How would you go about finding the best general contractor in Portland? Here are some tips to help you hire a great builder and avoid costly missteps.
A general contractor is a professional, or a company, who takes on the overall responsibility for a major construction or remodeling job. The contractor will plot out your project, hire the subcontractors, order the materials, draw up a schedule, and make sure everyone involved with the job stays on track. In the case of a design-build company, the contractor also will provide the design for the project.
Where Do You Start?
Talk to friends, family members, and co-workers who have completed remodeling jobs and get their recommendations. Take the names of the builders who sound most promising and do some online research. Visit sites that you trust and read the reviews. Go to the Home Builders Association of Metropolitan Portland website to see if the builders are members. Read the reports on the Better Business Bureau and Oregon Constructors Contractors Board websites.
Pick up the Phone
Narrow your list to about three contenders, and then call each one. Ask them how long they have been in business, how many projects similar to yours they have completed, how their schedules match up with your preferred start and finish dates, whether they can provide names and contact information of previous clients, and if you could visit the site of a job that’s underway.
Face to Face
The next step is to set up in-person consultations with the most promising contractors. Bring along a list of questions, and be sure to get answers. Here are some things you should ask:
- What is your practice when it comes to deciding on the quality of materials?
- How will you come up with the price for my project?
- How much experience do you have on projects of the scale, style, and quality that I envision for my remodel?
- Would I have a regular contact person during the course of construction, and how do you handle communication with homeowners?
- How do you select skilled subcontractors, and do you stick with the same ones over the years? Do you ensure that they are licensed and insured?
- If we make changes to the design of our remodel, or if you come across something unexpected during the job, how would you deal with those changes? How are the resulting costs calculated?
- How long would my remodel take? Do you provide any assurances that you would stick to the schedule?
- Do you provide a warranty on your work?
- What size down payment do you require; what forms of payment do you accept, and at what points during the project?
- Can you provide a sample contract, budget, construction schedule, change order request, and warranty?
- Do you carry insurance for personal liability, workers’ compensation, and property damage? Can you show me proof of your insurance and bond?
- Could my envisioned project be accomplished within the budget I have in mind?
Gauge the Fit
During your discussions with contractors, pay attention to how well they listen. Do they answer your questions fully? Are you confident that you could communicate well throughout the project? Are you comfortable with their personality, professionalism, and integrity?
Check Those References
After a detailed interview with the builders, it’s time to call or visit references and ask such questions as:
- Are you happy with the remodel this builder did for you? Would you use this company again?
- How accurate was the price estimate?
- Was the project finished on time?
- Did the builder deal with any problems satisfactorily?
- Was the work site kept clean and organized during construction?
- Did the builder employ any subcontractors that you weren’t happy with?
- Did the contractor communicate regularly and clearly with you during the project?
At this point, you will be armed not only with a list of cost estimates or bids, but also with plenty of information, and impressions, to help you make your decision. Clearly, price is not the only factor.