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According to the Bureau of Labor, in the next 5 years, the construction industry in the US will benefit from a significant growth. Nowadays, the good construction professionals are in high demand, due to all the new technologies that are being integrated and the more specific architectural and design considerations that should be met. The demand for new homes, in addition with the extreme weather conditions that we are witnessing almost every day, significantly increase the amount of work that construction companies are overwhelmed with, thus resulting in higher labor costs.
But think about that – what is the first thing that comes to your mind when you are about to start dealing with a given construction or remodeling project? The first question that often comes to mind when planning to build a new home from scratch or just thinking about some reconstruction and redesign works, is how to find a capable contractor to handle the whole process. It is just then that we start thinking about the costs. And the most important thing when it comes to construction works is the quality. A professionally-handled project will not need any repairs or significant maintenance costs for the next 10 to 15 years, depending on its specifications, location and surrounding conditions.
In this guide you will find all the needed information to get acquainted with the basic principles that you should follow when you are about to hire a construction company to handle your project. You will gain some additional knowledge about the specific works that such contractors can handle and what approximate budget should you set aside for each of them. Last but not least, you will find some important suggestions about crucial questions that you should ask your contractor, in order to be confident about the quality of the delivered works.
First of all, it is important to make clear one thing – when people are talking about construction companies, they are most of the time referring to general contractors. General contractors are basically companies that will manage the execution of your project either by their own teams or by hiring subcontractors for certain specific tasks. They are a proven and very common choice for every type of construction or remodeling work. These companies are licensed to handle different home improvement works such as electrical, plumbing, concrete laying, insulating, drywall, painting, carpentry, tiling, flooring and etc. Most of the consumers are turning their attention to general contractors for the building of their new home or other major construction or remodeling tasks. Although there are many contractors that are specialized in projects of such large scale, sometimes it may better for you to reach a specialized construction company. Nevertheless, there is a high probability that a general contractor or a construction company will get in the role of coordinator and supervisor of certain subcontractors that it will hire to handle the process from the start, to the end.
In the USA, those contractors who are specialized only in small repairing jobs often need to apply for general contractor’s license in order to be able to handle projects that involve three or more different types of works (electrical, insulation, painting, concrete, plumbing and etc.), even if they are able to handle all tasks by themselves. So, for example – imagine that there is water leakage from a damaged drainage element in your bathroom. From the constant negative effect of the water, the tiles’ adhesive has become loose and the structural stability of the tiles is slowly getting compromised. The moisture has also penetrated to neighboring premises and has resulted into mold and mildew formation on the walls. For you to effectively solve the problem, you should get the help of a plumber, who will fix the initial problem. Then you should hire a professional tile setter and finally – a painting specialist who will remove the mold and then repaint the wall. So, your best choice here is to hire a general contractor, who will take care of all the necessary work, thus saving you time and money.
When it comes to general contractors, you should be aware that these companies can guide your project from the start, to the end. They usually work with skilled professionals in various areas that will guarantee the overall quality of the handled works.
So, here are what services you can receive if you are hiring a general contractor:
Hiring a general contractor is suitable if you plan to remodel your bathroom, kitchen, attic, basement or other important premise of your home. The remodeling specialists can usually guarantee the professional execution of room renovation, different home additions and improvements, roofing, painting, fire or water damage restoration and etc. These specialists are the know-it-all experts that you will more probably contact if you experience some minor problem in the exploitation of your home.
One of the most complicated and at the same time, very important, parts of a home improvement project are the roof installation or repairing works. Hiring a general contractor will ensure you with appropriate roofing specialists that can handle the renovation of a compromised asphalt shingle, natural slate, wooden, single ply, flat, tile or foam roof or the complete installation of a new one. Also, the roofing specialist will take care of your home’s siding if it has such and will deal with the gutters installation or repairing. As the roof is one of the most systemically important components of a home, a professional general contractor will work only with proven and experienced roofing specialists, so that he won’t risk the overall quality that you are paying for.
Another very important aspect of the construction or home improvement projects is the electrical and wiring works. The fact that these tasks are so important for the comfortable long-term exploitation of a given home makes them another case where the general contractors aim at cooperating only with skilled and experienced professionals. The licensed electricians that are hired to work on your project will take care of all electrical and wiring issues such as switch and outlet installation and repair, lightning installation, electrical panel upgrade, generator installation, circuit breaker or fuse box installation and repair, troubleshooting and electrical inspections, as well as hot tub and spa installation and etc.
