Once you’ve decided that you want to remodel or renovate your home, you need to start the process of identifying who is going to manage this project for you. Some people are equipped, due to their profession or past experience to be their own general contractor, but most of us would be wise to hire a general contractor for a remodeling project. The general contractor is responsible for delivering the job on time and on budget. They coordinate the trades (subcontractors) to ensure that they don’t interfere with each other (the carpet is not being laid in the same room and at the same time that the painter is working), and the job progresses smoothly. They may also obtain all required permits and be on site when required inspection are completed.
How do you decide which contractor to pick? Many people start by getting recommendations from their friends and neighbors. One thing to keep in mind is to understand exactly what type of work a recommended contractor did. Did the general contractor even do a job for your friend or neighbor, or is it just someone they know? Was the job comparable to what you need done? Often after receiving a recommendation, people go to the internet and search. Is there a website? What types of jobs are shown? Are there reviews or testimonials? You can use this approach to identify several candidates.
Once this is done, a reasonable next step is to check to see if the contractor is licensed and insured. This is required in the state of New Jersey. Steer away from unlicensed and uninsured contractors. If they have cut corners with a legal requirement, you should be concerned that they might cut corners on your job. It’s possible for you to find this out by looking at their website. If there is no website, look for a Facebook business page, or for some time of directory listing. If this information is not listed, this should be a topic for discussion if you decide to proceed to the next step: interviewing them by phone.
The phone interview allows both you and the general contractor to “feel each other out” and get a sense of whether you can work together. While you ask your questions and describe your job, pay attention to how the contractor communicates with you. Are you comfortable with their style? Are they clear and concise?
Among the questions you should be asking:
Are you licensed, bonded, insured? These are requirements to operate a contracting business and working without these is risky both to the contractor and to you.
Where is your office located? Beware of a contractor who only has a phone number and no physical location
What towns do you normally work in? Familiarity with the local municipality is a plus. Contractors do trend to focus on a specific geographic area for convenience and efficiency. You might also ask how long they’ve been doing business in your town.
What is your specialty? A contractor who focuses on building homes might not be the contractor for a home renovation. A contractor who focuses on large jobs might not be the contractor for a smaller project
Can you provide me with references? More references are better than fewer. And do call the references to ask about their experience with the contractor.
Once you’ve spoken with the contractors on the phone, you will be able to narrow down the field and with the remainder, you’ll most likely progress to a face to face meeting. Again you’ll be assessing style and fit as well as capability. Ask many questions and see how they are answered. Obtain references and possibly ask to visit a current job-site.
After this, you should narrow your list down to those contractors you’d like to have bid on your job. Make sure you provide the same requirements to all of the contractors so that you can compare bids and choose the right one for your job.