The Most Important Questions to Ask a General Contractor

Hiring a general contractor is not the same as finding a restaurant to eat at for the night. When looking for a place to eat out, you can do a simple Google search, look at online reviews, and decide quickly where to go. If the restaurant wasn’t so great, you don’t lose much money or time. You just won’t eat at that restaurant again. With a general contractor, you can also do a Google search. This will give you a list of possibilities. However, it is important to do extensive research with each of your candidates and make sure you are hiring an experienced, qualified general contractor. With a general contractor, the stakes are high and once time and money are lost, there’s no getting them back.

Here are five questions to ask prospective general contractors to make sure you don’t get fooled by an imposter:

How long have you been in business in this town (Amarillo)?

It’s important to get a detailed history of the business. This isn’t to say that new, younger general contractors are worthless. However, a long history filled with experience after experience will probably ensure that your project is completed correctly and on time. Experience truly does speak for itself. Also, a contractor that has been in business longer will probably have completed a project similar to yours in the past and will have no problems. When asking about history, get a few names and phone numbers of the contractor’s past clients, call them, and get an honest review. This will tell you a lot about the company you are about to hire.

Will you be on the job site or will there be a different foreman? If so, can I meet him?

It’s unlikely that the general contractor will be doing much physical labor on your job site. Sometimes, the general contractor is the guy who is there all day, every day, and other times, he has foremen that are running the show. Either way, make sure you know who that will be and make sure to meet that person. If possible, meet them on another job site that they are working on to see how they manage laborers and subcontractors. The job site foreman is the most important person working on a project because they orchestrate everyone all at once.

Will you be able to give me a timeline and an estimated date of completion?

More than likely, you have a date in your mind that you need to have the building finished by. Or you might have investors or bankers breathing down your neck. Either way, your project has to be finished swiftly and correctly, the first time around, so you can start making a return on your investment. In your interview, be sure to ask the contractor how many other projects he has going on and whether or not he will be able to finish your project by your desired date. This could be a big factor in your hiring decision.

How much money will I have to put down?

Reputable contractors will most likely have you put some money down, but not too much. They are in the business to make money just as much as you are and they need to make sure you are serious. A qualified, professional contractor will not have you put more than one third of the total cost of the project down and they will never ask for the full payment. On expensive jobs, as most commercial constructions jobs are, you will probably pay in incremental payments.

Which subcontractors will you be using for my project? 

An experienced contractor will have a list of qualified subcontractors that they could use for your project. Ask them for that list and then proceed to call those companies, view the work they do, and if you are feeling very ambitious, get references from them and call those references. The subcontractors are just as important as the general contractor because they are the puzzle pieces to a great construction project. Each bit of work they do amounts to an entire building in the end.

For even more questions to ask a prospective general contractor, check out this blog.