Photo of a general contractor working on a job.

General Contractors

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A general contractor, also known as a builder or remodeling contractor, is the commander-in-chief of your home remodeling project. They are skilled in many areas of home construction themselves, so they play a vital role in keeping your project running on schedule and within budget. He or she will manage all aspects—at all stages—of the job, from working with your architect and securing building permits to managing the day-to-day tasks of purchasing materials and overseeing subcontractors. Here are tips for hiring the best contractor.


Ask neighbors, friends, coworkers, and relatives for referrals. Also, ask the seasoned pros at your hardware store, because referrals are everywhere. Real estate agents can also provide leads to reputable general contractors. The National Association of the Remodeling Industry offers a state-by-state directory of certified contractors on its website,—its members must go through extensive screening and testing and adhere to a strict code of ethics. Remember, you want the best contractor for your specific project: A great window contractor may not be the best choice for your bathroom remodel.


Do your homework. Talk to at least three contractors and ask for written estimates. Inspect every bid with care. Cross-check the written details with what you talked about: Does it match up? Trust your instincts. You’re looking for skill, commitment, and integrity. If the bid is late, you may be dealing with a contractor who doesn’t value deadlines.


Ask prospective contractors for references. When you talk to their prior clients, ask about the following: Was the job finished on time? Were the results what you expected? How much did the price change along the way? Were the subcontractors reliable and tidy? How often was the contractor on-site? If they had the same project done, ask for any advice based on their experience.


Once you settle on the right contractor, review the written contract before you sign. It should itemize what’s to be done, the timeline, milestone payments, and specifications and prices of the materials to be used. Pay special attention to getting the right permits. Nearly every major home renovation requires them, and you can be fined if your project is not up to code. It’s the contractor’s job to get the permits.


Decide up front how you will communicate with each other during the project. A daily progress report by phone or email, especially if you’re living off-site during construction, can be helpful and stave off costly delays. Ask if the GC anticipates any issues that may require your attention, and have a plan for how you will resolve them.

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