2nd January 2017


How important is your general contractor?

VERY! I’ve always said: “selecting a general contractor for your project should be taken as seriously as picking your doctor!” It’s extremely personal and more than a business decision. Your general contractor is being entrusted with transofrming your home and create the foundation for a lifetime of memories.

We’ve heard far too many horror stories. The fly-by-night general contractor receives the deposit and is never heard from again. A clients’ house is torn apart and they’re out a good sum of money.  Now it’s time to deal with the hassle of finding a new and trustworthy general contractor. How are you to trust them? It’s difficult not to become jaded in these scenarios. It’s also very difficult for a contractor to feel confident going into a “fix this disaster” situation.  Terrible…

There’s always a few bad apples out there. Our goal is always to help our clients limit exposure to risk by following these few, relatively simple protective steps.

First, start with the basics:

  • Do they have referrals?
  • Can they show previous work that is similar or better in quality to what you want?
  • Do they present themselves professionally?
  • Do they have reasonable terms in their contract?

Bottom line: The contractor you want working on your house is a trustworthy one.  A real professional craftsman.

4 Steps to General Contractor Success:


Do they listen?

This may sound like you are picking a partner, and perhaps you should kind of look at it that way.  This is the person that you are giving a large sum of money to, the keys to your house, and more. All in the hopes they will do what they say they will (we’ll revisit that on number 4).

Do they offer feedback and suggestions that make sense to you?  Do they come back to points you make and try to incorporate them into your renovation?  When you don’t like an idea of theirs, do they get upset then try to force their opinions into your project? Do they respect your tastes? Do they freely discuss your needs and what you want out of the project?  Always remember that YOU are the client and should be treated that way!!

Design- Theirs or Yours?

In my 17 years experience, I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard from my clients: “My friend had a general contractor, and they wouldn’t listen to anything he/she wanted.”

Can you believe it?  The client held hostage by their own contractor, who they are paying!  I always say to my client- “You are the one who gets the final say, in the end, it doesn’t matter if I love it, as long as you do, I’ve done my job,” and it’s true.  There is a very distinct difference between us, your contractor, guiding you down the right path of design in what works and what doesn’t.  Provided it’s not structural, you can afford to do it, and you love it, it’s up to them to make it happen for you.  You have dreams about how you want your project to look, if you are passionate about it, it’s up to the person you hired to make those dreams a reality, provided you have the budget for it.

The Dreaded B-word- “Budget.”

You expect your general contractor to be honest and transparent, so start off on the right foot by reciprocating. If at any point you stop trusting them you must bring it to their attention.  If they can’t remedy the trust issue, sorry, but they probably aren’t the ones for you.

The right contractor will help build a budget you feel comfortable with. To give you some help, we wrote an article on budget preparation, which you can find here. However, if you start feeling taken advantage of, have that discussion and allow them the opportunity to explain why the costs are what they are. It could be as simple as you choosing expensive options without knowing it! If they are unwilling to discuss or explore your options…next!  You don’t want to end up with a Kia when you were willing to pay for a BMW. And, you don’t want the general contractor that is used to building a KIA building your BMW!

I’ll be there Monday, no Tuesday, wait no, Friday

He says he will be there at five on Monday to review your project with you. And now it’s Tuesday and still no word. not your contractor.  They said they would have your quote to you by Friday; you received it Friday but the one a week after they said you’d get it.  You get what I’m trying to say, hold them accountable.  If they can’t hold up to living up to those simple initial commitments, they will not start the job when they say they will, and there will be significantly larger problems should the project continue.

We don’t guarantee that following these 4 steps will ensure a perfect home renovation. But, it’s very unlikely you’ll be disappointed with the end results.

Be honest, do your research and know what you want. As a result, you’ll at least know what you don’t want.  Hold them accountable and make sure they listen to you and what your needs are.  Further to that, in the end, their plan solves or exceeds your needs.  They have clients that love them and projects they can show you that prove it.  Their companies culture is something you respect and appreciate, at very least they present themselves in a professional manner.  Their agreement with you protects you and them with a mutual contract that outlines your project, what they will provide you and can clearly communicate what your responsibility is and what they are responsible for.

Are there any more tips you would like to add to the eight tips above? Do you have a great story you would like to share? We would love to hear from you. and if you have any questions post them below, we are here to answer!

General Contractor Handshake


  1. Jack Duff says:

    I like that you mentioned to make sure you choose a contractor who listens to you and takes your thoughts and ideas into consideration. After all, it is your home, and you want to make sure you get the results you want. I am planning a big renovation to my house, and I want to make sure I choose the best contractor possible to help me. I will keep these tips in mind as I look around, thanks.

    1. Phenom says:

      Thanks for the feedback Jack. It is true there are contractors out there looking to push forward their own ideas and agenda on their client projects. It is advised to at least listen to what they have to say (after all they do know what works and doesn’t) but ultimately the decisions should be the clients. If a contractor doesn’t respect that, then walk away.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *