Author Topic: Hiring a general contractor?  (Read 2626 times)


  • Magnum Stache
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Hiring a general contractor?
« on: August 02, 2017, 10:57:04 AM »
We're planning on redoing our kitchen in the near future. Originally we worked with Lowes to draw up a design, they gave us pictures from their 3D rendering software and a budget break out as well as talking us through some of the design difficulties and helping us pick materials (the designer picked out the initial stuff, we were able to walk around the store and point out any substitutions we wanted but most of the time what she picked out was fine). Then they got a little sales-pushy, trying to get us to sign to do the whole reno with them and their GC. They also said that they'd be happy to work with any GC we preferred. The designer did visit our house during this process and the main GC dude came out with her to help answer questions.

We then felt like we had to do our due diligence so we found a company that was recommended by a coworker and also on Angie's List and got in touch with them. Let's call them New GC. My main contact there has been pretty timely in his responses aside from a couple weeks when he was out sick - as far as I knew he just went AWOL but he recently got back in touch saying he unexpectedly had to have surgery.  His drawing was similar (we didn't mention the Lowes plan at all) but he didn't provide the budget estimate at all. I asked if we could see the cabinets in person before we ordered, he said we could go visit the store in [town an hour north of us].

We're not really sure what to do at this point but we know we're tired of our kitchen. Do we ask New GC for a budget estimate? Do we just do the Lowes plan/materials but use New GC for labor? Do we shop a third general contractor (ugh, I don't wanna, this is time consuming but if we absolutely must ....)? I feel like there's probably an easy solution I'm missing because I'm too much in the middle of all this and not used to dealing with construction stuff.


  • Pencil Stache
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Re: Hiring a general contractor?
« Reply #1 on: August 02, 2017, 01:02:44 PM »
If the Lowe's price seems reasonable, I'd just go with them. They're easy to work with and I have had no issues with the quality of their work (they re-did our kitchen years ago). They work with local contractors anyway.


  • Walrus Stache
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Re: Hiring a general contractor?
« Reply #2 on: August 02, 2017, 01:17:31 PM »
I have only used a GC for building a home.  We shopped 4 of them for comparison.  Money wise they pretty much all hit the same dollar amount.  But personality-wise... woah.
* one was a pushy used car salesman
* one had a reputation for not paying his sub contractor's bills.  (Yeah, we talked to their subs, too)
* one had an idea of what he wanted to build and -- goddammit, he was going to build his house, not yours.  When we asked the bid to be updated to reflect what we wanted he just stopped returning our calls.  I don't mean he said "no thanks."  He just wouldn't talk to us.
* one was a good old boy that was a fanatic about getting things done and would account for labor/materials down to the penny. 

All of the above were recommended by friends/coworkers.  Three out of four were useless to me.

In other words: talk to several and get a feel for the person. 


  • Pencil Stache
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Re: Hiring a general contractor?
« Reply #3 on: August 02, 2017, 01:32:40 PM »
^agreed. Finding a competent, reliable, and honest GC is harder than finding a mechanic

Along those lines, if you have a bad feeling about your guy through the job don't be hesitant to fire them - We had a GC who said all the right things, but when it came down to it, was a snake. We wasted way, way too much time and money before we fired him.
« Last Edit: August 02, 2017, 01:35:27 PM by Roboturner »


  • Bristles
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Re: Hiring a general contractor?
« Reply #4 on: August 02, 2017, 03:11:52 PM »
My parents had a GC relationship that worked for years.  He built their lake house and by all accounts they were generally satisfied.  Then when they brought him back to work on some external features, he started sexually harassing my mom.  Then they found some accounting discrepancies that he couldn't explain suggesting he was skimming.  They chose to just cut ties rather than waste the money and emotions trying to get it all straightened out.

Even the "good ones" aren't a sure thing.


  • Handlebar Stache
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Re: Hiring a general contractor?
« Reply #5 on: August 02, 2017, 03:36:34 PM »
The rule of thumb for procurement and contractors is usually to get three estimates/bids.

This rule is even more important for people new to hiring contractors, the reason is by the third time around explaining what you want, you've probably done a good job of it. 3 different guys have asked you 3 different sets of questions and now you can clearly state to all 3 of them what you want and, phew, they can finally give you a clear price.

If NewGC can't get to an estimate, he isn't even one of your 3.


  • Pencil Stache
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Re: Hiring a general contractor?
« Reply #6 on: August 02, 2017, 06:10:53 PM »
We just had a massive hardwood installation done by Lowe's and a 3rd party contractor.  The value of using Lowes is that they do not pay the contractor until you 100% satisfied and sign off on the project.  The other benefit is that this particular contractor has been vetted fully by Lowes for insurance and all of the things GC's don't like to pay for.  Also, I got pretty close to the contractor that did our work and he wanted to make sure that I was 110% happy because he did not want to disrupt the gravy train of Lowe's driving him all of his business.


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Hiring a general contractor?
« Reply #7 on: August 03, 2017, 12:45:53 AM »
We just finished a pretty significant remodel and used a GC that was an acquaintance of ours.  He was amazing and honest and I will never do another project with anybody else.  He has a masters degree in geology and is a GC because he doesn't like having a boss and likes taking 2-3 months off/year.  He doesn't have to be a GC. A lot of these folks got into contracting because they could hide their flaws which would be totally unacceptable in a normal work environment (like lying all the time, never, ever showing up on time, forgetting stuff endlessly, etc.).

Our GC gave me this piece of insight which was amazingly helpful:

When getting bids, you will generally encounter 3 types of GC's.

(1) The overbidder. They are super busy and don't care if they get the job, so they over-bid. If they get it, fine - they'll make a ton of $.  If not, they don't care.

(2) The underbidder. This is the most common. He said the way this works is they look at your plans (we had plans w/ the city) or your ideas and they evaluate where they are going to be able to make up their gap between their bid and the actual cost. They do this by looking for errors or omissions in the plans or places in your house that they can claim there was no way to anticipate a situation, etc., do the math, then bid low. All the while they know exactly where they will change order you to get back up to the normal amount (usually fair, sometimes even higher if they're really dishonest).  My brother hired a guy like this. He and his wife nicknamed him "change order charlie"

(3) The balanced bidder. They take an honest look at the project and the costs calculate how long it will take them, how much money they need/want to make, then give you a bid that they think is fair and accurate. 

FYI, he first gave a verbal rough bid based on some general calculations ($/sq. foot; average kitchen costs, etc.) which ended up being about 15% lower than the actual bid.  He said doing a formal bid takes him from 5-12hrs, depending on the size of the project.  His bid had line-by-line budget amounts for everything.  He was amazingly professional.

Of course, YMMV.  Another telling item:  our GC only subs out roofing and plumbing (high liability items). He does everything else himself. Yes, it makes the project take longer, but he said he can control costs better that way (and make a bit more) and, more importantly, he said most subs are terrible and he ends up fixing their crappy work anyway. I was his "helper" / grunt on the project, btw, and freaking everything the guy said was true. 

Best of luck in your search.  If it were me, I'd keep looking until I found a solo guy with a good rep who you click with.