You’ve probably heard the horror stories about general contractors. There are those where the general contractor walks off with a homeowner’s deposit, never to do any work. And then there are those who keep asking for more money, causing the project to go way over the original budget. Just as common are stores about general contractors who cause a project to drag out for months longer than the anticipated timeline.

It seems like instances in which a general contractor does a great job are few and far between. So, how do you find that diamond in the rough—the general contractor who completes a project on time and on budget and does what they say they will do?

Here are a few tips for finding a great general contractor for your home improvement project:

Ask for their License Number and then Check It

You should always hire a general contractor who is properly licensed. In California, for example, a general contractor should have a “B” license from the Contractors State License Board (CSLB). If a general contractor that you are considering hiring for your project says they are licensed—even if they provide you with a number—do a little research. Look up that the number is still active and that it is registered to the individual or company you are considering. It is not uncommon for unlicensed contractors to try to use another company’s license number in an attempt to appear legitimate. If the license number and the company name you were give don’t match, ask some tough questions and don’t accept vague answers! If something seems off—move on.

Ask for Referrals

Any general contractor worth hiring will have a list of satisfied customers that would love to tell you about their experience working with the contractor. Contact some of their past clients—either through phone, text, email, or even through social media. Ask them things like:

  • Did the project go as expected?
  • Do you feel like the contractor did quality work?
  • Did they stick to their quoted timeline and budget? And if not, why?
  • Were they easy to communicate with?
  • Did they take responsibility for any issues that came up, or did they make excuses?
  • Would you use them again on a future project?

Of course, the general contractor will likely provide you with the names of the clients they believe to be the most satisfied. If you want a well-rounded perspective, go to the contractor’s Facebook page and see if they have any negative or neutral reviews. If possible, send a private message to those people and ask then for their honest perspective on the contractor as well.

Ask for Multiple Quotes

Don’t just invite one general contractor to provide you with a bid on your upcoming project. Get at least two or three estimates so you can compare. You may be surprised at the wide range of estimates you receive. Carefully compare what is included with each estimate. Some general contractors may provide more detailed work than others, and some may be including higher quality materials in their estimates. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you need clarification. After all, you’ll be spending a lot of money with your general contractor, and you have to live with the end result.

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