What is the trick to getting a general contractor?

ChristaMMay 7, 2013

I still can't get a good contractor to give me a proper quote and a start date. I have original blueprints, new scaled drawings, detailed cabinetry drawings, a complete shopping list and my own rough estimate budget spreadsheet, which contractors have said is realistic. The project is $29k and should be able to complete within 3 weeks. I've contacted three contractors that I know/trust, and I just cannot seem to get any of them to commit.

I'm so frustrated I'm considering just doing the GC part myself and hiring the plumber, electrician, carpenter and tile setter. I'd rather do that than hire a low quality contractor -- from my experience, it's better to do it myself because at least I give a darn how it turns out. My house is nice, it cost me a lot to buy it and I don't want hack work done to it.

I don't know what I'm doing wrong but I can't seem to find anyone reputable who is interested in doing the work. Should I be calling every day and pestering them? I feel like three requests to set up a meeting/provide an estimate are enough. Any tips would be welcome.

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You seem on top of it and very organized. If you can find the proper subs, I think you should hire them yourself.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 8:05PM
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Babka NorCal 9b

Angie's List? You will pay a lot for a good GC. They like to double everything, but then you can check your worries at the doorstep. You want someone who answers your requests immediately, and who considers pleasing YOU, the customer FIRST. We have done just about everything DIY over the years,(roofing, tiling, electrical, plumbing, insulating, landscaping) but now it is someone else's headache. You will pay for that, yesssssireeeee. And they (the good contractors) will change/fix anything you don't like with a smile.

We are currently undergoing a bathroom remodel and I second guess every decision, and they say don't worry we will make it the way you want it. Each sub we have seen so far, is in the business because he enjoys doing his particular trade.
Did I forget to say that you will PAY for this big time?


    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 9:26PM
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It's probably that 3 week time frame that's giving them pause. That's not realistic. Good guys are in demand right now, and are doing multiple projects at once. You think "3 weeks of work" expecting him to focus only on your job. He sees 12 weeks, keeping his trades busy at all times on multiple jobs If he were to focus solely on your job, he'd be losing money.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 10:08PM
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Suzi AKA DesertDance

I agree that 3 weeks is too quick. We are in process now on a complete house renovation, and it took way longer for the demo than I ever imagined. Paint the outside? Should be a snap. Wrong! It's been over a week and it's still not done. It's a big house, and it did rain, so understandable.

Realtors usually know good contractors because they have seen their work. Maybe ask a few for their recommendations.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2013 at 9:00AM
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Hmmm, I'm trying to remember if I said three weeks specifically to them. I think what I did say is that once the work starts, I want to avoid any delays. I don't want demo to start until all the materials are delivered (except countertops). Maybe that's the issue. I can't imagine any homeowner NOT saying that. The worst part of construction by far is sitting around with a big dusty hole in your house and no workers on site!

Being my own GC would save me money. My reason for hiring a GC is that I want to hand the headaches and liabilities off to someone else. Plus, a GC should have leverage over the subs - so I think they could get it done quicker than I can. And finally, from my experience construction puts a lot of stress on my home life, and GC fees are cheaper than a divorce :)

    Bookmark   May 8, 2013 at 10:37AM
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Are you saying they did not respond to you at all or they did not give you a committed starting and finishing dates? Did you ask them for the reasons?

Three weeks is too short, our simple hall bath took two, and it was our GC's only job. We paid for the "exclusiveness". Small delays were caused by delay shipment of the reputable Tile store, and redo of a small part of cabinets.

Do you have the time and know how to be your own GC? If you do, it would be very worthwhile.

What I learned from our first bathroom remodeling is we need to triple check every details before and after. It is impossible while holding a demanding full time job.

For our upcoming kitchen and bathrooms projects, we will spell out every single details, and getting samples, mock ups to prevent mistakes and surprises.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2013 at 12:04PM
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You didn't say what the contract was for? Is this just for one bathroom? You sound super organized. I definitely would consider being the GC yourself. Of course I have no idea how much time you have available. I was the GC for our kitchen reno, which was largely DIY. But there still are a fair number of people/trades to have to hire/coordinate. Windows had to manufactured and installed, gas line for new stove, appliances ordered and delivered, cabinets designed and ordered; parts of the cabinet order had to be redone 4X!(we installed them ourselves, which saved $$$thousands), hardwood installed (we did subflooring ourselves), granite fabricated and installed (had to be redone more than once). we gutted and moved out of our kitchen in May, didn't move back in until just before Christmas.

Process was long and exhausting, so when we were going to do Master BR, our plan was to hire a design/builder, have an addition put on to create a bigger MBR and turn the existing into a walk-in closet. I was so looking forward to paying someone else to deal with the headaches, etc. Anyhow, after interviewing three possible candidates hired someone we felt really comfortable with, and ended up being totally taken advantage of. He had no more luck (apparently) than we did finding people to do the work...so $2K later, plans were dropped and we went back to square one. Took me a year to be able to even contemplate starting the BR. This time I'm the GC again, and have to say, it takes a lot of time and energy sourcing materials and labour. Sometimes you start with someone, and then they just stop responding, or never get back to you. I am also having some major landscaping work being done at the same time, You may not believe it, but I had to contact 11 excavators before finding someone who will do the job at a reasonable price...(supposed to be coming later this week, so still not 100% sure it will actually get done)...when I told him several companies never even returned my calls, or said they were coming by to give an estimate and didn't even show up, he said it's cuz the job is too small. Well, then, just say no thanks, don't say you're coming by, keep me up tied up all day, and then never show!

So, if you work full-time, I would say it's very hard to find the time it takes to be a GC. I only work part-time, and used to run a business from home, but chose to put that aside to do the GC work. From your posts, I would say that you would want to be so hands-on anyways, that it may not be worth your while to pay someone to do what you could probably do yourself. But if you have a time-consuming job, it may be unrealistic.

In the process, I have found some great people, and hopefully, bathroom #3 which will follow immediately after completion of BR #2, should be much smoother sailing. Good luck with your decision!

    Bookmark   May 8, 2013 at 12:23PM
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It is amazing how finicky contractors can be. I've heard many stories about contractors getting burned by clients that have very specific notions of time and cost. I wonder if the reaction would be different if you gave them everything but your actual budget spreadsheet and if you asked them to give you a timeframe instead of telling them the 3 week expectation.
It could also be that the job is too small for the contractors you're talking to.

I recommend using online reviews or getting referrals for another contractor to try a different approach. Find out upfront if the contractor would be interested in a bathroom-only remodel with that budget. If they seem interested and ready to set a meeting, give them your drawings and specifications and don't reference your specific budget spreadsheet or a time frame - wait for them to give it to you and then compare. If you get that far, then you can start working out details about shopping lists, scheduling, and deliveries.

What it comes to permits, code requirements and managing subs, I would lean away from DIY personally.

Good luck!

Here is a link that might be useful: How to Select your Contractor

This post was edited by sweetremodel on Wed, May 8, 13 at 14:36

    Bookmark   May 8, 2013 at 2:30PM
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