Hiring a general contractor for remodeling and other large-scale home projects can mean the difference between a chaotic and stressful waste of time and a stress-free experience. They are a “jack of all trades” who ensure that a job is completed on time and within budget. They hire and manage subcontractors, obtain permits, purchase materials, and deal with liability and warranty issues.
While it’s important to get quotes from at least three contractors before hiring anyone and to be on the lookout for red flags (for example, if they demand full payment upfront), it’s also important to make sure they’re close by. Contractors in your area can typically negotiate better prices for materials and labor, source local materials, and are familiar with local code requirements.
The Work of a Contractor
Contractors are better suited for larger jobs that necessitate the use of a permit, specialized knowledge, or both. There are two types of contractors: general contractors and contractors.
1. General Contractor
A general contractor (GC) is a project manager who oversees large projects. They hire subcontractors to do specialized tasks like installing new plumbing, installing new countertops, or rewiring a house. General contractors ensure that all permits are obtained, deadlines are met, and costs are kept within budget.
You should hire a general contractor for projects such as:
- Building a new home
- Remodeling a kitchen or bathroom
- Building an addition
Contractors are skilled and licensed tradespeople who work independently or as part of a larger organization. You would hire a contractor for tasks like:
- Installing an HVAC system
- Putting in a wood stove or rebuilding a fireplace
- Installing a water heater or replacing plumbing
- Constructing a deck
- Home rewiring
- Installing tile or masonry
- Installing new windows or doors
If you’re still unsure whether you need a general contractor, a regular contractor, or a handyman, follow these HomeAdvisor guidelines:
- Hire a general contractor if the job will take more than a week.
- Hiring a general contractor is a good idea if the job requires the services of several different professionals.
- Hire a general contractor if the job necessitates a few permits.
- If these rules do not apply to your project, a regular contractor or even a handyman may suffice.
How to Find a Great Contractor?
A quick online search will dissuade you from ever hiring a contractor. The internet is rife with horror stories from families who hired a contractor who:
- Stole their money without ever completing the work
- They did such a poor job that they had to hire someone else to fix it at a cost that was double or triple the original cost.
- It took months, if not years, to complete a project that was tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of dollars over budget.
If your area has recently experienced a major storm, such as a hurricane, tornado, hail storm, or flood, you should also be on the lookout for “storm chasers.” These are contractors who come in from out of town to repair homes that have been damaged by a recent natural disaster. While some of these contractors are legitimate, many are simply looking to make a quick buck before fleeing before homeowners notice their shoddy work.
Nonetheless, there are many honest and trustworthy contractors out there. How do you go about finding one? It takes time, effort, and patience, but your efforts will be rewarded.
Here are some questions to ask when you begin interviewing candidates:
- Can you describe and compare my project to others you’ve completed, as well as any potential challenges?
- How long have you been in business, and do you offer a guarantee on your work?
- Do you have any client references, industry certifications, or legal suits against your company?
- Do you have a license and general liability and workers’ compensation insurance?
- What is the payment agreement’s structure?
Cost of Hiring a Contractor
You may be debating whether to do it yourself (DIY) or hire a contractor. And how much will it cost you if you do hire someone?
A contractor’s quote is determined by several factors, including the type of project, the cost of materials, and where you live. Because projects vary so much, it’s impossible to give an average price.
For example, if you want to remodel your kitchen, you’ll almost certainly need to hire a general contractor who will also hire subcontractors like plumbers and electricians. The cost of a project like this is determined by the project’s scope and the average hourly rates for each subcontractor, which can vary greatly depending on where you live.
According to HomeAdvisor, average rates for contractors include:
- Electrician: $50 to $100 per hour
- House Painting (Exterior): $2,803 per job
- HVAC: $284(repair) or $4,274 (installation) per job
- Plumber: $45 to $200 per hour
- Roofer: $7,524 per job
- Tile Setting or Stone Setting Professional: $863 to $2,681 per job
- Window Installation: $5,274 per job
Estimating the cost of a smaller project that requires the services of a handyman is a little easier. These professionals typically charge less than a contractor; according to HomeAdvisor, the average cost of a handyman project ranges from $178 to $650.
Prepare Your Home for Construction
Once you’ve found a reliable contractor, prepare your home for construction now to get the ball rolling. Here are some pointers to make your home remodeling project go as smoothly as possible:
- You should know what you want. Save time by deciding on the materials, colors, and styles you want for your home project before you start.
- Clear the construction site. Remove any fragile or valuable items from the job site to make room for the work crew. Allow the crew to keep their work supplies on-site so they don’t have to unpack and repack every day. This will make the project run more smoothly and quickly.
- Establish effective communication. Request that your home contractor appoint a liaison between their work crew and your family. This way, if minor issues arise, the workflow will not be disrupted.
- Consider your surroundings. Make it clear to the work crew where your yard ends and the neighbor’s yard begins. You don’t want them to leave materials on your neighbor’s lawn by accident.
It’s frightening enough to spend thousands of dollars or more on a home improvement project, but it’s even scarier when you don’t completely trust the person in charge of completing the work.
It takes time and research to find a good contractor, but the effort is well worth it. Dealing with someone competent, knowledgeable, and trustworthy will alleviate a great deal of stress in an already difficult situation and ensure that you receive what you pay for.