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How to Qualify a Contractor or Subcontractor for Your Building Project

Locating and hiring a qualified contractor is one of the first steps toward quality control of your remodeling or home building project. It can be an arduous task, but the reward for perseverance is a timely and successful completion of your project with a contractor you know and trust.

The following list outlines various ways for you to qualify a contractor. It is comprehensive and may seem a little overwhelming, but the contractor selection process is a very important part of any construction project. Remember, what seems like a great new contact may at any time suddenly become a poor working relationship - people are not always what they seem to be.

Take your time to learn about the people with whom you will be working, and be sure to look at their previous work. Since the best contractors are almost always busy, there should be no problem visiting their projects to interview the contractor on site, observe the crew, review the quality of work, and talk to the contractor's current client.

This list will assist you in your search for a qualified contractor!

Ask the contractor for full documentation. This will include:

  • Ask the contractor for full documentation. This will include:
    • Contractor's License & Registration Number
    • Proof of Liability Insurance covering property damage and personal claims
    • Proof of Bond Coverage for total replacement cost of project
    • Proof of Worker's Compensation Insurance for employees
    • Call your state's agency having jurisdiction over contractor's license registration to verify the contractor is currently licensed as required by your state's law.
    • Ask the contractor for a resume. This will include:
  • Legal name, street address, city, zip code, phone number
  • Number of years in contracting business, education, and training
  • Financial stability of business and relationship to Your Bank
  • Credit standing with suppliers and terms of payment
  • References of previous customers with jobs similar to yours.
    • Call the Better Business Bureau in your region to find out if past customers have complained about the contractor.
  • If you can, visit the contractor's current site to see if the contractor:
    • Maintains a stable and reliable crew
    • Performs their craft in a skillful and professional manner
    • Provides adequate site supervision
    • Cooperates well with other trades
    • Offers fair prices and remains cost conscious
    • Uses material efficiently & effectively
    • Keeps site clean and safe
    • Ask the current client of the contractor these questions:
    • Does the contractor begin/end on schedule?
    • Is the crew adequate for size and scope of work?
    • Does the work successfully pass inspections?
    • How responsive is the contractor to problems?
    • Is the contractor readily available by voice mail, beeper, or email?
  • Be sure to ask the contractor for a copy of the standard contract for your review.
  • Never sign a blank, standard contract.
  • Check the contract for terms on these issues:
    • Total Contract Price & Terms of Payment
    • Change Order practices
    • Reference to Drawings and Specifications
    • Responsibility for Permit Application & Inspection Schedule
    • Project Start Date & Completion Date
    • Contractor's Mark-up on Labor & Materials
    • Conflict Resolution & Termination
    • Use of Lien Release or Dual-Signee Check

Once a contractor is chosen, you must have the managerial ability to schedule, coordinate, and control the contractor's work on your project so that work proceeds on time, within the established budget, and according to the quality specified. Always be prepared to pay fair market value for work performed so the contractor will be able to meet payroll and overhead costs, pay their suppliers, and still make a profit.

Cheap Contractors Are Never Inexpensive.

Cheap contractors may get the job for a cheap price, but you can probably count on work that is just as cheap. If you are paying a fair price for the work to be performed, you will foster trust and cooperation with your contractor from the beginning of your project.

You can make the project run smoother by being ready for a contractor when they arrive on your site. In addition, provide as much lead time as possible to inform the contractor of the status of your job and any unexpected conditions which must be met.

Nothing will replace your ability to think critically and analyze the unique circumstances surrounding your project. The weight of decision making must be fully acknowledged: site analysis, design choices, budget allowances, and work schedules affect your contractor choice.

After you've carefully assessed your particular situation, you'll choose the right contractor based on qualifications best suited to the special requirements of your project.