Choosing a General Contractor - – Rockford’s News Leader

Choosing a General Contractor


Choosing the right general contractor is an important process and these steps can help you make the right choice. You can also rely on an online referral service such as ServiceMagic to sift through local professionals and connect you with the best, qualified, prescreened specialists for your project.

Identify Your Needs

What is the project? If the job is small, only one professional might be required, but if the job requires more work, a general contractor can help by managing all aspects of the project.

If you aren't sure what your needs are, gather photos from publications that illustrate your preferences.

Gather a List of Names

ServiceMagic identifies certified professionals whose qualifications and background are ideally suited for your job. We can also provide a directory of professionals in your area for you to screen.

Check Backgrounds

With your list in hand, make a few calls to weed out service professionals with questionable records. (ServiceMagic-certified professionals are pre-screened to help you avoid this step.)Get Estimates

At least three service professionals should bid on your project. Be sure to spend enough time with each bidder.

When you prepare to get bids, describe your project clearly. Ask for an approximate start date. Keep in mind that many contractors have busy workloads and may not be able to start for several weeks or months. Ask for samples. Most service professionals have portfolios containing photographs of past work.

Make your Decision

Don't immediately select the lowest bidder for the job. Make sure each estimate details your specifications. Look at the estimates and see where cost differences exist, then ask the contractor. Consider the time frame.

Negotiate the Contract

Once you've selected a contractor, a contract needs to be developed. Contract laws vary, but make sure the following basics are covered:

  • The contractor's name, address, phone and license number.
  • All the work to be done, including an explanation of each segment of the job.
  • A detailed list of all required building materials.
  • A start date and a target end date.
  • A payment schedule. Adopt a schedule with which both you and the contractor can agree.
  • Specify that it is the service professional's responsibility to obtain necessary permits.

Detail how change orders will be handled. A change order is a written authorization to the service professional to make a change to the work described in the original contract.

Clearly outline what the service professional will and will not do.

Review the Contract

Once the contract is written, you may want to have an attorney check it over to identify any trouble areas. This could save you from experiencing complications during the project. An attorney's review is particularly helpful for contracts of major projects.

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