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  • Writer's pictureMaria Luisa Castellanos

10 Questions to ask a general contractor before hiring him

Updated: Apr 9, 2021

Photo of a house under construction by United Architects

1. How is your company structured? Do you carry workmen’s compensation insurance as well as liability? It’s important to know with whom you are dealing. Are they licensed themselves or do they have someone else who certifies the company for them? Or is this a fly-by-night operation where they are going to get someone else to pull the permit. (This is illegal in Florida.) It is important that they carry both liability and workmen’s compensation insurance, even if the latter is not required by law.

2. Who from your company will be at my house each day? How will you provide continual support to my project? It is important to know that someone will be there supporting the subcontractors and not just letting them do whatever they want. It is important to know who will be enforcing the agreed to schedule.

3. How do you handle scheduling? It is important to have an agreed to schedule at the beginning of the project. If there is no schedule, it likely that the project will run much longer than it needs to.

4. Who will communicate with me once the project starts? And how will they communicate?

Sometimes the owner of the project makes the sales calls, but someone else will handle the day-to-day on your project. Find out who will be the person responsible for communicating with you. And will they communicate by text message, email, or phone calls?

5. Is my project the kind you like to and do often? If this is not the kind of project they like to do or the type of project they normally do, they might have a hard time adjusting to the project and executing the project successfully. They may have a hard time finding the right subcontractors for the project.

6. Will you let me do part of the work? Most of the times, the contractor wants to do the entire job and will not want you to do a part. If you are doing part of the work, this has to be agreed ahead of time. It will be very confusing if this not clear at the outset.

7. What do you subcontract? It is important to have a list of subcontractors who are on the job. You want to know who is actively participating and getting partial releases of liens from them as you pay your general contractor. Find out if these subcontractors are licensed and insured. Do they have workmen’s compensation insurance?

8. How many projects do you have going at one time and will the person you assign to me be running multiple projects? Here you can gauge whether the timeline they gave you is realistic. One person running 20 projects will ultimately drop the ball on several projects.

9. How will we handle final certificate of occupancy or certificate of completion? How will we be sure that the permit is closed out? This is very important. The contractor has to be getting the inspections as he goes along. You must make sure that this is happening as you make progress payments. Then, in the end, it is just a matter of getting the final inspection and paying for the C.O. or the C.C. But if the inspections are not done as the project progresses, getting the final inspection and the final certificate will be a nightmare.

10. Do you have any concerns about the project or do you think there might be a problem later? Here you will be able to ascertain how familiar the contractor is with the plans. Undoubtedly, if he has reviewed the plans carefully, he will have comments, good or bad, about the project and areas of particular concern to him.

So don’t make your decision in selecting a contractor based on price only. Make a decision based on price and the answers to the questions above. If the answers to these questions are satisfactory to you, they will go a long way to ensure a successful relationship with the contractor and a successful project.

If you have any questions on this, or how an architect can help design and build a building, call me at 305-439-7898.

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