7 Essential Tips for Hiring a Home General Contractor

7 Essential Tips for Hiring a Home General Contractor

Are you thinking of renovating a bathroom, or knocking out walls to make your kitchen larger?  If you aren’t experienced yourself, most likely you will be hiring a general contractor.  Do you know how to weed out the bad ones from the good ones?  There are several television do it yourself programs out there that showcase bad contractors and good contractors having to “clean up their mess”. Before you are dreaming of what your remodeled bathroom will look like, you will need some tips. In an effort to ensure you hire a reputable general contractor, follow these 7 tips to help you with the process.

1.) Determine if you need a handy person or a contractor: Depending on your home project you first need to differentiate between a handy person and a contractor. If you want home repairs that don’t require permitting and aren’t more than $500.00 US dollars, you can use a handy person.  While if you need major plumbing, electrical, mechanical or plumbing needs that will require permits to be pulled, then you are seeking a general contractor.  Additionally, most handy personnel are not licensed but may still have the skill sets to perform the duty.

2.) Ask for referrals when searching for a reputable contractor: If you live in an area that has plenty of resources, ask around at your local home improvement store or lumber yard for contractors they have seen buying quality products. Be mindful of contractors that few people have heard of, or haven’t seen where they purchase their building materials. Poor quality building materials can be the beginning of an awful renovation.

3.) Ask a home inspector: When a home inspector conducts an inspection on a home seller’s home with major problems, they usually will try and refer general contractors that may help the home owner get the problem solved.  Consider calling home inspectors in your area and asking for general contractor referrals.  This way you will weed out going through a phone book and looking through hundreds of contractors.

4.) Ask questions over the phone first: Before having a contractor come out to your home, ask them interview questions by phone. Questions should include:  *What other projects have they done that are similar in size and complexity as your project? *What are their payment requirements? (Avoid contractors who only accept cash, or require you to write a check directly to them instead of the business) *Ask if their license is current and when it expires *Where is their office located.  (Be careful of contractors who only have a P.O. box and don’t have a physical company location) *Make sure they carry necessary insurances – Surety bond, Workman’s compensation if they have employees and General liability insurance.

5.) Meet the general contractor in person: Once you feel comfortable over the phone, it is time to meet the general contractor at your home.  Don’t ignore your gut feeling when talking with a general contractor.  When you ask them questions, the contractor should be able to answer concisely and not seem hesitant.  Ask them in person again for projects that you can go see, or ask for contact information of previous clients and projects.

6.) Get at least 3-4 bids on your project: Each general contractor should ask for floor plans of your home, and get a list of your wants and needs from you.  Have the contractor explain how they will begin, execute and finish the project from beginning to end.  Ask each contractor to divide their bids into categories for easy determination of what you are really paying for. Categories should include: labor, materials, profit and miscellaneous expenses.

7.) Don’t choose the contractor with the cheapest price: Although tempting, don’t go with the lowest price contractor.  They could be the lowest because of low quality materials, or they are desperate and haven’t worked recently.  Choose one that you feel comfortable with their personality, price, background, and methods. Put everything in writing and make a schedule of milestones in which to pay the contractor. Assure that your contractor gets a lien release which will protect you if they don’t pay their subcontractors and bills. Remember a quality contractor will not give you a “low ball” offer.

Home renovation can be fun and exciting.  When hiring a general contractor don’t be afraid of doing your research and hiring a reputable one.  Use these 7 tips when considering hiring and being mindful of the contractor and their reputation.  You can tell a lot by the history a general contractor carries. Research and feel confident that you will find the best contractor to suit your needs.

Freshome reader’s what advice do you have from experience in hiring general contractors? Tell us your lessons learned.


  • Steven Heiteen April 21, 2013 at 23:28 PMLogin to Reply →

    Very good tips for hiring a general contractor. Especially tip #7. Homeowners need to understand cheaper does not always go along quality. In fact often it only creates problems that could end up costing more than the highest bid.

