How to choose the best General Contractor

Choosing the Best Contractor:

If you’re now ready to start a renovation or remodeling project, the next big decision you will have to make is choosing a general contractor. Finding the right contractor is crucial because whomever you choose will be your partner throughout the project and will ultimately lead to the success or failure of your remodeling endeavor. Think about it this way, you wouldn’t necessarily open your home to just anyone, right? But with a contractor, you will not only be opening your home, you will be allowing their team to demolish much of it and make changes to it. Oftentimes, people ask, “What type of professional do I really need?” First things first, let us understand the difference between some commonly confused

professional services. When we say “contractor” we mean the service provider that oversees the day-to-day operations of construction to complete a project. Architects focus on the design and science of

the construction task while interior designers focus on the aesthetic design of the building or project being constructed. With this, always keep in mind that whoever you choose to hire for whatever purpose for your remodeling project, it is imperative that you find someone who is able to communicate with you. A sound professional will keep you updated on both good and bad situations and offer you suggestions that will allow you to make the best possible decision.


What To Keep in Mind

Reputable Sources:

One of the easiest and best ways to find potential general contractors in Jacksonville is through the references of friends, relatives and realtors that you trust. A recommendation from a trusted person that has had work done is optimal because the contractor has done quality work and provided a good experience for them.  Don’t simply rely on trade associations/memberships or general advertising alone.

These references do not necessarily provide the appropriate background or serve as an indication of

their work ethic or quality of work.  Here’s a trade tip:  ask your local lumberyard for recommendations on local general contractors.  They come into contact with all types of contractors frequently and are often “in-the-know” about which ones have good reputations and references. Ask which contractor has regular projects, buys quality materials and is able to handle their bills and balances on time. While they may not answer all of these questions, you’ll probably have a pretty good idea of who some of the good contractors are.  Also, you can look at websites of various networking organizations, like the Chamber of Commerce, BNI, etc. as they often hold their members to the highest standards.  General contractors who participate in these organizations oftentimes have a vast network of resources they can leverage to make you project a success.

Research, Interviews and Background Checks


Getting recommendations is not enough; once you have a list of potential contractors, contact them and conduct preliminary inquiries. You can do this over the phone or by dropping by their offices.  Find out if

they are able to handle a project of your size.  Ask them to provide a list of previous clients and see what their availability is.  What is their current workload and how much experience do they have?  These

preliminary questions will serve as your basis in evaluating the company’s professionalism, availability and reliability. After the initial interviews, you can narrow your selection down to your final choice and

meet with them for final estimates and further discussions. If you haven’t received it already, now is the time to request a formal list of previous clients that you can contact for references.  You should also review their proposed estimate in detail to make sure it reflects everything you’ve discussed. A good contractor should be able to answer any and all of your questions adequately and to a level where you can feel comfortable and confident. Do you feel as if they are listening to you or making suggestions that show they understand what you’re trying to accomplish? You may even want to visit a job site to see how the contractor and their team works and note if the site is clean and safe. It is highly recommended that you check with state authorities that all candidates are licensed general contractors in the state

or city where your project is located. Some other areas to verify include business longevity, whether or not they have a physical “brick-and-mortar” business office and address in the area and whether or not they specialize in the work that you require.

Less Is More


Don’t interview as many contractors as you can. This is a waste of your time. Choose a few highly-recommended contractors (look for online reviews, references, etc.) and take the time to get to know them. Throughout the interview process, you will gain more insight about the kind of contractor they are and the way they operate. Ask for references and talk to them. Ask them not only about the quality

of work but also how the contractor responded to issues that happened during their project. Every contractor will find issues to deal with in every job. The difference is how they deal with the issues once they appeared. You can ask for a price range during the interview process but don’t expect to get an accurate, firm price during this process. Once you have made up your mind about who’s the best fit for

you, then ask for prices. Selecting a contractor on the basis of price alone is one of the biggest mistakes many people make. You wouldn’t go to the cheapest surgeon you could find for any surgery you might need.  You would probably choose the best surgeon you could afford. The same should hold true when

selecting your contractor.

Negotiating the Contract


The contract is the final agreement between you and your contractor. It should include your details as well as those of the contractor and the scope of work that is expected to be accomplished. Essential elements of the contract include the specification of equipment and materials needed, demolition and clean up details, approximate timeline (start and finish dates) and basically the terms of the agreement. There should also be a termination clause and beware of binding arbitration provisions that may

control your right to take legal action in the event of a dispute. When negotiating a contract, ask questions if there is anything that you don’t understand or you want clarified further. Do not hesitate to propose any changes in the contract because, after all, you are the customer. When reviewing the proposed contract, do your homework. You should have a working understanding of the construction requirements so you will be able to analyze specific items necessary for renovation. They should be

listed and properly accounted for. The brand names of materials, supplies required and quantities should be itemized as well as services expected (i.e. painting and installation). There is no problem in paying for the project in stages throughout the construction period. It is recommended that the

down payment be limited to 25 percent or less; be weary of large upfront requirements. There have been reported instances where contractors use bulk payments like these to tie up previous jobs causing you to be delayed, or worse, swindled. The contractor should be willing to resolve problems throughout the course of work as well as minor issues afterward. This is why, usually, final payments are only made after the job has been completed per the satisfaction of the contract. Don’t make the final/closing payments until you have signed receipts (or releases of lien) acknowledging payment of goods and services that will free you from third-party claims on your property in the event that there are payment

issues resulting from commitments your contractor made during their course of work for you. Lien law

in Florida is designed to protect homeowners from making payments twice and to also protect contractors from homeowners not paying their bills. The contract presented to you for signing, should include a provision referring to the Construction Lien Law, otherwise it might not be enforceable. Don’t be afraid of lengthy contracts, the more details the contract covers the better, so there are no misunderstandings. Make sure everything you have agreed to with your contractor is in writing. No details are too small to be included. This could help you avoid many headaches later. Finally, make sure to communicate with your contractor. Let him know what you want and expect in terms of updates, quality of work, schedule, etc. Open communication is very important to make sure your project a

complete success.