General Contracting

Find a construction estimator near San Francisco, CA

Find a construction estimator near San Francisco, CA

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Q & A

Answers to commonly asked questions from the experts on Thumbtack.

How do I hire the best general contractor in San Francisco?

First, conduct an online search for qualified general contractors in the San Francisco area. Take a few minutes to review their services and decide which contractors are best suited for you. For example, if you need some electrical work done, search for contractors who have completed electrical projects. If you can’t find enough information on their profiles, send the general contractors a message, read customer reviews and view past project photos. 

You should also check to see if the contractor is properly licensed. For example, you can try looking for their license information on their profiles on the Contractors State License Board website. You can also ask the contractors to provide that information.

Finally, ask several contractors in San Francisco to send you free quotes so you can get an idea of how much it will cost to hire a general contractor.

What do construction project managers do?

Construction project managers help in all stages of your construction project, starting from the very first step. Typically paid a percentage of a total project cost, they are part of the design and planning process and help ensure seamless communication between the design parties and the construction team. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, their scope of work includes preparing cost estimates, budgets and work timetables; interpreting and explaining contracts and technical information to other professionals; reporting work progress and budget to clients; collaborating with architects, engineers and other construction pros; selecting subcontractors and scheduling and coordinating their tasks; responding to work delays, emergencies and other problems; and ensuring compliance with legal requirements, building and safety codes, and other regulations.

The work of construction project managers may seem very similar to that of general contractors, but there are some critical differences. One difference is that, unlike most general contractors, project managers are not engaged in the actual construction — they are onsite overseeing the work of subcontractors. Another key difference is that project managers are hired during the design phase, while general contractors are hired after plans have been made. The project manager is generally paid a percentage of the total project cost, while the general contractor is more typically paid according to the bid they gave to build your project.  

How much does a project manager charge per hour?

You may choose to hire a construction project manager for your residential or commercial project. For the hands-on homeowner who wants to be involved in home construction but isn’t comfortable hiring subcontractors, a construction project manager can oversee these relationships and supervise labor. Typically, construction project managers charge a fee that is a flat percentage of the total construction project cost. This may range from 10 percent to 15 percent, depending on the company and the services they provide. This means a $30,000 home remodel project would have a construction project management fee of $3,000-$4,500. Hiring a construction project manager generally precludes the markup on subcontractor labor charged by a general contractor. The drawback to this choice is that, unlike a general contractor, the construction project manager won’t be financially responsible for the work of the subcontractors. For larger projects, you may hire a construction project manager who will also hire a general contractor. This provides the benefits of the general contractor along with the management services of the project manager, who will be on board from the beginning. The construction project manager will be involved in the design phase and work with the architects and the building crew, facilitating a smoother overall process.

For more, check out our tips for smart hiring on Thumbtack.

How do I find out if a contractor is licensed?

It’s important to know if your project requires work by a licensed professional, as licensing laws can vary by state, locality, and job details. You can find general licensing information online at the government websites that handle occupational licensing for a given profession in your state or location. Some states designate a project cost over which you have to hire a licensed contractor. To find qualified licensed contractors, search your state’s licensing board. For example, in California, the Department of Consumer Affairs operates a searchable database through the Contractors State License Board. In some states, contracting licenses are provided at a regional level. You can find links to specific databases on BRB Publications’ Occupational Licensing page. Red flags that a contractor may not be licensed or may be providing an expired or false license number are unreasonably low bids or a request for complete payment upfront. For more, check out our tips for smart hiring on Thumbtack.

What is a contractor license number?

A contractor license number is proof that your contractor is operating their business legally, that they have the proper documentation required by your state or region, and that they are competent in their area of work (electrical, plumbing, construction, etc.). Licensed contractors should freely advertise their contractor license number. If not, you can request it before considering them for hire. You can also research your contractor using their license number. The database for your state will indicate the field they are licensed to work in; whether they are up to date on insurance, workers’ compensation and bonds; and whether they have any consumer complaints issued against them. If the licensed contractor you are hiring does not have employees, they are not required to carry workers’ compensation. Each state or region will have their own database for licenses, such as the State of Oregon Construction Contractors Board. For more, check out our tips for smart hiring on Thumbtack.  

