Understanding the construction process is the key to hiring a good contractor, and not a fly-by-night company. Don't be afraid to do your own sleuthing. Before hiring someone, thoroughly research your project and the contractors you're considering working with. Read the following tips, to help you get started:

Know The Scope of Work

  • If your project will involve an architect, make sure the plans are finalized before the start of the project. Many contractors work with architects to create what is called a "negotiated contract." This helps you decide what you want included in the job and at what price.
  • If you don't work with an architect, you might work with a design/build contractor. These contractors both design and build your project. They offer one-stop shopping, in a sense, by helping you determine a budget and then designing your project to fit that budget. Make sure your design/build contractor offers you different design alternatives.
  • Revisit the plans often through the estimating process. Remember, you have to live with the end result. The contractor doesn't. Bear in mind, however, that if you make a change to the plans and/or project after the scope of work has been established and you've signed the contract, you may be charged for changes in orders.

Be Clear About Budgets

  • Know your budget and communicate it ahead of time to everyone involved in the project.
  • It is the contractor's job to track the actual construction budget against the contract price. However, you need to have a game plan to determine how you will respond to "unplanned change" or scheduled delay.
  • Expect changes. Most contracts include a minimum of 10% additional costs due to changes during the job. Be sure to include that amount of money in your budget.
Know The Contractor

  • Qualify potential contractors before wasting their time with the estimating process. A great bid but a poor job record is not going to get you anywhere. This is why it is so important to ask for and check references.
  • Limit the bidding process to no more than 3 contractors. This will give you time to research and determine the contractor who is best suited to your project.
  • Interview the potential contractors
  • Interview the potential contractors' current and past clients, as well as the professionals the contractors work with (vendors and subcontractors). It is always best to get on the phone and talk to the references directly or meet them in person.
  • Do background checks. Make sure the contractor is licensed by visiting the NCLBGC website here. You can also check with the NCLBGC to see if there are any current complaints about the contractor. For larger jobs, check to see if the contractor is bonded.
  • Visit the contractor's final projects to get a better feel for the quality of work. Pictures are nice, but you can learn more from viewing the workmanship in person.

Crucial Questions to Ask Your Contractor

  • What is your company's best quality?
  • How long have you been in business?
  • Have you done this type of project before?
  • Is this project within the typical scope, size and price of jobs you've done before?
  • Are you licensed, bonded and/or insured?
  • May I interview 2 past clients and view the finished work?
  • Have you been sued by past clients?
  • Have you been sued by trade contractors or vendors?
  • How do you determine how much to charge for changed orders?
  • On average, how much do the total changes in orders cost as a percentage of the original estimate?
  • What process do you use to communicate changes in orders or price changes?
  • Who will be my primary contact during the job?
  • On average, do you go below or above your estimates?


1420 E. Arlington Blvd. Ste. A, Greenville, NC 27858 * 252-702-8366 *

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