1. Three Bids: The rule of thumb is to get a minimum of three bids, but this may involve contacting 5-7 or more contractors, especially on a big job. You’ll see why below.
2. Initial Response: If you have to hound the GC to come look at your job, don’t. On the other hand, if he says he can’t come out for 2-3 days, but arrives on time, you’re OK to move on to the next step.
3. Bid Delays: If he visits your site promptly but you have to hound him for a bid, just imagine how much you’re going to have to hound him to get work done. Drop him stat.
4. Incomplete Response: If a GC “forgets” to put items into a bid, he’s either not paying enough attention or is a dreaded “change-order artist.” Red flags abound.
5. Change-Order Artist: Expect to hear “Oh, you really need this” or “You really need that” throughout the job as the cost escalates beyond the contracted amount.
6. Check & Recheck: Check their state contractor’s license, talk to their subcontractors and do an online search for client complaints — and any sincere positive testimonials. Always ask for references before signing on the dotted line.
7. The Contract: Get it all, and we mean all, in writing down to the finest detail such as “new baseboard to match existing.” Never accept a vague proposal even on a minor job.
8. Insurance Proof: Get a copy of the contractor’s insurance. Is the coverage adequate? Does he have workers compensation and general liability coverage?
9. Payment Schedule: The guy wants 50% up front? Forget it. Large projects usually start out at 10-20% at the onset, then similar amounts upon completion of various stages.
10. Skip The Lowball: This is another rule of thumb. If the price is too good to be true, it probably is. The guy is either cutting corners, desperate for work, or planning on raising costs along the way.
11. Subcontractor Savvy: Subcontractors are the norm on most large residential projects, but the more of his own guys he has working on your job, the more control he’ll have over the scheduling. Express your concerns from the get-go.