How can I find out if a general contractor is considered an essential COVID-19 service provider?

To find out whether a general contractor is considered essential in your area during the current coronavirus pandemic, visit your city or state’s government website, which will have information on essential services.

Find information on national recommendations by visiting CISA’s Identifying Critical Infrastructure During COVID-19 webpage. However, not all jurisdictions follow CISA’s definitions of critical infrastructure. 

Are there ways to be safe if I hire a general contractor when social distancing?

If you decide to hire a general contractor, avoid any physical contact, don’t shake hands, keep 6 feet of distance between you and the pro and sanitize all involved surfaces. Also, use digital platforms to communicate and make payments.

What’s the best way to set up a consultation or an appointment with a general contractor during the COVID-19 pandemic?

To set up a consultation or appointment with a general contractor during the COVID-19 pandemic, start by performing an online search for local professionals near you.

Message the contractor, and see if they are willing to set up a video consultation call instead of an in-person site visit. With video chat, the contractor may be able to assess the scale of the project, give you better information on what needs to be done and perhaps provide an estimate. Be sure to discuss virtual payments, as well as general strategies for staying safe.

Can I use digital payments to pay for general contractor services?

Currently, many general contractors are using common digital payment services like PayPal, Venmo, Square Cash, Zelle, Google Pay and more. And more will likely adopt these and similar platforms as coronavirus continues to force companies to take on digital capabilities.

Contact general contractors beforehand to discuss whether they accept digital payments, and take all necessary measures to meet social distancing recommendations. You can also compare general contractors side-by-side online to see which ones accept digital payments.

Do general contractors offer remote or virtual services?

General contractors perform manual work and typically need to be present to complete their projects. However, if you come across a profile that states the contractor is offering remote services, ask what those services include. You can also ask if they can perform a consultation via video call and if they can do the job while following guidelines from the CDC and local agencies.

