A building project has many moving parts. Along with an architect, you will also need to hire a contractor. For some, this process can seem daunting—especially if you are taking on your first project and are unsure of your options.
We have guided countless clients through the process of hiring a contractor. In our experience, finding a trusted partner who works well with you and your architect leads to the most successful results.
In this article, you will learn about the top factors you should consider when you are hiring a contractor:
- Project delivery method
- Recommendations and references
By the end, you will better understand your options and the qualities you should look for when you meet with potential contractors.
Factors to Consider When Hiring a Contractor
1. Project Delivery Method
Choosing a project delivery method is one of the first steps in a building project. Your delivery method determines how you will hire a contractor and your chosen contractor’s role in the overall process.
If you use a design-bid-build method, you will go through a bidding process and select the lowest responsible bidder. Publicly funded projects, like schools or government facilities, are often required to go through a public bidding process, while private building owners can invite bidders.
Learn more about this method by reading our guide to bidding/negotiation.
If you use a design-build method, your architect and contractor work together under a single contract. Typically, your architect and contractor join forces before interviewing for a project.
Despite the range of options, most private building owners utilize a design-negotiate-build delivery method. With this method, you hire a contractor and architect separately, foregoing the bidding process. Depending on when you bring your contractor onboard, your architect may collaborate with them throughout the design process.
Depending on your delivery method, you can choose when to bring a contractor on board. Some private building owners hire a contractor before an architect. The contractor may provide a cost-per-square-foot estimate for the project, and the architect will design to those specifications. This method is known as contractor-led pricing.
Other building owners may prefer architect-led pricing. With this method, you will consult contractors and get rough estimates after your architect develops an initial schematic concept.
Some private building owners even use a bidding method. With this method, the building owner invites a select group of contractors to bid after the architect completes the contract documents.
This is a good option for those who want a competitive process but want some control over the contractors that participate.
Generally, we recommend hiring a contractor sooner rather than later. While bidding allows for competition, it may not create the most synergistic relationship between all parties. When contractors join the project early, they can collaborate with your architect on material selections and price estimates, creating a more aligned partnership.
3. Recommendations and References
When hiring a contractor, ask for recommendations and references. Your architect can provide you with a list of contractors that fit the scale of your project. Based on these recommendations, you can either hire a contractor outright or select a group to interview.
Along with your architect’s recommendation, you should get references from other building owners. A contractor relationship can be long-lasting, so make sure you hire someone with a sound reputation.
In addition to references, ask potential contractors about their insurance. Builder’s risk insurance protects you if any property-damaging accidents occur during construction. If your contractor is not properly insured, you may be liable for the damage.
Generally, the contractor purchases the policy and lists the building owner as an additional insured. Some building owners, however, choose to purchase the policy.
Regardless, discuss insurance when you meet with contractors. If the contractor purchases the policy, ask for a certificate of insurance and verify the coverage. It is always a good idea to cover your bases.
Take your time hiring a contractor. There is no need to make an immediate decision. Instead, carefully assess your options and find someone you can trust.
Building projects can be long and complicated, so it’s important to establish trust with all involved parties. A strong partnership between you, your architect, and your contractor leads to the best results.
Learn More About the Construction Process
Hiring the right contractor is just as important as hiring the right architect. When you start the hiring process, consider your project delivery method, when you want to bring the contractor on board, and the contractor’s reputation and insurance coverage.
If you are taking on your first project, fear not. Your architect can provide recommendations and guide you through the hiring process.
As your project heads into construction, your architect will continue to act as your advocate and guide. Learn more by reading about your architect’s role in the construction process.