What to Know About: General Contractors »
Whether your home needs a complete renovation, or a room needs to be repaired, there are some things to know before you hire.
Whether your home needs a complete renovation, or a room needs to be repaired, there are some things to know before you hire.
!!!!BEWARE!!!!!Steves guys trashed my house leaving food on my front steps and their food trash on my porch. He said he came by every night to check in on their work, but he didn't. My waste line is encase in concrete, they washed concrete down my sink, and were generally filthy. He also wasn't there to tell his guys what they were supposed to do. They left doors unlocked after they left, left lights on, left the water running outside all day, opened windows and pushed the screens up and left them. I had to come by every night to clean up and secure my home. When I confronted him with this information he called me a liar and said my expectations were too high. Now he won't answer phone calls, text messages, or email. The work isn't done, he hasn't fixed any of his errors, and he's not picking up his phone. I made a complaint to the BBB (HIS BUSINESS IS NOT ACCREDITED)which he responded to with slanderous lies about myself and my mother.
My wife and I recently moved into our dream home, a Bellagio story and a half (4800 sq ft on the main and second level) built by Chris Carley and Steve Trued of Tabernacle Homes. I wanted to thank both Chris, Steve, Laurie and their entire team and all the subs for all their hard work as well as their patience in working with us to create our version of their plan. The experience -We signed with Chris and we began building in March. Despite known cost increases for steel, concrete and lumber Chris honored the 2011 build cost. Chris went out of his way to help us find a lot in a neighborhood offering estate size home lots. Best of all the lot was below market value and sold by owner instantly saving us 3% realtor commissions on the seller/developers side. By Mid March the foundation went in and we slowly watched the home progress. My wife and I might be considered a builders worse nightmare as we are slight perfectionists and we were on the job site every day without fail, camera in hand. Once the house was framed in, Steve Trued took over the build. As partners, Steve and Chris are well paired. My view is that Chris is the new business development guy and Steve is the Project Manager. Steve kept his subs on point and his presence insured that details were adhered to given the nature of high end home builds. What started out as a standard Bellagio with an oversized 42' deep/1600 sq ft garage took a turn with lots of custom upgrades. We were making changes on the fly and Steve was very good about providing estimates on the costs as well as very receptive to the changes in general. I have seen too many builders use upgrades as their profit center, so considering that "Pella" windows, hand scraped hardwood floors and so many other upgrades were standard to begin with, the changes we made definitely had positive ROI and made our home one of a kind. Prior to closing, I had two welcome surprises. First, the conservative home appraisal came in $30k over the closing price. I was feeling pretty good that I had some instant equity. Second, I had my home inspector visit prior to close and he did an energy evaluation using a blower fan with elaborate meters as well as temperature sensing cameras to find the source of any drafts. The verdict "if the house was any tighter, you would need fresh air returns" Given the size of the house, this was important to me as my first full month energy bill came in for a very cold December and it was significantly less than my prior 3500sq ft home! Wow, money well spent on the blown in insulation upgrade that Steve recommended (it will have paid for itself in the first 12 months - great ROI)! Thinking about building with Tabernacle. Great choice if you do not want a cookie cutter house and you want a full custom experience.
