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General Contractors

If you are hoping to build a home from the ground up or to do an extensive remodel on your new or existing property, a general contractor can help you by removing much of the stress of a home improvement project while keeping your original vision intact.

General contractors are project managers who guarantee that the job runs smoothly, on schedule and under budget.

Finding a General Contractor

Many people rely on the recommendations of friends or family when hiring a general contractor. As long as the customer was ultimately pleased with the project, this is a fine way to find a contractor who will suit your needs. If you don't have anyone to ask for recommendations, your real estate broker may be able to guide you in finding several reputable contractors who are licensed, adequately insured, have first-rate references and have been proven to provide excellent results.

The Bidding Process

Once you've identified several likely contractors, it's time to narrow the field to your final choice. It's common to get at least three bids for any large job. You can do this either by phoning around or by filling out a simple quote form on this site. Be wary of any bids that seem suspiciously low. This contractor may be underbidding to get the job and require additional cash outlays later or perform substandard work. When calling to check references, it's always a good idea to ask other homeowners if you can look at the actual work in person. In addition to references and prior projects, there are several other things you'll want to consider. Is the business a thriving or troubled one? Have there been complaints filed with the Better Business Bureau? Is the contractor responsive, punctual and professional? Did he or she address any questions or concerns you expressed in a satisfactory manner? In the end, your final decision will depend on many factors other than simply the price.

Signing the Contract

When you've finalized the decision to proceed with your project, the contractor will likely present you with a standard contract. Read it carefully. Insert any changes in writing. The contract should specify a start date, an end date and the terms of payment, as well as a procedure for handling change orders. Some homeowners insist on a penalty for running over schedule. The contractor is more likely to accept this provision if you also agree to pay a bonus for early completion. Standard contracts usually include a timetable for three payments, with the final 10 percent withheld until the job is complete. A nominal sum may be requested up front, but it shouldn't be excessive. A reputable general contractor will have the credit and industry connections to get the job running without an influx of cash. Make sure that the general contractor and all subcontractors agree to provide lien releases at the conclusion of the job.

From the Ground Up

Your general contractor will manage every aspect of your project, including pulling permits, providing any architectural drawings or blueprints, arranging excavators to dig foundations or basements and scheduling inspections. General contractors also order all materials and ensure their timely delivery. They send any specialized jobs such as plumbing, electrical or painting out to bid and hire and oversee all subcontractors. They make sure that the construction proceeds in an orderly fashion. Once the job is completed they are also your go-to person for warranty claims, missing installations, broken hardware or substandard work.

If you are planning on building a home or remodeling the one you already own, hiring a general contractor can be an effective way to complete your project without doing all of the work - and all of the worrying - on your own.