Interviewing a General Contractor
If you’re looking for a general contractor to manage the entire kitchen project, the interview process is slightly different. In the initial meeting, the general contractor will look at your plans or drawings and discuss the scope of the project with you. Before giving you a price, the general contractor will present your project to subcontractors, each of whom will provide a cost estimate for their portion of the work. After all the subcontractors have submitted their information, the general contractor will total the subcontractor estimates, add his or her own fee (usually a percentage of the total cost), and present you with an itemised rundown and total cost quote.
Because of their knowledge of the construction side of the project, you may want to consult a contractor during the design process. However, to get a firm cost quote, you’ll need to be completed plans.
Unfortunately, there are some contractors who don’t tell the whole truth during interviews. That’s why you need to investigate the background of anyone you plan to hire, even if that person has been highly recommended by friends. You don’t have to hire a private detective, but take some logical precautions to make sure your contractors are responsible and competent. First, confirm that each contractor is licensed and insured. Next, check a few of the references at random (not just those given as “good” references). Ask them about the contractor’s work quality whether the schedule was met and how well problems and change orders were handled.
Find out if the kitchen contractor was available throughout the project and whether he or she listened to the homeowner’s concerns. If the contractor has another job in progress, you may ask to visit the site and talk to the homeowner in person. Talk to local suppliers to see if the contractor has had any credit troubles, and confirm that his or her credit is in good standing. Check with the Better Business Bureau or Chamber of Commerce to see if any com- plaints have been filed against the contractor. It’s not unusual for a reputable, established contractor to have one or two complaints on file but if you find a pattern of` problems, look for someone else. Other places to check include the local building department and the state contractors license bureau.
Making the Final Choices
Unless there’s an obvious first choice, compare the bids and abilities of` at least three separate contractors for each position. Many homeowners automatically choose the contractor with the lowest bid, but that’s not necessarily a good idea. In fact, you should be wary of any contractor who bids much lower than the competition something is probably wrong. Price is important, of course, but it’s not as important as the contractor’s quality of work, the level of experience or ability to stay on his or her budget (and the project budget) and on schedule. If you’re managing the project yourself, it’s essential that you have a friendly relationship with your contractors, since you’ll be in frequent contact with them. If you sense a potential personality conflict, beware. It’s perfectly acceptable to disqualify a prospective contractor for that reason alone. Once you’ve selected your first choices, double-check to make sure they’ll be available when you need them, then arrange another meeting or two to iron out the details and agree on a contract.