How to Find a Good General Contractor

As an interior designer I often get asked by clients, friends and colleagues for good referrals for tradespeople – general contractors, floor refinishers, painters and cabinet makers to name a few.  Over the past 15 years I have worked with tradespeople that handle projects of different sizes from a small cabinetry project to a large scale home renovation.  I have developed my own list of  contractors I trust from experience and know they do good work and will see a project to the very end.  So, I’m here to offer some tips on how to find  good tradesmen.

Know the Scope of Your Project

Ask yourself, what exactly are you doing?  Are you just painting or are you renovating an entire kitchen that involves electrical, cabinetry, tile installation and painting?  Are you experienced and do you have the time to manage a number of different contractors?

My answer to this is to be realistic.  Having your house painted is a very simple project compared to renovating a kitchen where at least 3-4 trades are involved.  It may seem easy, but often the going back and forth with different tradesman, having site meeting to go over details almost everyday someone is working at your house and purchasing and ordering materials can be a full-time job, especially if you are new to it.

If you are doing anything that involves more than one tradesperson, then read on.

Have a Plan

Before you call anyone, you need to have a floorplan.  If you are renovating a kitchen, having scaled floorplans and elevations are important so you can show your contractor what you want to do.  They should be drawn to scale (I like them at 1/4″ scale) and should show locations of everything such as stove, refrigerator, dishwasher, microwave and have notations about tile, counters, cabinets, etc.  I would also create a spreadsheet showing selections of all appliances, tile, counters, etc. that can accompany your plans so there are no surprises.

Create a Scope of Work or a Bid Package

A scope of work itemizes all of the work that needs to be done on a project.  A bid package includes the plans, scope of work, appliance and finish selections.  You should include your spreadsheet which details all of your selections.

Ask for Recommendations

The best way to find a good contractor is to ask for recommendations from sources such as friends, colleagues or a local hardware store. If you see a similar project that has just been completed and like the work ask for the contractor’s information.

Here are some good questions to ask:

  • What type of work did this contractor do?
  • Did they see the job through the very end including completing all punch list items?
  • Was the job completed in a timely fashion
  • Be sure there are no complaints file against them with the Better Business Bureau in your area.

I always recommend obtaining bids from three contractors, so having five good referrals is a good start.

Once you have your contractors, schedule a meeting with each contractor separately and have a bid package ready to give to them.

Check in at Cheeky Living for our next article on what types of questions you should ask your prospective contractors and how to go through your bids.

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