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How to Find Contractors
Summary: Find good home building contractors and subcontractors through a building supply company or your carpenter, or on a new home building job site.
As mentioned earlier, a lumber supply is the best place to start for finding your carpenter. Your carpentry will be able to recommend almost everyone else, as he is on the job more than the others and knows most of the other contractors involved in building a house.
A good contractor is a working contractor, especially during a recession or other downturn in housing starts. This is not always true, but it is a pretty safe bet. The really good ones are sought after and always busy because they do good work and are reliable.
If you can’t find a contractor through a supplier or your carpenter, the next best place to look is on a job site. Find a house under construction. Stop and ask around. You can get names, prices, and references. This takes only a few minutes. It is done all the time, and the general contractor shouldn't mind. He probably won’t even be there. Besides, he does (or his superintendents do) the very same thing.
Often the boss or owner of a subcontracting firm is on the job. Get his number and arrange a meeting. Sometimes there are signs at the job site advertising different subs.
Only certain trades of subs are listed in the Yellow Pages. Most independent carpenters are not listed. You should be able to find heating and air-conditioning companies, plumbers, electricians, roofers, waterproofing companies, lumber dealers, appliance manufacturers, and a few others.
I once hired someone who was probably one of the best drywall subcontractors in the Southeast, but he was not listed. He didn't live in the same city; he lived out in the country. He was so good that he stayed backlogged two or three weeks even during recessions. His name was given to me by a lumber dealer.
Each subcontractor should carry insurance on his or her employees and should provide you with a certificate of insurance. Since this is your first experience and you won’t be familiar with prices in your area, get three or four bids, or quotes, from different subs before selecting one. Use a written contract with all subs.
You may use the very simple ones I have provided or an attorney can provide you with one. Subcontractors and contractors may have their own contracts. At any rate, use one. Don’t trust anyone’s memory when it comes to dollars. Spell out your specifications thoroughly in your plans to be sure your bids are comparable and that all subs are bidding on exactly the same work.
Click here for a sample Carpentry Contract and here for a sample Subcontractor Contract.