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Q & A

Answers to commonly asked questions from the experts on Thumbtack.

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.

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 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. 

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.

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 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.

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.

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