This Old House general contractor Tom Silva discusses selecting a general contractor. “Start with your friends and family and then check in with the National Association of the Remodeling Industry or the National Association of Home Builders for a list of members in your area. You can also talk with a building inspector, who’ll know which contractors routinely meet code requirements, or pay a visit to your local lumberyard, which sees contractors regularly and knows which ones buy quality materials and pay their bills on time.
That’s good advice from Silva. What else do we need to consider when selecting a general contractor in Los Angeles?
You’ll also want to check with the appropriate agency to see if the contractor is properly licensed and insured. Some states or counties as well as many large cities or townships license contractors; other jurisdictions require them to be registered. As a rule, licensing entails passing a test to measure competency, while registering involves only payment of a fee. If a problem arises, a government agency may be able to pursue a licensed or registered contractor on your behalf.
Consumers Report writes, “Ask for a list of previous customers; then call them or, better yet, visit their homes to look at the work. Ask some penetrating questions such as these:”
- Would you hire this contractor again?
- Were you satisfied with the quality of the work?
- How did the contractor handle cleanup each day?
- Was the contractor easy to talk to?
- How did the contractor handle differences and work changes?
- Was the job completed on time and at the bid? If not, why not?
Industry groups recommend that you get a written estimate from at least three contractors. Coal to Cash Homebuyers, Inc. in Los Angeles suggests at least five bids. An estimate should detail the work to be done, the materials needed, the labor required, and the length of time the job will take. Obtaining multiple estimates is a good idea. An estimate can evolve into a bid—a more detailed figure based on plans with actual dimensions. Seeking more than one bid will increase your odds of paying less. Once agreed to and signed by you and the contractor, a bid becomes a contract.
The lowest bid doesn’t necessarily mean it is the best bid. Make sure you are comparing apples to oranges. You might also buy your own materials to make sure the contractor isn’t substituting cheaper materials.
With a contractor, you want a project manager who will manage the sub-trades and make sure they are cooperative and stick to the schedule. Ask how the subs are paid, how often, and if they are paid as work is completed.
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