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Choosing A Building Contractor


Embarking on a home building, remodeling or renovation project a stressful event. One task that can make the rest of the project less stressful is taking the time and care in selecting both your designer and building contractor.

Contractors are the foundation of residential construction. The majority of them are honest, hardworking, talented individuals, however, there are many contractors performing substandard work with a take the money and run approach to building contracts.


Locating a Qualified Building Contractor.

There are a number of places to find a good builder:

  • References from friends and colleagues you trust to have the same standards as you.
  • Finding them on current building sites, where you have been able to observe both the practices and quality of building.
  • Through a referral organisation such as Contractors-Licence.org


Qualifying Your Prospects

Once you have identified a number of qualified building contractors, you must qualify that they are suited to the type of work you plan. The following Building Contractor Profile is like a quality control checklist. It may seem rather comprehensive, but you are not asking anything that would be unexpected. I find it best just to email them the following form and ask them to complete it.

  1. License and Registration Number
  2. Worker's Compensation Insurance
  3. Bond and Liability Insurance
  4. Will they sign a Lien Waiver?
  5. Number of years in business
  6. References - Last 6 projects - include any relevant relationship to references
  7. Statement of Financial Stability
  8. Crew and how long each has worked for them
  9. Preferred Market Niche: custom, spec, or service
  10. Adequate crew for size of job
  11. Adequate supervision for size of job
  12. Preferred Change Order method
  13. Preferred method of payment

Other Items to check yourself are:

  1. Certification & Registration - Check local state certification agencies – for example, in the Pacific Northwest region, you can determine if the individual or business is currently state-certified and/or registered on the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries web site
  2. Credit standing with suppliers
  3. Any previous arbitrations - American Arbitration Association web site http://www.adr.org/.
  4. Availability: Do they use a cellphone, answering machine, Voice mail, Email, Beeper. Nothing is more frustrating than not being able to easily communicate with key personnel in any project.
  5. Market Niche: custom, spec, or service previous contracts were in


Check the following with Designers, Building Inspectors and Other Trades People

  1. Cost consciousness - have they demonstrated any lower cost alternatives which do not result in compromised quality? Do they order material quantities and return for credit unused portions - which are then credited against your account.
  2. Fair prices and payment schedule
  3. Quality of rough work - this is inside the walls, but a good guide is to look under stairs and under countertops in bathrooms and kitchens. Take a peek in the ceiling space if you can get access.
  4. Quality of finish work - this will be evident by looking at previous work
  5. Success with inspections - this should be on public record and your local building regulators
  6. Cooperation with other trades - look for body language when their name is mentioned. You often learn more about what is NOT said that what is said.
  7. Relationship between lead and crew - the quality of the crew often represents the quality of the contractor - good and bad!

From Previous Contracts

  1. Did they begin on schedule?
  2. Did they end on schedule?
  3. Awareness of material waste
  4. Relationship with client
  5. Responsiveness to problems
  6. Clean-up procedures
  7. Promptness on callbacks

Additional Safeguards

Never sign a blank agreement form or make any cash advance payment.

Incorporate the American Arbitration Association Construction Industry Dispute Resolution Procedures into your contract. They provide a standard ADR Clause for your review and consideration.

Consult with a local lawyer familiar with construction contract law before finalizing your agreement.



More Building Project Management

Benefits Using A Designer As Project Manager

Choosing A Building Contractor

Contractor Screening Tips

Types of Building Contracts


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