Next on the list are the plumbing works. A licensed plumber, hired by the general contractor, will take care of various tasks – from drainage, showers, faucets, pipes and septic systems, to pumps, sewers, toilet sinks and water heating systems installation and repair. A rule of thumb for the general contractors is to work only with licensed plumbers with solid experience and background, because any potential problem, connected with water or moisture leakage, may significantly harm the structural stability and the overall exploitation quality of the given home in the long-term.
Every home building project, as well as many of the renovation ones, include concrete works. The licensed concrete specialist will ensure the smooth execution of different complex tasks, such as installation or repair of driveways, floors, slabs, walks, steps, flatworks, foundations and etc. If your project requires some specific works such as concrete injection, finishing, leveling, sawing or removal, the general contractor will also assign them to the concrete specialist. These professionals have a very important role as the specific tasks that they handle are responsible for the structural stability and durability of the home and its surroundings.
When it comes to the finishing works, depending on the type of finish that is planned to be applied, the general contractor will engage experienced painters, tiling or flooring professionals. For example – for the appliance of the floor and wall finish in your bathroom or other wet premises, a professional tiling specialist will be hired to handle all the tasks. He will be able to lay ceramic or natural stone tiles (marble, granite, slate and etc.), as well as do the grouting and repair compromised joints. If you wish to install some wood flooring, laminate, vinyl or linoleum finishes, then a professional flooring specialist will be hired to take care of the works. Although some of the painting jobs are not as hard as other construction and remodeling tasks, it is always better to have an experienced professional at your disposal. The advantages are numerous – from faster and more economical working process, to more detailed and aesthetically good-looking finishes. The professional painting expert will handle interior, exterior and more specific and complex tasks. He will also be able to help with the staining or the popcorn ceiling removal without any doubt.
In every home there is the need for some carpentry works here and there. So, the general contractor that you have hired to execute your project will also be able to provide you with the services of a professional carpenter. He will be able to handle the installation and repair of different elements in your home, such as doors, decks, ramps, porches, as well as closets, built-in-furniture and etc. Wood stairs, railing and framing will not be a problem too. So if you want to make sure that your home has the authentic, vintage look, a professional carpenter is the one you should consult.
If you are about to build your new home or go through complete renovation of the existing one, you will most probably have to deal with HVAC installation or repairing works. The general contractor will ensure that knowledgeable specialists will satisfy whatever kind of need your project has. For example, licensed HVAC professionals will take care of the installation or repairing of furnace, boiler, ducts, ventilators, humidifiers, thermostat, central AC, air heating and radiation systems and etc. These specialists will provide you with further information about the appropriate maintenance of the whole HVAC system and can also be called from time to time to do periodical check-ups in order to ensure its smooth long-term operation.
If you need some more specific and exotic works like gardening for example, you should know that not all general contractors may be able to offer you such service. Nevertheless, most of them will provide you with an experienced gardener who can take care of the landscape design, tree removal, landscape lightning, sprinklers or irrigation system installation and etc.
If your home needs a new fence or some repair works of the existing one, the general contractor will be able to help as he will hire experienced professionals to take care of that. They will be able to fulfill all your requirements – from wood, vinyl, PVC and chain link, to wrought iron, aluminum and steel fence installation and repair.
Here we are not talking about budget estimation, because it is impossible to summarize all the different types of projects that you may start. We will take a look at the average fees that different types of works will cost you. That way, you will be able to have a good benchmark for your individual budget planning that will help you tailor a solution according to the type of your project and its specifications.
|Type of work||Details||Hour rate (national average)|
|General remodeling works (handyman)||Useful in many areas of your house and will take care of general remodeling works for different premises such as bathrooms, kitchens, bedrooms and etc.||$60 - $90|
|Electrical||Installation of new wiring or replacing existing; Adding outlets, switches and sockets; Montage of electrical panels and etc.||$60 - $80|
|Plumbing||Replacing of existing drainage systems or installation of new one; General repair works; Clogs removal and etc.;||$50 - $70|
|Painting||Interior and exterior painting works;||$25 - $40|
|Roofing||Installation or repair of bituminous, acrylic, PVC, wooden and other types of roofs; Installation and repair of drainage systems, gutters and siding;||$55 - $80|
|Concrete||Installation or repair of floors, slabs, steps, foundations, as well as concrete injection, finishing, leveling, sawing or removal;||$35 - $50|
|Carpentry||Different tasks such as design and montage of doors, decks, ramps, porches, closets, built-in-furniture and etc;||$30 - $45|
|HVAC||Installation or repair of HVAC systems and their components;||$60 - $90|
|Home inspection||Analysis of the structural characteristics of your home (based on a 2500 sq. ft.)||$500 - $700
Depending on the project’s specifications and the type of work that is required, the overall budget may vary greatly. A basic rule of thumb is that general contractors may reduce the given rates based on the amount of work and the variety of different services that are about to be involved in the given project.