Our experience began with a viewing of two Bellagio model homes last spring that were both substantially similar to the one we are nearing completion on. We instantly fell in love with the unique plan, on design and value. Our interaction with Chris sealed the deal after we met and got to know each other. I had met with other builders in the past (4 yrs) and got nowhere near the same impression of trust and integrity that I got, and still continue to appreciate with Chris, Steve, and their entire wonderful company's staff, to this day. Chris actually helped us to find the lot of our dreams...positioning us in a neighborhood poised for an instant equity gain that we would have never probably even heard about had it not been for Chris recommending we "take a look up there". Our home, not unlike the reviewer's below, is a semi-custom home. That means we essentially modified a builder's existing plan with our individual requests. In our case the Bellagio plan had to incorporate a modified 3rd car garage in order to satisfy the developer's subdivision req. Modifications take time! In our case, the Contract was signed (yes, with full awareness of the aforementioned buy-out clause clearly noted and even discussed) in late April, and the permit was issued mid-July. Excavation started the next day once the permit was obtained in mid-July. I work on engineering and heavy industrial construction projects for a living, and would comment that Tabernacle's overall schedule performance rivals what my company does on a daily basis on multi-million dollar projects. Cost Projection Observation: I have had price certainty, within any rational person's reasonable expectation, from day one. I found the Excel sheet described by the reviewer as quite helpful and thorough. The upgrades I assume the reviewer is talking about below might be things like tile, flooring, and finishes. The builder relies on suppliers for that information. During selections, the suppliers show you what is in your allowance, and also show you alternates. You can easily ballpark the value of the upgrade yourself during selection if you do some basic math and can calculate the square footages. Change orders on our home have been very reasonable and have been only on items that I have directly asked for. Any buyer should be aware that changes are inherent in the evolution of any build project. For example, upgrades to home audio (sub price), upgrades to tile and flooring (supplier price), appliance upgrades even vs. a generous allowance (Factory Direct price)...easy, just have a reasonable (5%) "slush fund" set aside for this. The allowances are clearly defined on the Excel scope document…clearly and concisely listed on one page. What I observe, as expected, is a builder acting as construction manager enlisting multiple reputable subcontractors in a timely manner to complete our home. Tabernacle is working on over 16 homes last count, so they presumably have adequate backlog and solvency. We observed subs with multiple employees WORKING OVERTIME to complete our home as promised (7-8 months from Permit). In closing, something one must realize from day one in a custom or semi-custom home build project, is that it is a partnership between you the Owner and your Builder. When one side or the other is dishonest and not forthright (or indecisive for that matter), that partnership, built on trust, is broken.You are not building a cookie cutter tract home in a slap 'em up subdivision. Adjust your expectations accordingly, try to relax and enjoy this unique lifetime experience in the process!
There has perhaps never been a better tool for do-it-yourself home handymen than the internet. With detailed instructions and videos explaining how to perform a number of common maintenance and renovation tasks around a house, an untrained homeowner might be surprised at how much he or she can accomplish with a quick search online. But even with all of this information, there are still many jobs that lie far outside the scope of most DIY enthusiasts. General contractors are there to fill in this gap.
A general contractor specializes in seeing a home remodel or repair project through from start to finish. To do this, the contractor works with the client - whether they are a homeowner or business - to nail down the scope of the work. Then he or she will turn to one or more subcontractors for specific tasks, like equipment operation, design, electrical work or whatever else is needed.
In essence, general contractors could be thought of as middlemen between a homeowner or business owner and any number of specialists. To get their money's worth, many assume they should just "cut out the middleman" and hire specialists directly, but this often proves more difficult in practice. General contractors won't be completing an entire project by themselves, but should have a long list of dependable experts who can work together and accomplish any task. They might also serve as the manager on the site of a construction project, overseeing workers and providing guidance and assistance when needed. For larger projects, though, the contractor might only handle administrative matters and employ a foreman or other professional for on-site supervision.
There are many general contractors who also specialize in certain tasks themselves. There is usually at least one general contractor on hand to organize the construction of an entire home, for example. But general contractors could also help a homeowner add an additional bedroom, build an in-ground pool or complete a major landscaping project. They could also work with a business to add or improve office space, whether that means making more room or converting a commercial building from a nail salon to a restaurant. Basically, if it's a job that involves building or repairing, a general contractor probably knows how to get it done.
No matter what the exact job may be, a contractor will probably need to accomplish several other essential tasks in pursuit of the ultimate goal, which may include:
Every general contractor performing any kind of work on a project must be licensed to do so in their state. The guidelines for the specifics on licensing vary from state to state. Some states might only require registration of contractors, which is different from licensing. Registration typically means that there must be a written record of what work is being performed and by whom, but it does not guarantee professional knowledge. Licensing, on the other hand, involves an examination process to assess professional competence.
Whether your state requires licensing or registration of contractors, there should be a record of most professionals willing to complete certain projects in your area. Check your state or county website for more information. In states that require licensing, every licensed contractor's contact information is available online or from another public source.
Not every project needs to be completed by a licensed or registered contractor. If it's just a minor job that won't take more than a day or two, and will cost less than a few hundred dollars, it's likely not necessary to find a licensed or registered contractor. However, anything bigger or more expensive, or a project involving plumbing or electrical work, needs to be completed by a licensed or registered professional.
General contractors also must be covered by an insurance policy. This should include liability coverage for any property damage that could be inflicted in the course of a job. It should also include a worker's compensation policy in case anyone is injured on the job. Before hiring a contractor for anything, ask for written proof of this insurance to see exactly what is covered.
