Ultimate Guide to Hiring a General Contractor for Your Remodel

What is a general contractor? 

General contractors, known more simply as contractors or “GCs”, are the lead professionals on major construction projects. They oversee teams of subcontractors such as carpenters, plumbers, electricians, and painters, who carry out the various specialized aspects of each construction job. They’re responsible for procuring materials, obtaining permits, and ensuring that a project is completed according to plan. Depending on the specific requirements of a given project, they may also be responsible for coordinating with architects or designers, coop or condo boards, engineers, expediters, or inspectors. 

The term “general contractor” can be used interchangeably to refer to an individual person or a general contracting company. These companies come in all shapes and sizes, from one- and two-person operations, to mid-sized companies of 10-20 employees, and even large firms of 50 employees or more. 

Depending on your area or region, general contractors may also be known as home improvement contractors, builders, renovation contractors, or remodeling contractors. 

What makes a great general contractor? 

At Sweeten, we’ve been vetting and working closely with general contractors for over a decade. In addition to our 7-step contractor vetting process, here’s what we think gives some contractors that extra edge and a reputation of satisfied clients:

  • Communication: There are a lot of variables in the construction process. A great general contractor understands the dynamic environment in which they work, anticipates potential issues, and is proactive in communicating all of this with their clients. They can provide clear instructions to subcontractors and are open to feedback. 
  • Realism: The best general contractors are honest with clients about what their budget can realistically achieve, and will work with them to create a feasible scope of work, so that they can adhere to budgets and timelines. 
  • Agility: When the unforeseen inevitably happens on a major project, great contractors can think critically on their feet and approach their clients with proposed solutions. They can handle a variety of tasks and adapt to changes.
  • Eye for detail: A great contractor does not make excuses for shoddy work. They scan their jobs with a fine tooth comb, regularly looking for imperfections in craftsmanship and addressing them head on — not avoiding them and hoping their client doesn’t notice!
  • Tidiness: A great GC will clearly spell out the ways in which they intend to protect your home and personal belongings in their estimates & contracts. If your GC doesn’t have a game plan for protecting your beloved possessions, look the other way! 

Typical remodeling projects

You’ll probably need to hire a general contractor if you’re planning a project like renovating a kitchen, remodeling a bathroom, finishing a basement or attic, adding a deck or patio, remodeling an entire home, or converting a garage into an accessory dwelling unit. They focus on transformative projects that involve multiple trades, which is why you’ll typically only hire a general contractor for projects that cost $15,000 and up. 

Traditional general contractors vs design-build contractors

A traditional general contractor oversees all of the build-related aspects of a given job. They are responsible for procuring materials, hiring subcontractors, and managing the construction process. While general contractors are not responsible for design work, some are happy to offer creative solutions to smaller-scale design challenges, or even produce basic renderings where advanced design services are not necessary. The level of creative input you can expect from a traditional contractor varies greatly from firm to firm. 

A design-build company, on the other hand, is a company that takes responsibility for both the design and construction of a project. They typically have in-house architects and designers, as well as construction experts, that work together to create the plans and then carry out the construction. Where architectural design service is required, design-build companies are often the most efficient option, as they can take responsibility for the entire project from start to finish.

At Sweeten, we work with both traditional and design-build contractors, and with so many firms that we cover a broad range of service offerings to meet your needs. Post your project to start connecting with our vetted, trusted contractors today!  

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