What to Look for before Hiring a General Contractor

A home improvement project can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to if you hire a good general contractor. The best thing to do is to double check everything before parting with your hard-earned money.


By choosing a good home remodeling contractor, you will be ensuring that you weed out scammers, reduce problems during the job, avoid payment disputes and that the job is done according to your specifications. While selecting the right contractor can be challenging and time consuming, you will appreciate when your efforts pay off in the long run. Below is how to remodel your kitchen by choosing a good home improvement contractor.

1. Get Recommendations From Neighbors, Family And Friends

Ask your friends, family members and neighbors how satisfied they were with the contractor. Family, friends and coworkers is the best place to start. If you don’t have friends and family members who recently had similar work done, you can check with a building inspector for a list of names of local contractors who have proven to adhere to the local code requirements. Regardless, you should rely on the contractor who has been established in your area for some time.

2. Interview Contractors

Now that you have a list of prospective contractors, you can proceed to conduct a phone interview to get some basic information, determine whether they can be available to handle the type and size of the project. If possible, ask them to provide you with references.

At this point you should be able to select three contractors and arrange for a meeting with them. This is an opportunity to determine if you can agree on certain terms and ask detailed questions about your project, the contractor’s business and experience.

3. Get Written Bids

Ensure you get written bids from the three selected contractors. These bids should include a detailed breakdown of the work that will be done, the cost, as well as the materials that will be used. Any variations in price should be discussed with each contractor. However, some bids may be higher because the contractors will be using better materials or subcontracting a specialist to perform some tasks, such as plumbing. You should throw away any bids that seem significantly lower than the others.

4. Conduct a Research on Contractors’ Background

At this stage, the next thing for you to do is to carry out an independent investigation into the three selected contractors and their business. You can accomplish this by:

  • Asking for a copy of the contractor’s license and registration. It is a requirement in 36 states that contractors be licensed. Contact a local consumer protection office to determine whether a contractor needs to be licensed in your state. If a license is required, call your state licensing board to verify that indeed the contractor is licensed.
  • Checking with Consumer Agencies, such as the Better Business Bureau (BBB), state contractor’s licensing board, and your local consumer protection agency. Ask if any complaints have been filed with the agency against the contractor and how it was resolved.
  • Getting the contractor’s listed references, contacting some of them and asking several questions, including how the contractor responded to their complaints and concerns, how long the project lasted, and whether they were satisfied with the work.
  • Visiting job sites and observing how the workers do their work.
  • Getting Proof of Insurance. Your ideal contractor should have personal liability insurance, property damage coverage and workers’ compensation insurance (at a minimum). Obtain policy numbers, contact their insurance companies, and verify coverage.
  • Checking on employee work history. For a large company, find out the supervisor’s work history and whether any complaints have been filed against him.

Read the contract carefully and make sure it list the specifics of the job. It should be detailed, including brand names of supplies, quantities and type of items to be used, and any painting that needs to be done. The contract should also include debris removal and cleanup. Are there any guarantees provided by the contract?

Only sign the contract once you are fully satisfied and give your contractor his deposit. If the job is payable on a pro-rata basis, say 40% job done, then only pay 40%. It will depend on how you have agreed with your contractor.

These tips can help you choose a good general contractor to help you remodel your kitchen or any other home project you may have in mind.