factors that can vary between different contractors.

Keep an eye out for estimates that seem too high or suspiciously low – both could be red flags indicating potential problems down the road.

  • Check Their Past Work

Before making a hiring decision, it’s crucial to evaluate a contractor’s past work. Take the time to ask for references and talk directly with their previous clients. Inquire about the quality of their products, craftsmanship, and customer service.

Also, check out professional reputation ratings through trusted sources like the Better Business Bureau. A contractor with at least five years of experience can provide reassurance that they have handled various projects successfully over time.

  • Get Everything in Writing

Before any work begins, it is essential to secure a comprehensive contract with your chosen contractor. This step ensures that both parties are clear on the project’s details and expectations. Consider having a lawyer review the proposed contract, especially for major projects involving substantial costs.

The written agreement should include:

– A detailed description of the work and itemized pricing.

– A payment schedule indicating deposit amounts or milestones.

– Start and completion dates for larger projects.

– Any guarantees offered, including responsibilities and validity periods.

It’s crucial to have all parties sign the contract without leaving any sections blank. In the event that changes arise during construction, make sure they are acknowledged in writing by everyone involved.

Furthermore, ask your contractor to provide confirmation of obtaining all necessary building permits. If you ever need to cancel a signed agreement, don’t forget to follow its cancellation clause while providing written notification via registered mail as proof of cancellation receipt.

  • Check Their License, Insurance, and Bonding

When hiring a contractor for your home project, it’s absolutely crucial to verify their license status. An unlicensed contractor can spell disaster for your project and even put you at legal risk. Look for a licensed contractor with zero filed complaints or disciplinary actions taken against them.

Insurance is another key factor to consider. Choose a contractor who has both workman’s compensation insurance and general liability coverage that protects against property damage or bodily injury during the construction process. Request insurance certificates (COI) from potential contractors, and don’t hesitate to contact the insurance company directly if needed.

Bonding provides an extra layer of assurance that your contract will be fulfilled as promised. If a previous experience makes you wary of contractors abandoning projects before completion, having trust issues isn’t uncommon! – opt for someone bonded.

  • Set a Payment Schedule

As you embark on your home renovation project, it’s crucial to establish a clear and fair payment schedule with your chosen contractor. The payment schedule can provide insights into the contractor’s financial stability and work ethic.

A typical payment milestone for larger projects starts with 10 percent at contract signing, followed by three payments of 25 percent evenly dispersed throughout the duration of the project. Finally, give them a check for the remaining 15 percent once all items on the punch list have been successfully completed.

This established structure ensures that both parties are protected financially while maintaining accountability throughout every stage of your remodel or construction journey.

  • Compare the Bids

When reviewing contractor estimates, it’s essential to understand that they might not be “apples-to-apples” comparisons. Each bid may have different inclusions and exclusions, making it crucial to closely examine each one. Ask questions regarding what is covered and make a note of any notable differences.

Contractor Red Flags to Watch Out For

How To Hire A General Contractor

When it comes to hiring a general contractor for your home improvement project, it’s crucial to be wary of certain red flags. These warning signs can indicate potential issues down the road if ignored. 

1. No license or insurance verification

One major red flag to watch out for is a general contractor who cannot provide proof of proper licensing and insurance coverage. Hiring an unlicensed contractor puts you at risk, as they may lack the necessary skills and qualifications to complete your project safely and efficiently. 

Without proper insurance, any accidents or damages that occur on your property could leave you financially liable. Always verify licenses and request proof of insurance before making a decision.

Example? Imagine hiring someone without a license only to find out later they aren’t qualified to handle electrical work—a potential disaster waiting to happen!

2. Insistence on cash-only payments

Beware of general contractors who demand cash-only payments, as this is a red flag that raises serious concerns. Reputable contractors will offer different payment options and accept checks or credit cards for transparency and accountability purposes.

An insistence on cash could indicate potential shady practices, such as avoiding taxes or skipping out on subcontractor payments. Protect yourself by ensuring all financial transactions are conducted legally and through traceable methods to maintain a paper trail.

3. Putting the responsibility of obtaining permits and codes on you

A red flag to watch out for is a general contractor who tries to shift the responsibility of obtaining necessary permits and meeting building codes onto you, the homeowner. A reliable contractor will be familiar with local regulations and take care of all permit-related tasks, ensuring that your project complies with safety standards.

