How to Choose a General Contractor

Part 3 - Cultivate a list of qualified GC’s

If your project requires architectural and /or civil engineering plans, speak with the people that created them about any recommendations they may have (but always remember to “Trust but Verify”). Many architectural and engineering firms take an enormous amount of pride in their projects and can usually offer up a qualified GC or two that could build it.

Some architectural firms even offer a service called Design/Build. In a Design/Build contract, you work with both your architect and GC at the same time as you develop your plans. The advantage to you is the comfort of knowing who will be building your space and that they have a pretty good feel for the work involved.

It’s helpful and brings a “real world” concept to the design, because the GC has a certain degree of input and also keeps both the architect grounded ensuring that what's designed, can be built for a reasonable cost. The disadvantage, of course, is that you are committing to a contractor before your design is even complete and you won't have the advantage of competitively bidding out your project.

However, if your project is less involved, you can easily cultivate a list of your own by speaking with other business owners in your area and possibly with similar uses and ask them who they used. Feel free to use our National Resource pages for contacts as well.

  • Ask them whether the contractor that they used was competent in delivering their final product and were they competitive in their pricing?

  • Did they handle the Punch List items quickly?

  • Did they need to come back to fix a lot of the original work (it’s fairly normal to have them come back and straighten out a few issues, but if the ceiling is collapsing, that would be a bad thing).  

  • And make sure to be as specific as possible when describing the type and scope of work you need done.

While you’re at it; don’t forget to speak with your local Chamber of Commerce and Better Business Bureau (No need to reach for the phone book…there’s a link to each of them on our Resources Section).

Business owners that are members may have some recommendations and a few GC’s may even be members themselves. Checking with your local BBB may help weed out a few of the bad ones.

If none of these suggestions lead you to a few strong and competent GC’s, you can also look into the construction “Blue Books” or, as a last resort, you could look in the phone book, but you’ll probably have better luck throwing a dart at the page.


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