The next time you shuffle into your favorite restaurant, exhausted after a long day of work, stop for a second. Notice the curvature of the entryway and the texture of the paint on the walls. Each feature was a choice made by a commercial contractor, piecing together various aspects to not only engineer an establishment, but also immerse each customer in a unique atmosphere.
As a business owner looking to create a visionary meeting room or even an entirely novel building, choosing the right building contractor is essential. That’s why we’ve come up with 6 Tips to Hiring a Building Contractor for a Commercial Project. These tips translate into what we call the CREATE method: Character, References, Experience, Authorization, Throw and Engage. (These six steps also work if you’re a homeowner who wants to hire a contractor.)
1. Choose Someone with Exceptional Character
Selecting a contractor with an exceptional character is surprisingly, yet absolutely, essential to the success of a building project, says Tony LaPelusa, past president of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry. Someone with a strong moral compass will follow the right standards and be trustworthy, assets necessary for a successful project.
Another essential contractor component encompassed under character is communication, both with you, the business owner, and within your team. Through the building process, it’s necessary to have someone who establishes effective methods of contact and clearly explains procedures. Contractors must display a customer-oriented rapport to form a productive business relationship with clients. At the end of the day, a compatible match in character is crucial for the prosperity of the project.
2. Ask for References and Do Research
The second tip to hiring a building contractor is to ask for a list of references, which the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says should include the names, phone numbers and addresses of three clients with projects similar to yours. Along with contacting references, you should also read reviews from past clients and look at design portfolios and ongoing projects. It’s paramount the contractor understands the process of building and your project expectations. Contacting references, as well as pouring through online reviews, helps choose someone that prioritizes your preferences. Scanning through portfolios can also ensure a match in design tastes.
Most importantly, if possible, you should strive to visit a current project to experience how the contractor takes charge of tasks. A tour of an ongoing construction site can go a long way and may help determine the quality of a contractor’s work. When deciding on a contractor, know you will be diving into research, as a stellar track record from references is imperative.
3. Consider the Contractor’s Experience
Considering the experience of your commercial contractor is necessary to secure the reality of your vision. Contractors with over three years of experience can aid projects by knowing the land environment and making secure choices. Experience is beneficial in the construction industry since many tricks of the trade can only be learned through practical application.
Before choosing a contractor, decide if you’re looking for one that operates with the design-build or design-bid-build method, as the market is shifting towards design-build, and contractors must have a suited background. With each contract, you as a business owner are making a commitment and should elect for someone with a long history that can utilize insider “secrets” to achieve your goals.
4. Make Sure Contractor is Licensed
Another tip to hiring a commercial contractor is making sure the builder has authorization, including licensing, insurance and bonding. Luckily, these sanctions can easily be verified to ensure you are getting high-quality, up-to-standard work. It’s essential to check your states’ individual qualifications and talk to your city building department to make certain your contractor has the required licenses.
Valid insurance, whether it’s worker’s compensation, personal liability and/or property damage coverage, is paramount. Ask for copies of the insurance certificates and make sure they are current. If you want to get technical, inquire into each contractor’s EMR (Experience Modification Rate) and TRIR (Total Recordable Incident Rate).
The last step under authorization is to ascertain if your contractor should be bonded to protect yourself and provide a safeguard within compliance. The nitty-gritty policies can often be your greatest construction impediments, and by checking the three above authorizations, you can be assured of your project’s legitimacy.
5. Throw Out the Lowest Bid
The best bid may not always be the best value. This Old House general contractor, Tom Silva, recommends throwing out the lowest bid. Be wary of “outlier bids” because extremely low bids, while enticing, often utilize substandard building materials and cut corners to finish constructing.
Finances are fundamental to every building timeline, and while browsing multiple estimates, note that a fair bid is comprehensive. The best rule of thumb is to gather at least three bids for your project, which will give an idea of the general price range and also help recognize outlier bids.
In addition, beware of estimates without a cap price or that have “allowances,” as your final payment might be considerably higher. Finance is the lifeblood of business and considering where you want to invest your money is an integral part of choosing a contractor.
6. Engage in Face-to-Face Meeting
The final tip to hiring a building contractor is to engage in a face-to-face discussion. Set up a convenient meeting time and be prepared with questions. According to the FTC, contractors are only as good as their team, so you’ll want to ask which subcontractors are being used and if they are on board with company ethics.
This is the time to inquire into their expertise in your specific project area, as well as their success with integrating multiple disciplines. For example, if your goal is to renovate a building that will conserve energy, consider hiring a builder who is familiar with implementing energy efficiency strategies.
Focus on your instinctual inclinations and make certain they fit your vision. After putting your sweat into not only your business, but also choosing the optimal contractor, a flawless interaction can set the tone for a successful build.
By following these tips when hiring a building contractor, you can CREATE the building project of your dreams, whether it be a hair salon renovation or office overhaul. While scouring the hundreds of contractors that appear with a quick Google search, conduct your CREATE scan by focusing on: Character, References, Experience, Throw (ing out the lowest bid), and Engage. After all, an exceptional contractor is a keystone on your path from transforming your distant company image to a bread-winning reality.