Another way to estimate the approximate budget that you will need to set aside for your project is to look at real examples of the different types of works that your home may need. In the following table, you will find approximate budget estimations based on an example of a 2500 sq. ft. house.
|Type of work||Details||Cost|
|Bathroom remodeling||Complete bathroom remodeling (shower, bathtub installation, plumbing, tiling and etc.)||$8? 000 - $15 0000|
|Bedroom remodeling||Complete bedroom remodeling (new windows, insulation, carpeting, floor and walls finishing, wiring and etc.)||$5? 000 - $8 000|
|Kitchen remodeling||Complete kitchen remodeling (equipment, wiring, flooring and other types of works)||$15? 000 - $20 000|
|Living room remodeling||Complete living room remodeling (floor and walls finishes, furniture, windows and accessories)||$10? 000 - $14 000|
|Roofing||Depending on the type of the roof finish||$6? 000 - $20 000|
|Foundation||Whole new slab foundation (approximately 1000 sq. ft.)||$6? 000 - $8 000|
|Insulation and waterproofing||Good-quality insulation and waterproofing systems||$3? 500 - $9 000|
|HVAC installation||Good quality heating, ventilation and air conditioning system||$5? 500 - $8 500|
|Exterior works||Fences, gates, gutters, downspouts and siding installation||$20? 000 - $40 000|
Bear in mind that every project is unique and the only way to estimate the exact budget that you will need to set aside is to consult your general contractor. He is the one who will suggest the best systems and materials that will ensure the long-term quality and comfortable exploitation of your home. The provided figures should act only as a point of reference and may significantly differ from those of your project.
A general contractor (or a local construction company) is always your best choice if you want to ensure the professional management and smooth execution of your project’s tasks. Handling residential remodeling or significant renovation works can often be problematic and even chaotic, if you are not working with an experienced and professional contractor. If you wonder how to find out whether the company that you are about to hire is the best match for your project, the most important thing to do is to start asking questions.
Many general contractors admit that their favorite customers are those, who are asking questions, because that is a sign that they are informed enough and have done their homework about the type of the works that are required for their project. So, do not hesitate to ask as much as possible – your general contractor will be glad to answer, because he will also feel more comfortable if he has erased all your doubts before the start of the working process. Here is a good list that you can start with:
Bear in mind that different states and even cities can have different requirements on whether contractors must obtain a license or an alternative credential. That is why you should ask what official legal permissions has the contractor earned. Remember that it is very important that the company you choose to work with will be officially licensed and will bear general liability and work’s insurance. That way, you will be confident that the execution of your project is in safe hands. Also, your property and the workers will be protected against accidents or other unexpected problems that may further complicate the working process.
Furthermore, ask whether the general contractor has an active worker’s compensation insurance. It is very important, because it covers the risk of you needing to pay in case of workers’ injuries, while being at your property. Bear in mind that having a license is not the same as having an insurance. You should request both.
Do not forget to ask whether the given contractor has a locally listed business number. That way you will be able to check his legitimacy and be more confident that you are hiring a real professional with transparent business history.
Another important thing that is closely connected with the paper work are the work permits for your project. Depending on the types of the works that are about to be handled, as well as some other factors, your project may or may not need legal permits from local authorities. A basic rule of thumb is that most of the projects that include some remodeling works that will change the structure of a home, will require some additional paper work and credentials. A good and professional general contractor will not only inform you about such details, but will also handle them without making you waste your time.
The best way to judge whether a given contractor is reliable and professional is to request some references and to do a background research. That will help you find out more about the quality of the delivered work and the opinion of previous clients that have had their projects finalized. They will be willing to share with you their opinion about potential problems or the lack of such, when it comes to the comfortable exploitation of their homes.
Also, it is advisable for you to ask whether the contractor has any legal suits against. Be sure to insist information about the ethical and moral practices that the company adheres to. If you find out that the contractor’s background is clear and his portfolio is full of satisfied clients, you will then start feeling that there is nothing to worry from and your project will be executed professionally.
It is always better to know that the given contractor has solid experience in the field and that he has successfully executed numerous projects like yours. Bear in mind that companies that have been in the business for a long time have established effective algorithms for the working process and will be able to deliver all the work on time and on the pre-defined budget estimation. If you want to make sure that the given contractor is knowledgeable enough and will deliver an overall result of the highest quality, you can test him on a smaller project first. For example – if your garage needs some restoration or major construction works, you can start with that first. If you are satisfied by the technical and business skills, you can then go over with your house or other major project.
