Hiring a general contractor is a good idea for many remodeling projects. Home renovation contractors have a broad range of skills to manage, coordinate and complete a project. They should help make sure your project comes in on time and within your budget as they hire and supervise all the necessary subcontractors, including electricians and plumbers. They also handle procuring all the materials required for your job. Some homeowners look to save money by acting as their own contractor, but an experienced home renovation contractor is worth the cost. They should know local building codes, be able to pull all necessary permits, and work with inspectors to make sure the construction meets local codes. Also, because they get professional discounts, they can typically buy materials at a better price than you can; better prices on materials and labor save you money, and make up for at least a percentage of the cost of the contractor.
A home inspection is a visual inspection performed by a trained professional to determine the condition of a home’s main elements. The inspection usually takes several hours, during which the professional takes multiple photos and notes, tracking information for a final report. After the inspection, the pro will create a printed report, complete with photos and detailed information, summarizing the condition of the house. A home inspection is often used by potential home buyers prior to purchase to determine if there are larger issues (such as dry rot or a faulty foundation) that are not immediately visible to the untrained eye but that would cost a lot of money to resolve. Home inspections are also used by real estate agents and home sellers to address any concerns before putting a home on the market. Longtime homeowners can also schedule a home inspection to get a snapshot of their current home condition and identify any issues that need to be addressed. A home inspection is not a legal document that can be used for divorce or estate settlements, nor can it be used to secure loans or mortgages.
A home inspection should tell you the true condition of a home. A competent home inspector closely inspects your home’s structure and foundation, looks for termites and signs of problems like mold, checks the wiring to ensure it’s in good condition, and investigates the HVAC system, among other items. To find a good home inspector, first research whether home inspection is licensed in your area; not all states require licensure.
If there is no regulatory body that licenses home inspection in your state, there are other ways to make sure you are hiring a trustworthy professional. Carefully look into the person’s reviews and ask for references. Ask if they are committed to continuing education, and whether they are active members in any reputable home inspector organizations. Some organizations that recognize and/or certify home inspectors are the American Society of Home Inspectors, National Association of Certified Home Inspectors, and American Home Inspectors Training. Don’t be shy about asking to see credentials and licensing.
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.
When starting a home remodel or new construction project, you will probably hire a general contractor. A general contractor is a professional who is qualified to take a set of building plans and construct them as outlined. The general contractor may help perform the day-to-day building, or they may just hire workers and oversee all the work activities. In either case, the job of the general contractor is to see that your project gets built.
When you have a building project, ask for bids from various contractors. The bids tell you how much each will charge and what their scope of work will be. Once you have selected a bid, you sign a contract with that general contractor outlining the specifics of the project and the milestones during the project when they will receive payment installments. Once the contract is official, the general contractor will bring in their crew to begin construction. The contractor will manage the workers and subcontractors (anyone who doesn’t work directly for their company but that they need to outsource, like a marble installation pro), order all the materials, obtain work permits, and confirm that all the workers and subcontractors are completing their projects as planned. They typically handle all the payments to the workers and subcontractors, and send you invoice. For all these reasons, it’s also especially important to follow a few smart hiring practices when it comes to finding a general contractor. If you are organized and competent to oversee construction projects, and are able to make sure everything is being built properly and meeting code, it’s possible you can be your own general contractor.
A commercial contractor provides similar services as a residential general contractor but specializes in working with large-scale projects for businesses, schools, nonprofits, governments and development firms. When researching commercial general contractors, review their portfolio of work and confirm they have ample experience working in the area you need. For example, if you are building a small strip mall, ask if the contractors have experience successfully incorporating all the needed elements such as a parking lot, meeting ADA requirements, accessing the proper permits, and completing work on time.
Once you’ve identified several qualified candidates, request bids for your project and then compare the scope of work with your needs and budget. Your commercial general contractor should oversee design, permitting, construction, materials purchase, and adherence to building code and zoning regulations, as well as sticking to an agreed-upon budget and schedule. It’s important to establish clear communication with your future commercial general contractor, as this will mean a smoother process for everyone. For all these reasons, it’s also especially important to follow a few smart hiring practices when it comes to finding a general contractor.
Home appraisals and home inspections both assess your home and provide a report summarizing the condition or value of your home based on key measurements. Unlike a home inspection for the sale of a property, a home appraisal is used for loan applications, property value assessment for sales or settlements (divorce, estate, etc.), and taxes and insurance. If you’re having your home appraised for lending purposes, you’ll likely need a state-certified appraiser, so be sure to your research their credentials. Nationally, the average cost for a home appraisal is $340.
If you’re buying or selling a home, having a professional home inspection can be an invaluable tool for price-setting and negotiation, as well as learning what repairs are necessary. The national average home inspection cost is $310, ranging higher or lower depending on the inspection company, your location and the size of your home. Other factors that can affect cost are additional inspection services and pathogen testing. Here are some examples of average home inspection costs in various parts of the country:
- Home inspection in New York City: $425 or more.
- Condo inspection in New York City: $200 or more.
- Home inspection in Central Texas: $250 for homes up to 2,000 square feet.
- $275 for homes from 3,001-4,000 square feet.
- $300 for homes from 4,001-5,000 square feet.
- $325 for homes 5,001 square feet and up, plus 10 cents per additional square foot.
- Home inspection in Los Angeles: $199-$299 or more.
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.
A kitchen remodel is one of the most important investments you can make in your home, and it’s critical to get the details right; that’s where a home renovation contractor comes in. A minor remodel usually includes new cabinet faces and hardware, replacement appliances, and paint, while an extensive job may enlarge the kitchen’s square footage, install new cabinets or an island, change the layout, and lay new tile or hardwood floors. Any renovation that includes filing permits, construction, or electrical or plumbing work is best completed by an experienced contractor who knows local codes.
A few home remodeling projects can be done by an ambitious DIY-minded homeowner or local handyman, but many are best completed by a professional home renovation contractor. You should hire a contractor when you’re planning a large project that takes time, machinery or large tools, and several workers; a kitchen remodel, new bathroom or home addition will be most successful with a licensed, expert contractor at the helm. It’s particularly important to have a professional contractor on board for construction, electrical, plumbing and HVAC projects that require inspections to meet local building codes. Of course, you can hire a contractor for smaller projects, too, if you prefer to let an expert handle things like addition or removal of a wall, small framing projects, or anything that requires a permit.
You should hire a contractor when you’re ready to start a remodeling project and you have plans, a budget and a timeline for the work in hand, but before any remodeling work begins.