• Duane C. Barney

Selecting your Contractor - Part 1

Before you hire anyone, you go through an interview process the same is true for hiring a general contractor.

1. Select viable candidates

2. Conduct an interview

3. Weigh the pros and cons and make the best hire possible.


Part One - Selection

Selecting a viable candidate, may take some work on your part, unlike hiring a new employee, you can’t post the job and have applicants forward their resume. So, your two best sources are referrals from your architect. They will recommend GC’s they have worked with in the past and have had a positive experience with. The second is referrals from friends and associates, again these are folks who have hopefully hired the GC in the past and have had a good experience. With the internet this network of friends is more extensive than it previously was, so use that to your advantage. Send a message out and see what comes back.


I want to point out that I have said you are looking for a positive experience, but that can mean different thing to everyone. The same person who repaired the loose handrail, showed up on time, was very clean, polite and respectful may not be able to manage a high dollar project, multiple subs and an architect yet both with fall into the “Contractor” category. So, ask the right question. Your architect understands the scope of work, so they will recommend GC’s with the proper skill set. Your friends may not, unless you are clear regarding the work to be done. If your project is large enough that you are interviewing, then there are a few basic parameters you want to begin with to help narrow down the selection.


First, what do you expect from your contractor


1. Is he expected to be on site every morning with a fresh load of lumber in his Pick-up? This GC is VERY hands and be very skilled at his craft. Typically, they are not good managers, with systems and procedures set up. He is there every day because he must be, the project cannot function without him. Because of his focused attention the project will move forward and get completed with great care, skill and attention to detail. The downside to this approach is, pricing, ordering and accounting are done “after work” so you will mostly likely have to wait for this type of information.


2. Are you comfortable if he has a team of skilled and trained personnel who work on the company’s behalf? In this format the Owner will check the project on regular basis or as needed based on the status of the project. His team will keep him informed regarding progress, issues and changes so they can be quickly addressed.

Both formats will get your project completed in a timely and quality manner, the expectation is yours. In the first scenario you mat say” he was great, here every day but it took him forever to get me the information I needed.” The second format may leave you just as satisfied with the complaint “His people were great but he was never here, I hardly ever saw him” I have an opinion regarding the long term viability of version one, but the both exist and each work, you need to understand your expectations and comfort levels and proceed to the interview process with a group of GC’s that will meet those expectations.


The larger the project, the format will move strongly towards the second management style but not exclusively. Both formats will require some subcontractors who require specific trade licenses such as electricians and plumbers but some GC’s my employ management only and rely 100% on subcontractors or a variation in between.


There also categories of GC’s, Remodelers, new Home Builders & Spec builders. Their experiences may intermix and they all know how to build, but their category experience may be reflected in the personal service you receive. Style and objectives are also a consideration, if you love modern, hire a team experienced in modern, same goes with energy considerations, not everyone is up to date with current energy design.


You are building a team, build one that works well together and speaks with one voice.

Final note I will repeat, pretty pictures on a web site are no indicator of the GC’s work but a demonstration of the architects they have worked with. You are looking to find out how the business is managed and if it meets your expectations.

Questions about how to start your project? We recommend this book as an essential first step.

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