You should ask whether the quality of the delivered work will be backed by some kind of warranty and for what period. That way, you will know whether the contractor is responsible enough and is not aiming at just getting your money. If the given company has high established level of professionalism, you will be confident that whatever problems occur during the exploitation period under the issued warranty, they will be immediately solved without the need to pay additional money.
Another important thing to bear in mind are the product’s warranties. Do not forget to ask about the materials that are used in the different stages of your project and their manufacturer’s warranties. Do not hesitate to request a copy of them before the start of the working process, so that you can get informed about their coverage and period.
Yes, you read it right. Do not be afraid to challenge the contractor on explaining why he is the best fit for your project’s needs. And if the contractor starts acting nervous or you happen to receive just a simple “because I have handled similar projects successfully” type of answer, go over and find another one. Remember that your project is unique. That is why you should expect to receive a unique answer – a tailored solution for your project’s specifications. The professional and reliable general contractor can be recognized by his attitude. He will start explaining carefully and in a calmly manner why the provided solutions are the most suitable ones for your project. He will go further and explain complicated technological terms into a few simple words, so that you are convinced about the benefits of the suggested solution. Bear in mind that the construction sector is very dynamic one.
New materials, systems and technologies are developed every day and the good contractor will stay on the top of all new trends. He will attend conferences and seminars, so that he remains on the edge of the construction innovations. That is why the professional and reliable contractor will not be bothered to explain you why he thinks his team is the best fit for your project. Just the opposite – he will feel thankful for the provided opportunity to show his advantages and professional competence, because he realizes how good he is in his field.
The type of the contract that you are about to sign is another important thing that you should be willing to clarify before hiring a general contractor. Make sure that all the important details are listed there, so that you have a proof on what you have initially agreed before the start. If you wonder what points should a detailed contract include, the answer is: a full description of the working process at the first place. That will include all the different types of work that are about to take place (for example – wiring, insulating, roofing, painting and etc.), the needed materials for that and their quantity. A time schedule for the project’s start and end is the next thing that a proper-written contract will include. Any warranties, required lien holdbacks, payment schedule and business liability coverage are other important points that the official paperwork should include.
One of the most important things that you will have to plan carefully is the financial side of the project. That is why it is important to ask the construction company officials about the whole structure of the payment process. Do not hesitate to request information about the down payment and the billing cycle that you will have to deal with. That way you will be able to plan how much and when are you paying. The common scenario is that the you start with a 10% deposit and after that, the remaining budget is separated on small installments that are paid after the completion of certain stages of the working process, or specific dates that are agreed between the both sides.
Another thing to ask is who purchases the needed materials. Most of the time, the one responsible for this is the general contractor, or the subcontractors that are hired. That is the best-case scenario because the professional companies buy at wholesale prices and often get discounts. Many of these discounts may be passed to you, thus saving you some significant funds that you can invest elsewhere. Make sure to clarify whether the materials are included in the provided quote.
It is also important to know about the payment structure between the contractor and the subcontractors. That way you will be confident that your project’s schedule goes smoothly and without any unnecessary delays.
A good contractor will be willing to present you a real working schedule, including all the different stages of the project and the estimated time for their completion. That will be beneficial for both sides. On the one hand – you will be able to track the progress and check whether everything is going smoothly and professionally. And on the other hand – the general contractor will be able to plan the different stages of the working process while making you feel comfortable about his attitude and professionalism.
Of course there are those cases when the deadline for the project can be postponed due to some unexpected obstacles or problematic situations. Having an initial schedule will bring transparency to both sides, as well as some real solutions for time adjustments that will ensure that the working process will sooner be going on according to the plan.
Working on large-scale renovation and even simple construction projects is a complicated task that may often be accompanied by different types of challenges. Before choosing the right one to handle your project, it is important that you make sure that the contractor is aware with all the risks and possible problems that may arise, thus explaining how they can be tackled and solved.
This is fundamental for the success of your project and the fulfillment of the initial plan within the desired deadline. A good contractor will always be willing to explain all the major obstacles that may be faced during the different stages of work, thus making you confident about the professionalism and responsible attitude that your project will be treated with. You can go further and ask about previous projects that are similar to yours, the challenges that were faced and how were they solved. Getting insights about the contractor’s ability to solve problematic situations will make you feel confident that the quality you are paying for will be delivered without a doubt.
Of course there are situations when unexpected problems may arise but you should not blame the contractor for that. Although an experienced contractor should expect everything, there are some cases, when issues appear after the work had started. For example – the walls of your home. Bear in mind that the contractor is not a magician and cannot see through them. So, whatever problems or complications may arise during the working process, just make sure that they will be effectively handled by the professionals.
