The task of finding the right fit for your building contractor can be daunting, but there are ways to make sure you’re finding a reputable contractor that will treat you fairly and deliver great work. Today we will discuss what to look for, what questions to ask, and how to know if what you’re getting is what you paid for.
Our focus will be on contractors that repair or build commercial spaces, although many of these tips will apply to residential construction, as well.
What You Need to Know – the Basics
As with many services, the best way to find a contractor is often to ask around for recommendations. Ask your landlord, broker or an architect or engineering firm for recommendations. It may even be helpful to look at who your direct competitors have used for constructing their facilities, particularly if your needs include extensive knowledge of specific building components like clean rooms, multi-story construction, underground work, or public right-of-way improvements. You will likely want to talk to several contractors to find the one that best fits your needs.
A reputable contractor will:
- Be licensed and insured
- Be able to issue you a construction contract, likely an AIA form
- Have consistent processes in place for things such as:
- Requests for Information
- Change Orders
- Closeout processes
- Be able to advise on when a project needs a permit
- Be able to verify cost accounting for labor, materials and equipment used and charged to your project.
An owner is wise to walk away from any contractor who cannot provide proof of any of the above listed items.
How to Verify Licenses and Insurance
US commercial contractors are licensed in individual states to perform work through the Contractors Construction Board. Each state, including Oregon and Washington state, has a different set of standards for becoming licensed, generally involving a test and fees. Most of these require updating on an annual basis, so it is important to check on license status at least annually before engaging a contractor on your property.
Note that the general contractors and subcontractors must fulfill state licensing requirements. A diligent general contractor will verify licensing for any subcontractors performing work under their contract.
Insurance requirements will vary between contractors, but there are some standards within the industry.
As a minimum, contractors and subcontractors should carry the following types of insurance:
- Commercial General Liability Insurance
- Comprehensive Automobile Liability Insurance
- Statutory Workers’ Compensation Insurance and Employer’s Liability
- Excess Umbrella Liability Insurance
- Installation Floater
To determine the limits of each of these insurance types, you should consult with your own insurance company and utilize them to help you verify coverages. Prior to beginning work, request a certificate of insurance from your contractor listing their coverage.
What Questions Should You Ask of Potential Contractors?
Finding the right fit for a building contractor may involve talking to many companies. In the case of new construction or significant renovations, you will be engaging with your construction partner for a long period of time, and enjoying the people you’re working with will making the process less stressful.
In addition to spending some time talking with your potential contractor, some of the questions you can ask to make sure they’re a reputable contractor are as follows:
- Can you provide me with your CCB license number and proof of insurance?
- Have you had any liens or claims on your projects? How did they resolve?
- What do you expect from me, as the owner on this project?
- What is your quality control process like?
- How do you ensure you’re providing me with competitive pricing?
- What is your change management process like?
- How can you help me meet my schedule deadline?
- What is your process to fix mistakes or repair warranty items?
- Tell me about your project management processes. What do they entail and can you show me examples?
- What challenges do you anticipate with this work?
- What risks do you see for added cost or time to complete the work?
- How do you approach contingencies and who will carry that cost?
These questions should all be easy to answer for a contractor that is well established and able to provide you with a quality building product.
How do you Know You’re Getting What You Pay For?
The key to great construction management is established processes and tracking mechanisms so that all parties involved know the costs involved in their project. How a contractor tracks and reports costs, as well as change orders is critical to an owner’s ability to know that they’re being fairly charged for work. In addition, whether a contractor makes their payments to subcontractors and suppliers is critical.
A reputable contractor will provide transparency to their costs for work, especially when the contract has been negotiated. Upon request, they should be able to show you the following information:
- Detailed schedule of values with monthly billings.
- Weekly or bi-monthly review of change proposal log.
- Subcontractor back up for change proposals.
In addition to the individual cost items, a contractor should be able to provide lien releases from all vendors to prove that payment was made to each one.
Finding a Contractor for Small Repairs
Many contractors are good at specific types and sizes of projects. Owners sometimes struggle to find help with smaller repairs or renovations. It can be difficult to find a reputable contractor that is willing to tackle items such as moving or replacing a door or window, splitting an office into two spaces or repairing a crack in the exterior wall of the building. Even with small projects, it’s imperative that anyone performing work be licensed and have proper insurance in place. This will be critical in the event that they damage your building or perform work without a permit when one was required.
If you’re looking for a contractor to perform small projects, be sure to check on licensing and insurance before engaging them in any work. Ask them to provide costs for the work or standard rates for time and materials repairs. This should help protect you from surprise invoices and high costs for work, as well as sub-par quality.
Perlo is well known for larger projects, but some aren’t aware that smaller projects and tenant improvements are where our Special Projects Group (SPG) shines. As an integral part of the larger company and with all of the proper licensing and insurance in place, our SPG team is happy to respond and is nimble enough to do so quickly and efficiently.
Find out more about the Special Projects group or get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you follow the advice above, you should be on solid ground in your search for a great construction partner. As always, our teams are ready and available to help you with all of your construction needs.
Give us a call at 503-624-2090 or reach out here to be connected with our experienced professionals for any size commercial project you may have.