5 Tips for Selecting the Best General Contractor

Posted by Michael Schoenecker on Mar 22, 2017 3:33:00 PM

Just about every quality construction project requires a reliable general contractor. You may have a vision for your remodeling or expansion project, but it takes a great general contractor to help bring that vision to life. Construction experts in this field help get projects off the ground. A general contractor helps you negotiate with the trade contractors, such as plumbers, electricians, and cement layers, to get you the best possible prices and the best possible products.

Throughout a commercial construction project, your general contractor will communicate between your company and the various trade contractors contributing to the project. When issues come up, it is the general contractor who works to find a solution that's right for you. Given the vital role of a general contractor, how do you go about selecting the best one to work with? In this post, we’ll discuss five tips for selecting the best general contractor for your next project. 

1: Only Work with Reliable Firms

The best place to start is to have an open discussion with a firm you feel is appropriate for your building needs. If you are comfortable with their development process, negotiate a fee with them. If you do not have any particular firm in mind, open up the bidding process to a handful of general contractors. A good contractor will ask you about the details of your project, the requirements you have, and your targeted schedule before providing you with a rough estimate of the costs involved in executing and finishing your project.

5 tips for selecting the best general contractor2: Ask for Referrals

When you are comparing numerous general contractors, ask for referrals from previous commercial construction clients. Referrals make it possible to learn about the areas of expertise the contractor has excelled in previously (environmental design and construction, large projects, modernization, etc.).

You can also learn about the limitations or potential downside in working with a particular contractor. If a general contractor refuses to provide a list of referrals, that is generally a sign that they have had rocky partnerships during past commercial construction projects.

3: Don’t Choose a Contractor Based Only on Price

There is nothing inherently wrong with selecting the general contractor that offers the lowest fee or bid, but price can also indicate the level of quality or priority your project receives. Some tactics for lowering project costs include using a lesser grade of building materials, cutting corners or quoting you a low price with the intent of creating numerous change orders to make up the difference. Some firms will quote low prices just to get the project and then nickel and dime you for every change.  

It’s important that you select a general contractor not based solely on price but rather on their experience and your comfort level and confidence in that firm.

4: Interview Candidates

Once you have begun to narrow down the potential candidates, carve out some time to meet face to face. Your construction project could last months, and the personal connection you have with a general contractor could impact the ability to communicate and work together over the life of your commercial construction project.

While you are interviewing the potential candidates, take the time to ask a few important questions:

  • How long have you been in business?
  • Does your company carry workers’ compensation and liability insurance?
  • Are you bonded?
  • What is your experience on similar buildings?
  • Who will I be working with on this project?
  • What is your building experience?
  • What process will you follow to help me through this project?
  • Will you be handling all of the discussions with the governmental agencies?

And many other questions that will arise as your discussion progresses.

5: Obtain a Detailed Estimate or Bid

Now that you have the field of potential general contractors narrowed down to your preferred candidates, it is a good idea to obtain a detailed quote or estimate. If you were comfortable with one particular firm, work with them to establish the building criteria, prepare a detailed project estimate and negotiate a fee to coordinate your project.

If you are not comfortable with one firm, have two or three submit bids to build your building based on your detailed criteria as established by an architect. The negotiated process is better because the contractor will assist you with all up-front requirements to give you a total development process.

Following these steps, you’ll be able to select the general contractor that offers the best combination of price and experience, while also instilling a sense of confidence in the partnership between your company and the contractor.

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Topics: Project Management, Construction Planning, General Contracting

Author Bio:
Michael Schoenecker

Michael Schoenecker

Mike Schoenecker is the Vice President of Winkelman Building Corporation. He joined the team in 2004 as Vice President of Marketing and Business ...
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