A number of trade associations for contractors in the U.S. exist. Some of the biggest include:
Most trade associations for general contractors will provide references for anyone looking to hire a contractor for a specific project. They may also provide a number of benefits for their members, including assistance with licensing, training, insurance and business development.
No matter what you need accomplished, you want to choose a contractor who can get the job done right at a reasonable price. Obviously, this is easier said than done, but there are a few steps you can take to ensure you find a trustworthy general contractor.
The first, and perhaps most reliable, way to find a general contractor is to ask friends and family members for a recommendation. If you know anyone who has had major work done on their home, particularly if it's a similar job, ask them who they hired and if they were pleased with the result. You could also ask neighbors about who they've hired if you notice work being done on their house. Many remodeling contractors post signs in front of homes to advertise their services. As a general rule, it's rarely a good idea to hire a contractor who solicits work by going door to door.
If you are considering hiring a contractor without a personal recommendation, ask the contractor for references from past clients, and do as much background research on them as possible. Look for any complaints (or compliments) online to get a better idea of their track record. There are a number of websites specializing in connecting contractors with people or businesses who need work done. These sites may also allow past clients to submit their own reviews of the contractor.
Before hiring a contractor, make sure you are both in agreement on the project's budget. It's normal for most contractors to charge clients a premium not only for the labor expenses and zoning expertise, but for acquiring the materials as well. Be as clear and concise as possible regarding what you'll be purchasing yourself and what you will be paying the contractor to complete. Homeowners may be able to find a better deal on raw materials when they purchase these directly, but they first need to be sure they aren't buying the wrong things.
Don't forget to discuss how the project will be finalized and what will be done about cleanup. Plans for how the work site will be cleaned at the end of each day as well as at the conclusion of work need to be put in writing. An experienced general contractor should make every effort to keep the workspace clean and prevent dirtying or damaging any other area. Even so, talk with the contractor about the daily schedule, the logistics of transporting workers and equipment, and how cleanup will be handled.
As previously mentioned, you need to make sure to follow any state and local regulations regarding construction work, which includes hiring a licensed or registered general contractor. Ask the contractor for proof of their certification before signing anything, as well as their proof of insurance. You should also check your homeowners insurance policy to see if they offer coverage for contracted work. You may want to call your insurance provider and ask for more details on what your plan will and won't cover.
Perhaps the best way to feel safe about a contractor and the work being done is to hire a contractor you trust. This is why relying on personal references from friends and family is so important, and will often provide a great deal of peace of mind. If you aren't able to obtain a reference, work to conduct extensive research on the contractor as well as the work you are hiring them to perform. This should bring everyone's expectations into alignment and result in a safe work environment.
Before any money changes hands, there should be a contract to sign. Make sure the specifics of the work to be done and all costs are listed in the contract, right down to the most precise details. If you forget to have something included in the contract after signing it, there's rarely a chance of recourse.
Once the specifics of the job are nailed down, be sure to discuss the payment schedule with the contractor. This is important because paying too much up front offers the homeowner minimal leverage if the quality of work does not meet expectations or contractual specifications. Try to establish a reasonable pay schedule with the contractor, such as paying 10 percent of the total cost for each 10 percent of the work that is completed. It's a good idea to include this payment plan in the contract as well.
Finally, look into getting a lien release signed before work begins. If there is ever a dispute regarding payment over the course of the project, a contractor or subcontractor could place a payment claim, or lien, on your property. This can trigger a long legal process that may be frustrating. To avoid this, ask the contractor to sign a lien release, which is a legal agreement that states that any payment accepted is final. This can come in handy if a contractor has his or her own payment issues with their subcontractors. Signing a lien release form certifies that any payment made by a client to the contractor is enough to pay for any goods or services rendered. A lien dispute could also be prevented by performing due diligence prior to picking a contractor, as any contractor with good credit and a long track record of satisfied clients should have no trouble paying for materials and labor once all contract conditions have been met.
Once work is underway, it's never a bad idea to check up on the progress of the job, either by staying in touch with the contractor over the phone or visiting the site in person. If you work with a trustworthy professional, it's probably best to keep your distance and allow everyone to stay busy. If you want to keep an eye on things, make sure workers wear the right safety gear and that everything looks to be moving along according to schedule. Finally, once work is finished and you are satisfied, be sure to thank your contractor and tell friends or family members about your experience.