Hiring a Contractor can be a head spinning task and everyone seems to know someone who's affected by a "they took my money and never finished" story. We hear it all the time. Let us help you ask the right questions and sort the ins and outs of hiring for your remodeling project.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A GENERAL CONTRACTOR AND A HANDYMAN/HOME MAINTENANCE COMPANY?
Legally, there are many. North Carolina currently does not license or qualify Handymen or other Home Maintenance companies. The North Carolina Licensing Board for General Contractors licenses and qualifies General Contractors to contract work within the State. It is in fact ILLEGAL for any individual or company that is not also a licensed North Carolina General Contractor to bid on any work exceeding $30,000. Also note, ALL electrical and plumbing must be completed by a licensed professional- Handymen can not legally perform any of these services in NC. Your Contractor will hire appropriately licensed subcontractors to complete these tasks.
NC licensed General Contractors must also:
WHY WOULD I HIRE A CONTRACTOR OVER A HANDYMAN OR HOME MAINTENANCE COMPANY?
The state of NC has enacted strict laws and guidelines on who is allowed to complete various tasks, including plumbing, electrical, and other trades. General contractors typically have a team of qualified individuals to complete the work under state guidelines. Handymen and Home Maintenance companies are not legally able to provide these services unless they hold a trades license in that specific field of work or subcontract the work to someone who does. In addition, a General Contractor acts as the responsible party in the permitting process and therefore carries a license, bonding, and insurance. This is for YOUR protection and theirs. Without all of these protections in place, you as the homeowner become responsible and could be held fully liable for anything that happens on the job-site and for the quality of services provided.
SPECIFIC QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR CONTRACTOR DO YOU PERSONALLY HOLD A GENERAL CONTRACTOR LICENSE AND WHAT IS THE NUMBER?
Don’t be afraid to ask. The company you are considering should produce this immediately and without hesitation. The name the license number is attached to must be the person/company you are entering into a contract with and paying for the work. You may also check the NC Licensing Board to ensure the license is active, which classification of license they hold, and limitation. https://nclbgc.org/license-search/
WHO WILL BE ONSITE TO VERIFY WORK IS BEING DONE PROPERLY AND PER THE RESIDENTIAL BUILDING CODE?
Your construction manager should also be a licensed North Carolina General Contractor with the proper license and limitation. Your General Contractor should also be onsite to ensure work is being done in accordance to the schedule and cost agreed to for the project, since they are contractually obligated.
WHAT IS YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH THE LOCAL PERMITTING PROCESS?
The individual or company bidding your project should take care of all the necessary permitting. They should never ask you to submit the permit in your name. Your General Contractor should be permitting your projects for you. This makes him/her responsible for the permitted work.
DO YOU CARRY, OR DO YOU REQUIRE YOUR SUBCONTRACTORS TO CARRY, WORKERS COMPENSATION (WORKERS COMP) INSURANCE?
This type of insurance is the most important of all insurance coverage. Hiring a contractor without workers comp insurance could leave you paying an injured employee or subcontractors medical bills indefinitely. In most states, the workers compensation claim goes up to the “prime contractor” - which in many states, is the project owner (home owner). Cheap bids often mean fewer protections.
DO YOU CARRY GENERAL LIABILITY INSURANCE - INCLUDING PRODUCTS AND COMPLETED OPERATIONS? HOW MUCH COVERAGE DO YOU HAVE? CAN WE HAVE A COPY?
Before hiring any contractor, make sure they carry General Liability Insurance. Ask how much coverage they carry AND if it includes Products and Completed Operations. Products and completed operations covers you in the event of damage or injury for a certain period of time after project completion. AGAIN…cheap bids often mean fewer protections.
CAN YOU PROVIDE A TIMELINE FOR THIS PROJECT?
Your GC should be able to give you a range of time your project is expected to take. This is not set in stone as material availability, permitting issues, etc can disrupt the schedule, but this will provide you a starting point to go off of.
HOW DO YOU COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR CLIENTS?
Is your general contractor available to call directly? Text? Do they have business hours? Is there an answering service instead? These are really important questions to know ahead of time.
IS YOUR WORK WARRANTIED AND FOR HOW LONG?
GC’s stand by their work. Everyone will have a different answer to this, but it’s good information to ask for.
IS YOUR BID AN ESTIMATE OR FINAL PRICE? WILL IT BE ITEMIZED?
Every individual or company has a different approach. Typically, rough numbers are established prior to an itemized and detailed quote. Fluctuating material prices and unforeseen additions to the Scope of Work can create additional costs, even if you have a final estimate. Check the contract for these provisions to see how they will be handled.
WHO PAYS FOR OVERRUNS IN LABOR AND MATERIALS?
Ask your GC’s (and confirm in their contract) for details on who pays for what when costs exceed the estimate. These are commonly known as Material Escalation clauses.
ARE THERE ADDITIONAL FEES FOR DELAYS?
Things happen and timelines sometimes get messy. Who’s responsible for the costs associated with these delays is something worth knowing before the project begins. In a contract, this is commonly under a “Force Majeure” or Escalation section.
HOW MUCH DO YOU CHARGE FOR CHANGE ORDERS?
Whenever the Scope of Work is changed, an official change order should be written to protect both parties. GC’s may charge administrative costs to cover the behind the scenes of this process. The Change Order process should be laid out in the Contract Documents.
HOW WILL THIS PROJECT DISRUPT OUR LIFE LIVING IN THE HOME?
Will your General Contractor need to turn off utilities? Do you need to move out? These are really important questions to plan for.
HOW DOES PAYMENT WORK?
Again, you’ll get different answers from different companies, but generally a down payment (typically around 30%), a mid-project payment, and final bill are common practice. The payment terms and conditions should be readily available within the Contract Documents. ***Remember, the payment goes to the individual/company who holds the license***
HOW DO I READ A CERTIFICATE OF INSURANCE?
Verifying your contractors insurance requires receiving a certificate of insurance. This document from your contractors insurance broker verifies coverage is in place.
If you're in the Charlotte, NC Metro area, we have a list of Contractors we've personally worked with for varying sized home projects. Reach out and we can get you connected or head over to BeyondHomeServices.com to connect with our favorite Remodeling Contractor!