Big construction project or little one. An historic renovation in the heart of old downtown or a new retail center. No matter what kind of construction project you are undertaking, you want to feel assured that you have chosen the right contractor for the job. But how do you know that your contractor is doing a good job?
The success or failure of a contractor is often closely linked with you – how effectively you complete your hiring due diligence, how clearly you state your expectations, and how well you and your contractor communicate with each other during all construction phases.
Preparation and Selection
Before you begin your search for a contractor, you should clearly outline the responsibilities for which you will hold your contractor accountable. Those accountabilities should be included in the contract between you/your company and the contractor.
Next, you need to do your due diligence.
• Ask friends and colleagues who have worked with construction projects similar to yours for contractor recommendations. Ask these questions:
o How did the contractor handle the budget and materials?
o Was the project done on or ahead of time? If it was off schedule, why?
o Was the work done according to agreed-upon terms?
o Would your source work with that contractor again?
If their referral did well on each of those points, he or she may be a good contractor on your project as well
• Check ALL references!
Get it in writing
All good business relationships should begin with, “get it in writing!”
• Each contractor candidate should provide a written bid. Red flag: nothing in writing.
• You and your contractor should have a signed contract. Include details on the budget, scope of work, materials, the schedule, and the contractor’s specific responsibilities. Red flag: the contractor who won’t sign a contract.
• Your contractor should take notes during each walkthrough and meeting. Red flag: “I’ll remember… “
On the job
These are some important on-the-job clues that your contractor is doing a good job:
• Communication: you and your contractor communicate frequently and clearly according to your agreed-upon methods (text, fax, email, phone). Red flags: doesn’t return calls, is difficult to reach, provides limited responses to questions, communicates poorly with work crew.
• Subcontractors: contractor hires quality subcontractors with verifiable references. Red flags: conflicts on the job, petty thefts, on-the-job substance abuse, wasted time, etc.
• Safety: contractor diligently observes safety practices and insists that all workers comply with safety rules. Red flags: avoidable injuries, safety issues.
• On the job site: contractor is working at the job site for the majority of the time. The construction crew is busy during all working hours of the week. Red flags: contractor is infrequently on site, workers have too much idle time.
• Security: appropriate security measures are observed at all times. Red flags: equipment and materials not secured or missing, the site is poorly secured during non-working hours, unauthorized people are on site.
Schedule and budget
Ideally, every construction project is completed on budget and on schedule. Realistically, there may be some schedule interruptions and unexpected costs.
Ask yourself some final questions:
• Is my contractor providing me with accurate, up-to-date information on all aspects of the job and construction progress?
• Is he/she managing resources, budget, crew, and materials effectively and appropriately?
• Are crew members working fairly harmoniously with each other?
• Are my objectives for this project being met?
When you can answer yes to these questions, it is most likely that your contractor is, indeed, doing an excellent job for you. Congratulations on your choice, and your new project!