On our blog we often try to emphasize the importance of hiring an experienced general contractor, not because we want you to hire our company necessarily, but because it is very easy for homeowners to be taken advantage of and we hate seeing good people in bad situations. Over the past few months we have been contacted by various homeowners who have unfortunately had bad, in some cases detrimental experiences with general contractors that they thought were credible.
Because the real estate market in the Triangle is so hot right now, more people are buying homes with the intent to fully remodel them before moving in, which creates a very high demand for all trades in the construction industry, especially general contractors. As more and more “contractors” are attempting to position themselves as experts in construction, not all are equipped to organize and execute large scaled home renovations.
With the advances in online marketplaces and directories where contractors can easily create a profile and present themselves as an “expert that has been vetted and verified”, homeowners are falling victim to inexperienced contractors who in many cases probably mean well but are simply not prepared for what can and often does happen during a project.
Educate Yourself on What to Look for in an Experienced General Contractor
The following criteria are points that all homeowners should ensure that their potential contractor is meeting before signing on the dotted line.
- Ensure the general contractor is licensed and insured – This is a given, but you’ll want to ensure any contractor you work with is properly licensed and insured. Ask for evidence of this coverage and accreditation. If you really want to do your homework, follow up with the contractor’s insurance company to make sure the coverage hasn’t lapsed. What many homeowner’s may not be aware of is they can search the North Carolina Licensing Board for General Contractors’ website, https://nclbgc.org/search/license¸ and find any contractor that is or has been licensed in this state. The same goes for electrical, plumbing, and mechanical licenses.
- Look for detailed plans and estimate that outline the project – If your contractor is quickly drawing out plans for a multi thousand-dollar project on the back of a napkin and throws a lump sum at you with no indication as to what that cost will cover, it might be cause for concern. You don’t necessarily need computer drawings or schematics for every project, but it’s important to have a plan in writing that has enough detail so that you and your contractor are on the same page.
- Sign a contract – Don’t rely on a word of mouth agreement when it comes to any size home renovation project, especially one that could compromise your living situation. A contract can protect both the homeowner and the contractor from issues that may arise down the road. If a contractor encourages you to avoid signing a contract, it’s best to look elsewhere.
- It’s not your job to furnish all building materials – All contractors work differently and have their own methodology, but a contractor should never have the homeowner procuring building materials for their job. If they are, that is an indication that they’re unlicensed and trying the keep job costs down and under $30,000, which is the cut off for a job size that requires a licensed general contractor. Keep in mind, we said building materials, these are things like lumber, nails, sheetrock, backerboard and items of that nature. It is not uncommon for a contractor to suggest that the homeowner purchase their own fixtures and appliances. Remember, you hire a general contractor to manage and procure materials, if you’re asked to do their job, you may ask yourself what you’re paying for.
- Proper permits are obtained to complete your home remodel project – Beware of any contractor that attempts to perform a large-scale renovation without obtaining the proper permits. Always ask for the permit number and to be kept in the loop on inspections. Remember, completing any type of renovation that requires structural alteration or is more than $15,000 requires a building permit. Completing work without the proper permits can spell disaster, especially when you decide to sell your home. You, as the homeowner, can usually see all information regarding your permit and inspection status online, including if an inspection passed, why it failed, and when it was called in. In Durham, you can go to the LDO, https://ldo4.durhamnc.gov/DurhamWeb/Search/ParcelSearch and find out everything about your project.
Building at an All Time High in the Triangle – Details Are Still Incredibly Important
While building is booming in our area, this doesn’t discount the fact that hiring an experienced general contractor is incredibly important. In fact, the busier that most reputable contractors are, the more important it is that whoever you do hire to complete your project does it right the first time. Do your homework on the front end, even if it means starting a project later than you would like to ensure that you’re working with a contractor who is capable and licensed to complete your project. For more information on any of the information covered in this blog, or if you’re in a situation where you’re not sure where to turn after a failed home renovation, feel free to reach out to us for help at 919-383-0888 or through our online contact form.