Contractor Selection Guide: How to Find the Best Builder for Your Project

Are you tempted to manage your own construction project?

Unless you’re a building pro or you’re working on a slight alteration, mistakes may cost you more than what you’d save on contractor fees.

Missed payments to your trades or suppliers may result in mechanic’s liens against your property. If your subcontractors do not have licenses, general liability or workers’ compensation insurance, you may have to cover the medical costs of any injuries on your site and possibly deal with other implications.

Most building and remodeling projects need a qualified contractor to succeed. Contractors understand the nuances of the building process. Their experience helps them find efficiencies and handle unforeseen complications. A good general contractor will strive to finish your project on time and on budget while ensuring your overall control through good communication.

To find a quality builder, you should solicit several bids from reputable contractors in your area. First, however, you should establish what type of contractor you need for your project.

What Type of Contractor Do I Need? 

In a minor alteration, such as changing your kitchen countertops, you’ll need a professional who specializes in the area. If your project is larger in scope and requires the work of different trades, you will need the services of a general contractor. This is a contractor who will hire trades, direct their work, and oversee the project’s schedule and budget.

Pre-qualifying Contractors

To get a feel of what your project is worth, you should have at least 3 contractors bid on the job. Before you solicit bids, research the contractors operating in your area. Find those who have the following prerequisites:

They are licensed. In California, a contractor performing work over $500 in material and labor must have a valid license from the Contractors State License Board (CSLB):

  • They are insured. Licensed contractors must have general liability and workers’ compensation insurance to operate in California.
  • They can provide references for similar projects completed in the past.
  • They can tell you when they would be ready to start the project.
  • They can provide a tentative schedule which includes completion timelines
  • They are willing to sign a contract with you

Once you’ve pre-qualified bidders based on the above criteria, you may take further steps to verify their reputation. You can search the contractor’s business name on the Better Business Bureau’s website, or check for any complaints registered against them at the CSLB. The references your bidders provided were likely from successful projects, but may still offer a crucial insight into defects discovered well after completion.

If you are satisfied with your top choices, it’s time to start the bidding process.


Bid Solicitation 

The aim of the bidding process is to provide you with a fair comparison of realistic prices which are based on your design intent. Achieving this outcome entails your bidders pricing the same things and including all the right things. 

Bid documents must be crystal-clear for the bidders to interpret them the same way. Vagueness and ambiguity shouldn’t exist in plans and specifications – less diligent contractors may “wing it” instead of clarifying if there is something they don’t understand. By giving bidders access to precise information, your designer ensures that the quotes they submit offer you a fair comparison of the project‘s value.

Bidders should have access to as many details as possible, including measurements and material specifications. Handing them a set of plans does not guarantee that they will price the materials and finishes you chose. Your designer should include specifications for all elements of the project, particularly those dearest to you, with the bid documents. This will leave less room for them to cut corners by pricing builder grade options.

Design Everest can aid your pricing exercise by drafting a bid set – a set of drawings with sufficient detail for your bidders to base their pricing on. Once you’ve selected your builder, we will develop a complete set of construction drawings. Whether you are remodeling or building, we can help. Call us at (877) 892-0292 for a FREE consultation and quote. 

Bid Evaluation  
When you review the bids, your eyes may automatically scan the pages to find the bottom line. Naturally, money is the exciting part. Of equal importance, however, is what the money represents. Before you jump off the couch and phone your lowest bidder, take the time to evaluate each submission. Use the criteria below to establish whether each bid satisfies all of your project’s requirements:

Scope. Confirm that no part of the project is left out. Analyze each item of the quote. You may see some exclusions here; note these and compare them with the competitors’ quotes. Sometimes exclusions are listed separately; again, review and compare them with those in other bids.

Materials. As you’re verifying scope completeness, check whether the included materials are those you specified.

Prices. The bids should include an itemized breakdown of material and labor costs, and the contractor’s overhead and fee. Compare each bid line-by-line and note all inconsistencies. If one bid is attractive, find the items that were priced lower, and make sure they meet your specifications.

Permits. Scroll through each bid and verify that permit fees are included. Treat these as part of the scope – if they’re missing, call the contractor and ask to price them.

Validity. Check the quote‘s validity. If it expires before your project is due to start, call the bidder and confirm that the quoted prices will remain valid through the construction process. Follow up by email to get the confirmation in writing.

Final Negotiations

Should any of these components be missing from an otherwise competitive offer, call the contractor and let them know. Give them time to revise their pricing and review the bids again.

Once you’ve established your preferred bidder, have another meeting with them to discuss the specifics of the project. This is your final opportunity to expose any likely issues that may impede construction.

Ask more questions about the schedule. Enquire about proposed completion deadlines for major milestones. Find out whether the contractor has other projects running concurrently to yours; if the answer is yes, confirm that there are enough resources to keep your project on schedule.

Even under a brilliant contractor’s helm, subcontractors can make or break your project. With other questions answered, familiarize yourself with the subcontractors. Research their credentials. If you‘re struggling to find information, call your local building authority and confirm that your preferred bidder’s trades are in good standing.

Discuss the payment plan. Insist that all lien releases are presented to you before you make payments. Progress payments are typically made based on the percentage of work completed, or upon completion of major milestones. Determine which method is more suitable for you and your contractor.

Contract Award

With all the details polished off, it’s time to draft and award the contract. This document will govern your relationship with the contractor and control many aspects of your project. In a dispute, your contract may serve as your legal remedy, so it’s vital that you understand each clause. We encourage you to seek professional legal advice as you review and sign your contract.

How We Can Help
Whether you’re building or remodeling, Design Everest can help. From the bid set that you’ll use for pricing, to the final construction drawings, we ensure that your contractors have access to detailed plans.

If you are looking for contractor referrals, let our team be your guide. Over our 13 years in business, we have worked with some talented folks. We would be happy to connect you with them.

If you are ready to start your project, call us at (877) 892-0292 for a FREE consultation and quote. We can also connect you with a professional engineer or designer right away for a virtual consultation or virtual on-site!

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