Imagine being left in legal hot water because your contractor failed to obtain proper permits. Or maybe they neglected important building code requirements—an avoidable nightmare! Choose a professional who takes ownership of these responsibilities from start to finish.

4. Lack of online presence

In today’s digital age, a lack of online presence can be a red flag when it comes to hiring a general contractor. A reputable contractor will typically have some form of online presence, such as a website or social media profiles, showcasing their work and allowing you to read reviews from previous clients.

If you struggle to find any traceable information about the contractor or if they have no positive reviews available online, it may indicate that they are inexperienced or unreliable. It’s always worth doing your research before making any decisions!

5. Numerous negative reviews

Pay close attention to the contractor’s online reputation through customer reviews and ratings. If you come across numerous negative reviews highlighting issues like communication problems, missed deadlines, or poor workmanship, it’s concerning. 

Trust the experiences of previous customers, as they can provide valuable insights into a general contractor’s reliability and quality of work. Remember, even one bad review might be considered an isolated incident, but multiple consistent negative reviews are cause for concern.

6. Suspiciously low price quotes

While a lower bid may initially seem appealing, be cautious of general contractors who provide unusually low price quotes compared to others. This could indicate cutting corners on materials or quality of work – a potential recipe for disaster.

Remember, quality work and craftsmanship come at a fair price. It’s important not to compromise on the integrity and longevity of your project by opting for cheap alternatives that may result in costly repairs down the line.

7. Inability to answer your questions

If a general contractor struggles to provide clear and satisfactory answers to your questions, consider it a red flag. A reputable contractor should be knowledgeable, confident, and willing to address any concerns or inquiries you may have.

An inability or hesitation to answer important questions about the project’s timeline, the hiring of subcontractors involved, or necessary permits could indicate a lack of experience or dishonesty. Clear communication is crucial for a successful working relationship – don’t ignore this warning sign!

8. Pressure to make an immediate decision

Beware of contractors who put pressure on you to make an instant decision without giving you time to think it through or seek other options. Reputable general contractors understand the importance of allowing homeowners to consider all aspects before committing, ensuring a comfortable and confident decision-making process.

For example, rushing into signing a contract without comparing bids from different contractors may lead you to miss out on potential cost savings or better services elsewhere. Take your time and choose wisely!

9. Chronic lateness to meetings

Consistently showing up late for meetings is a red flag that shouldn’t be ignored when hiring a general contractor. Punctuality reflects professionalism and respect for your time. If they can’t make it on time during the early stages of the project, it may indicate reliability issues throughout.

Think about it this way – if they struggle to keep appointments, will they also struggle to stick to project deadlines?

10. Rudeness during the interview and consultation

If a general contractor displays rude or disrespectful behavior during an initial interview or consultation, it’s essential to take note of this serious issue. Remember, you’ll be working closely with this person throughout your project, so mutual respect is crucial for a smooth working relationship.

A contractor who is dismissive of your questions or exhibits unprofessional behavior may not prioritize effective communication. That could lead to frustration and misunderstandings later on. Trustworthy contractors value open dialogue and treat their clients with courtesy at all times.

What Is the Average Contractor Overhead Cost?

The average contractor overhead cost can vary depending on the project size and location. It typically ranges from 10% to 25% of the total project cost. This covers expenses such as office rent, utilities, tools, equipment maintenance, insurance coverage, and more. 

Keep this in mind when budgeting for your home improvement or remodeling project so you can ensure that all necessary costs are accounted for.


In conclusion, hiring the right general contractor is crucial for the success of your home improvement project. Not only will they bring expertise and efficiency to the job, but a good working relationship with your contractor can make all the difference.

Remember to ask questions, check references, and review past work before making a decision. Reach out to local contractors in your area or consult reputable sources like the Better Business Bureau or the National Association of Remodeling Industry (NARI) for recommendations.

When it comes to finding trusted general contractors in Minnetonka and beyond, Brewer Built LLC surely stands out! With extensive experience and a commitment to quality workmanship, we are dedicated partners who will help you turn your vision into reality. Don’t hesitate! Contact Brewer Built LLC today for an exceptional building experience!

Now that you have our ultimate contractor checklist and tips on hand, go ahead confidently and hire the right one, knowing that your next home renovation project will be well cared for from start to finish!

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