Reviews for San Francisco construction estimators
Jaime c.
We called to multiple companies to give us an estimate and we are so happy to find this company . David helped us with the design for the new kitchen. They gave me the best offer, not lowest at price but best in terms of quality. The working crew were true professionals, hard workers, nice and communicative. Thank you Edri Construction ! It was the right choice.
Edri ConstructionEdri Construction
Thumbtack Customer
If we could give Wise Stage Remodeling more stars than 5, we would! We hired Wise Stage Remodeling to finish a very difficult and messy remodel in San Francisco (single family house). A previous contractor messed the remodel up beyond belief and left it in shambles, while we were out of town. None of the new contractors were even willing to consider taking this job and we were desperate. Sergey from Wise Stage Remodeling responded to our request via Thumbtack. He gave us a very reasonable estimate and timeframe to finish the project. Sergey and his team (especially Arthur, his carpenter, who's amazing with cabinets, doors, tiling) were extremely diligent and hardworking. They remodeled the kitchen from top to bottom, as well as finished remodeling the rest of messy unfinished projects of all levels of difficulty throughout the house. Sergey and Arthur pulled us out of a very messy situation and made the impossible possible. They were both incredibly responsive and accommodating throughout the entire construction process: hardworking, honest, and polite guys. Their attention to detail and ability to face our complex construction issues alleviated a lot of stress and pain on our part. We simply lucked out w/hiring Wise Stage Remodeling. We've been through a number of remodels with a few of our properties in San Francisco, and never had a more pleasant experience with the contractors. We would absolutely, without a doubt, recommend hiring Wise State in a heartbeat!
Wise Stage of RemodelingWise Stage of Remodeling
Aleksey P.
I waited a few months to write this, just to avoid doing it while I’m angry, and settle into my new place, but I still think people deserve a fair warning if hiring Sergey. He estimated to be done in 2-3 months, but took 6.5. I was paying rent and mortgage during this time. It quickly became obvious that we’re not on track, but Sergey told me repeatedly not to worry, he'll be done on time and with "highest quality". After 3 months we were barely half-way, and he told me it was *MY* fault, as I haven’t provided professional drawings for the remodel (it was very simple, so I made them myself). He hasn’t told me if anything was unclear or asked any questions until that 3 months mark. When questions started coming, I answered them within a day, sometimes within minutes, but still, he proceeded to use this excuse for literally everything that went wrong. For electrical work, he insisted that we have to move electrical panel in order to pass code. Then they started burning 300 amp fuses for the entire floor (10 units). They did it several times in one day to the point that the building ran out of fuses, and all residents were with no electricity till next day. My HOA charged me for the damages. When I asked Sergey to look into it, he **screamed profanities** at me, saying, roughly, that my HOA should go f**k themselves because he just passed electrical inspection, and it couldn’t have been him. My HOA sent their own electrician to figure out this mess, and it turned out, when they installed the panel, one of the screws was too long and perforated wiring inside, shorting the electrical lines onto the box itself. High quality work indeed! Then Sergey told me that there were $13K extra costs for “change orders”. I never requested any changes, and it was him who failed to realize what work was needed to pass code. He said that he’d take on half of that cost because he’s very “honest and nice guy”. I questioned if I should be responsible for the costs that he didn’t include in his quote, but he'd just stop work, so I was forced to pay, since I was losing money on rent as long as the project is stalled. Some would call this extortion. Some other examples: - Charged me extra for evening out the floors, look at the result: - Cracked my bathtub, refused to pay for it - Wrote memos on the walls with a red marker. After painting, I still see them through the paint! - Grout between tiles cracked already This isn’t even half of it! Feel free to contact me for a full list, if you're morbidly curios. When we got the condo to the point that I could move in and he had no more leverage to charge me extra, I wanted to renegotiate those "change orders" he forced me to pay. I already paid the total sum of our contract, but we still had $8K left in originally scheduled payments. When I brought it up, he stormed out, saying he’ll sue me, file for a mechanic’s lien, and I won’t be able to pay my utilities, and I’ll owe him $40K by year’s end. I tried to have a constructive discussion over email and come to a consensus regarding how to handle final payment. He would just repeat how great a job he’s done and reiterate that he’s going to sue. This is his explanation for the extra electrical work, I quote: "The truth is that we confirmed change order for $3,700 then it came back in a miracle way with the number of $13,300.” I didn’t want to waste time on court, so I agreed to pay him a portion of what he asked, which one might say is also extortion. You might wonder about other 5 star reviews, and here is my take: He worked for his brothers’ reputable company Zeus Remodeling for a few years, and recently decided to start his own (he actually used his brother’s license, as he did not have one himself). He probably made connections with some good teams, which he now employs, and generally they do a great job, as reviews indicate. In my case, he told me that he hired another subcontractor who he’s not worked a lot with. When things started going wrong, I understood that all he does is find work and pass it to a subcontractor. He’s a sales agent, and he really has no idea how to manage projects, and he will NOT put effort into keeping them on track, or control quality. Why haven't I fired him? It would cost me more to look and wait for another contractor. My main gripe isn’t even that the project took longer and cost more. It’s how he behaved when things don’t go according to plan, completely absolving himself of any responsibility, shifting the blame, making excuses, and repeatedly telling me that I don’t know what I’m talking about when I tried helping him with organizational issues, which is HIS job. His behavior was disrespectful, childish, and not an any point did he take ownership of any mistakes. He told me, and I quote again: “There are no mistakes of mine here. I don’t make mistakes. This is how I work.” You decide what to make of it. ****UPDATE**** Aside from calling me a liar, he claimed to Thumbtack that he hasn’t worked with me and tried to have this review taken down. Thumbtack reached out to me for proof, and, of course, I have plenty of it, which is why review shows as verified. Nice going Sergey... So who’s the liar?
Wise Stage of RemodelingWise Stage of Remodeling
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