For major home improvement jobs that involve several specialties and layers of work, calling a basic home contractor may not be enough. If you need a general contractor – or construction manager, as they’re sometimes called – you’ll need someone who not only is reliable and knowledgeable about the work that’s being done, but who exercises good judgment in hiring and bringing in the right people.
What Is a General Contractor?
According to “Five Fast-Growing Careers,” a general home contractor’s job is to “plan, budget and oversee a variety of construction projects from start to finish. They create work timetables, report work progress to clients, and collaborate with engineers and other construction specialists.” They also vet, hire and oversee sub-contractors, who each bring his or her own team and foreman.
Handling the Bidding Process
When you finish with your research – which should include online vetting and good, old-fashioned asking around – you’ll end up with a few home improvement companies that appear reputable and are experienced at doing the kind of work you need done. They will examine the job requirements and place bids. Money is important, but cheaper isn’t always better. Look at the safety record of each home contractor, contact the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) and ask for their RIR, or recordable injury rate, which measures the number of accidents they have per year.
During the bidding process, ask each home contractor to submit itemized bids. Many contractors like to submit a flat number, but itemization enables you to see exactly where each dollar is going. Also, find out if bids are fixed or adjustable. This is a bid – not an estimate. A lot of times, contractors will say they can’t give a fixed number because of “unknowns.” Try to help him or her eliminate the unknowns.
Hiring a general contractor is major decision on which a lot is often riding. Your pre-interview investigation must be thorough. Insist that they’ve done exactly the kind of work you’re having done and, preferably, in or around the town you’re doing it. Contractors who base their business locally have their reputations staked on happy neighbors.