After everything is finished, even if you are completely satisfied with the overall result, do not forget or underestimate the importance of the follow-up information that you should get. The general contractor will provide you with some official paperwork, such as marked-up plans on different elements of the home, inspection reports, lien releases and etc. If you wish to have more evidences about the quality of the delivered work, it is important for you to ask about detailed photos before the start of the project. Even if having those before/after evidences does not appear necessary in the future, having some more information is always helpful. Another good thing to do is to ask for operating manuals for the installed equipment and a contact list with all the subcontractors included. That way you will be able to ensure the comfortable exploitation of your home for the long-term.
Some people prefer to be informed about more specific details, related to the typical working day of the team, handling your project. For example, if you are working from home and you are about to be doing so during the remodeling works, you may ask about the expected noise levels. Also, it may be useful for you to ask about the typical working hours – when will the team start and end each day. Some people go further and ask about different things such as the place where the working tools will be stored during the project (if it is going to be inside or outside the home), how will the cleaning of the working areas be handled and etc.
Whatever kind of questions you have – do not hesitate to ask. A professional and reliable contractor will always prefer to answer them before he is hired for a certain project, so that every doubt about his abilities or the project schedule and work specifications will be erased initially. Be prepared to be asked questions also. A contractor that only agrees with everything that you say is not the one that you wish to work with. A good and professional company will ask you different questions, so that it will be able to find out what you really want from the project and if there is a certain problem – how to be solved effectively. The more information you exchange the better result you will achieve. The hiring process is not a single-way interview but an open dialogue instead. And that is how the working process won’t be harmed and you will both work towards one single aim – to achieve the desired result according to the pre-defined budget and time schedule.
When it comes to finding a suitable contractor for the needs of your project, it is always helpful to have a clear vision about the overall specifications of your projects, the final result that you want to achieve, as well as the budget that you are ready to set aside. Many homeowners make the mistake to start working with the first contractor that they have found over the internet or from a friend’s reference and later on regret their decision. That is why it is always better to do some initial research and to spend some more time in finding the most suitable contractor for your project. Here are some important advices to bear in mind when you are in the process of finding a good construction company:
On the contractor’s expertise. What will you most probably do, when you are looking for a suitable contractor? You will either look on the internet or will ask a friend for some references. The latter is a good choice, but you should be aware that every project is unique. The given contractor may have done a good job on your friend’s project, but that is not a guarantee that the result will be the same when it comes to yours. That is why, you should do both – ask for some references and then do your own research. Bear in mind that there are contractors which are specialized or are even the best in some specific area – let’s say tiling, wiring or insulating. But that doesn’t mean that they will be able to handle all the needed work at your project accordingly and deliver a final result at the best possible quality. A good way to mitigate such risk is to hire a general contractor. That way you will be sure that every task will be treated with the needed professionalism from highly-specialized experts in the field.
On quoting scams. There are numerous cases when homeowners are lured by the too good to be true quotes that they receive by some unethical contractors. Bear in mind that construction works aren’t cheap and if you receive offers way below the average for the specific market and type of project, do not hesitate to reject them. Although optimizing the overall budget for your project is very important, you should be aware that those companies which offer cheaper prices will most probably do it on the back of the quality that you will receive.
A contractor may be willing to offer you way lower quotes due to some of the following factors: using low quality materials; paying lower salaries because of low-qualified workers; cutting corners on the schedule and the different types of works and etc. Whatever the reason for the lower quote is, you do not want to work with such contractor. Another very important thing to do is to request a full, written offer with all the different costs listed, so that you will have an official proof for the budget that you will be charged. Otherwise, you risk to be surprised by paying some additional costs for small works here and there that, when added up, will result in a significantly increased budget. Also, be aware if the given contractor insists that he has some materials and systems left from previous projects that he will use for the completion of your works.
That is a very common practice among low-quality construction companies that aim to cut costs on the back of the quality that you will receive in the end. Another sign to seek another contractor is the payments – whether he accepts only cash or requests the whole sum in advance. And last but not least – always request at least 3 quotations. That way you will be able to examine different solutions and understand the way the contractor’s market works. The more realistic vision you form the lower chance you have to be misled.
The path to a successful project is hiring a good general contractor. The quality and the professional execution of the working process is the most important thing when it comes to home construction or remodeling works. Thus, do not cut corners by hiring unexperienced and cheaper contractors. Bear in mind that such large-scale projects are one in a lifetime and you should be willing to work only with reliable experts. Otherwise, you risk the comfort of your family and your finances, which is the last thing that you want.