At Panhandle Steel Buildings in Amarillo, Texas, we do a lot more than steel! In addition to constructing steel buildings for over 60 years, we are also general contractors. Over the years, we have developed the experience and quality of craftsmanship that allows us to undertake construction projects of any size, scope, and breadth. This includes commercial remodeling projects.
For example, we recently remodeled the Starbucks coffee shop inside the Jack B. Kelley Student Center at West Texas A&M University (photo above).
We know a thing or two about construction, including the process of hiring a general contractor. It’s not something that business owners think about right away when they decide that they want to remodel. But they should. Hiring a general contractor should be the first and most important step when moving forward with your commercial remodeling project. When you need to find and hire a general contractor, follow these steps.
Step 1: Create a list of qualified contractors
Don’t pick the first guy at the top of Google’s search results. Dig a little deeper and create a list of several options so you can compare their workmanship and costs. The best places to find general contractors are:
- Other business owners who have hired contractors for remodeling. Ask them about the pros and cons of the contractor they hired. This will help you know who to choose and who to avoid. If they give you the name of a contractor, you can then call that contractor’s other past clients.
- Do an internet search. You can simply search in Google and look for contractors with a professional, up to date web presence or you can search in more narrow databases such as Angie’s List or the Better Business Bureau.
- Other people in the construction industry. You can check with a local building inspector because they will know exactly which contractors meet building code requirements and which ones don’t. You can also contact businesses like electricians and masons to see which contractors they would choose to work with. Getting some inside knowledge could save you a lot of time and money down the road.
Step 2: Meet with contractors and “interview” them
Since you will be spending a lot of time with your general contractor during the remodeling project, you will want to make sure you can communicate with them well. You should meet with them in person (preferably) so you can interview them and ask them any questions that you may have. Now is the time to pick their brain, get a feel for their personality, and make sure you click.
Ask them how long they have been in business, what types of projects they normally work on, and if they have worked on projects similar to yours. Ask them if they are licensed and if they have liability and worker’s compensation insurance. Ask how they handle processes like payment schedules, hiring subcontractors, change orders, and job site supervision. Here are some other questions that you should ask them.
A couple of things will become clear during the interview process. First, you will see how well the contractor knows his stuff. If you ask detailed questions about your project, he or she should be able to answer the question with knowledge and expertise. If he can’t, he might be new to the contracting business. Secondly, you will see how well he or she communicates. This is key to a successful remodeling project.
Step 3: Get an estimate/bid from each contractor
When gathering bids from each contractor, make sure you ask for the same design features and specs so the numbers aren’t skewed between contractors. You will want to easily compare the final cost of each contractor so that you can make an informed decision. Make sure you ask them for an itemized estimate that includes:
- Cost of materials
- Cost of labor
- Their profit margin
- Cost of subcontractors
- The remodeling timeline
- The payment schedule
Step 4: Pick a contractor
Now is the time to actually decide on your contractor from your original list. When deciding, think about who will be best for your project specifically. You should know that hiring the cheapest guy is not always a good idea. A low price can indicate a lack of experience or it can mean that he lowballed the offer in order to win the bid and add costs later. Neither one is going to help you in the end. Of course, it’s not always a good idea to hire the most expensive guy either. Consider all of the factors: communication style, reputation, quality of work, experience, cost, etc.
Step 5: Sign a contract with them
To commence the project, you and your general contractor need to sign a contract. A contract should be detailed and thorough. It will explain the project’s timeline, specifics about the scope of the work, a change order clause, a limited warranty, the payment schedule, the materials that will be used in the project, and a dispute resolution. Your contractor should also include a waiver of lien, which prevents subcontractors and suppliers from placing a lien on the house if the contractor doesn’t pay them.
Once you sign that contract, you can look forward to having a newly remodeled commercial space.