  • Gary Birtles February 6, 2015 at 16:49 PMLogin to Reply →

    Something else I think is very important when it comes to hiring a contractor is to be very specific about what you want and get it in writing. If there is a lack of communication between the contractor and the builder, expectations aren’t always met. It is best to get these things worked out during the hiring process in order to avoid confusion and tension.

  • Kristen Dockery February 17, 2015 at 13:52 PMLogin to Reply →

    Thanks for the awesome tips about how to hire a general contractor. My husband and I are wanting to build our own home, but we have never done this before so we need all the help that we can get. I hope that I will be able to remember the information in this article and I can’t wait to get started on our house and for it to be done, it is going to be awesome.

  • Marcus Fillion February 17, 2015 at 20:53 PMLogin to Reply →

    I think you’re right about getting multiple bids. Building a house is a huge undertaking. Don’t sell yourself short. That goes along with choosing the best-priced (not the cheapest) bid.

  • Kristen Dockery February 18, 2015 at 14:50 PMLogin to Reply →

    Thank you for these great tips on how to hire a remodeling contractor. My husband and I really want to remodel our house, but aren’t sure what to do or how to get started. I think that we should hire a contractor so I am glad that I found these tips. I will definitely use them when looking around town for a contractor.

  • Rose Nickelson February 20, 2015 at 03:56 AMLogin to Reply →

    There are so many different thing to know about before you start building a home. I knew that it was a good idea to get a second bid on a project. I didn’t realize that it better to get three to four bids on the same project. I guess it would make sense since different contractors will use different electrocutions and plumbers and those guys rates might be different.

  • Dave Thompson February 20, 2015 at 21:18 PMLogin to Reply →

    I am trying to find a general contractor to help me do some projects around my home in a few weeks. I have never hired one before, so I have no clue what to look for in a good contractor. I would have gone with the cheapest priced contractor I could find but your tip on not doing that makes total sense to me now, thanks for the heads up.

  • Ashley Reed February 27, 2015 at 00:37 AMLogin to Reply →

    I need to find a contractor to help me with my building plans. I would love to custom build my house, and plan it all out this month. It’s good to make sure you don’t just go with the cheapest, you don’t want that when you’re building.

  • Travis Simons March 10, 2015 at 03:09 AMLogin to Reply →

    I like tip number 7 of not choosing the cheapest general contractor. It seems like in a lot of situations cheapest is going to be the best option, but not in hiring a general contractor. It seems like a good idea when looking for one to hire is looking at reviews of them.

  • Lars Melger March 30, 2015 at 21:32 PMLogin to Reply →

    I like that tips to ask an inspector for a good reference. They would know the best contractors because they’re constantly inspecting their work. I’ll also be sure to get a few bids before making any decisions. We’ve got quite the project on our hands that we want to do, and getting the best price for it is a pretty high priority. At the same time, we won’t go too cheap. I’d rather spend more and get a good job done, even though I’m looking to save on this.

  • Marcus Fillion April 7, 2015 at 22:25 PMLogin to Reply →

    I think 3-4 bids should be standard for anyone hiring a contractor. It’s just smart to find the best deals in the area. That doesn’t mean you should go with the cheapest option, but at least you’ll have a ballpark range to look at.

  • Sean April 9, 2015 at 14:21 PMLogin to Reply →

    I like your advice to get at least 3-4 bids on your project and then to not necessarily go with the contractor who offers the cheapest price. As you say if they are using the cheapest materials and construction methods, you will end up with a lot of repairs anyway. Finding the one or two that are the best fit for your project, and then worrying about prices is probably the best method.

  • Ashley Reed June 10, 2015 at 14:36 PMLogin to Reply →

    Our house is out of date, and a lot of things are starting to break. We want to take one room at a time, tear it all out, and start with all new everything. The kitchen is the first to go, there are six of us, so having a modern, and reliable, kitchen is the most important thing. We’ll do bathrooms next, and then bedrooms. Thankfully the bedrooms won’t need too much work, besides the old carpets. We’ll probably just paint them, and replace the windows. I’ll need a contractor for all of this, and it would be nice to find someone that we like and feel we can rely on. Especially since they will be in our house so often, and for so long.