4 Tips for Choosing the Right General Contractor

October 17, 2023 - Michelle Murphy

Got a fabulous interior design vision dancing around in your head? Turning that dream into an “I can’t believe this is my space” reality is super exciting.

Here’s the deal though. A BIG chunk of the magic comes down to who’s rolling up their sleeves to get the job done.

We’re talkin’ contractors.

One of the most important parts of any interior design project is finding a general contractor. Expertise and craftsmanship can be the difference between a design that simply looks good on paper and one that feels right when lived in. The right general contractor will also make sure the process is smooth, timely, and free from unnecessary hiccups or costly oversights.

But, in order to find the right general contractor for the job, you have to know what to look for.

Lucky for you, I work with them for a living, so I’ve got some tips up my sleeve!

Here’s 5 reasons why you should hire an interior designer for your next project.

What is a General Contractor?

A general contractor (often called a “GC”) is the main overseer on the construction or renovation side of a project. Their role includes:

Curious about what an interior designer does? Get the scoop now!

4 Tips for Finding the Best General Contractor

Having a solid GC on your side can make all the difference. Here’s how to find the best in the biz:

1. Don’t Prioritize Price Over Value

I get it - when it comes to home makeovers, it’s super tempting to jump at the lowest price tag. We all love a good deal (myself included).

But, as I’m sure you’ve heard, cheapest isn’t always best. Opting for a bargain general contractor might leave your design project with some serious issues. Hidden costs, rushed jobs, or shoddy workmanship – these are just a few pitfalls of placing price over value.

Instead, I always recommend vetting general contractors through the following “truth-tellers”:

Reviews, References, & Testimonials

Before adding a gadget to your cart online, you probably check the reviews, right? Same goes for GC’s. Reviews, references, and testimonials are like gold. They often paint a clearer picture than a dollar sign ever could.

Personal References

While online reviews are fab, good ol’ word-of-mouth can be even better. Chat with friends, family, or that neighbour with the chic living room you love so much. Or ask your interior designer!

Personal references have been there, done that, and they can spill the tea on what it’s really like to work with a general contractor. No filter, no fluff, just real-deal experience.

Cozy bedroom with feature wall with colours angles intersecting

2. Ask In-depth Questions About Their Process

Before you dive headfirst into partnership with a GC, you need to understand their process. You want a general contractor who’s got a solid game plan.

Questions to Ask

Does your general contractor have a clear roadmap and timeline for your project? Try asking your general contractor specific questions like:

Can you walk me through your typical project process?

How do you handle design changes or adjustments along the way?

What’s our communication plan? How often will we check in?

This easy-to-use Contractor Interview Worksheet from the Canadian Home Builders’ Association is handy too!

**Explore How They Handle Problems **

Even with the best-laid plans, hiccups can happen, and knowing that your general contractor will handle them appropriately is what counts. Ask upfront about potential setbacks they’ve faced in the past and how they tackled them. You’re looking for a problem solver, not someone who hides behind excuses.

Make Sure You Understand the Quote & Contract You’ve got a quote in hand, and it looks great at first glance.

But, before you get too excited, make sure there aren’t any sneaky surprises lurking in the fine print.

Calgary interior designer making selections for a client

3. Keep an Eye Out for Potential Red Flags

Watch out for super vague descriptions or broad terms that don’t give clear specifics. If you see a line item like “miscellaneous expenses,” raise an eyebrow and ask for details.

Similarly, ambiguous terms like “upgraded materials” or “custom solutions” sound great, but what do they actually mean? Ensure you get clarity on any terms that seem open-ended.

Hidden Costs

Have you ever ordered a meal, then got slapped with unexpected extra charges? (“Wait, guacamole is HOW MUCH extra?“)

Don’t let your contract be like that. Make sure every potential expense is laid out clearly, and if anything seems murky, get it clarified.

Key Items to Check

Contracts can be tricky because they all look different. Beyond the variety of formats and designs, the key items that should be present include:

Coastal inspired bedroom by Calgary interior designer

4. Protect Your Investment

Let’s chat safety because, well, accidents happen.

And that’s where insurance comes in.

Why It’s Non-Negotiable

A mishap occurs, and suddenly there’s damage - either to your property or, may it never happen, someone gets hurt. Without proper insurance, guess who might be on the hook?

(Hint - it’s you.)

Requesting proof of insurance isn’t about being distrusting - it’s about being smart and safe.

What Kind of Insurance Your General Contractor Should Have

Make sure your general contractor has “liability insurance” to cover any damages to your property. Additionally, they should have “workers’ compensation insurance” (WCB) to protect their team. Don’t be shy - ask to see those policy papers! If they aren’t willing to share or question you asking for the documentation, that’s a big red flag!

A contractor on a renovation site speaking with a couple

The GC Gist

When it comes to choosing a general contractor, doing your homework is your key to a smooth-sailing project.

So, as you sift through quotes, reviews, and contracts, remember to listen to your gut, ask those nitty-gritty questions, and prioritize the good stuff - quality, transparency, and safety. Don’t let the allure of a small price tag lead you astray. Be thorough, and choose a partner who’s truly in tune with your dream.

Because, at the end of the day, a well-executed design that lasts and a stress-free process? That’s priceless!

Not only does working with MMID mean that you’ll get the best professional interior design services around, but also that you’ll get access to highly reputable, pre-vetted general contractors. Contact us for your next project!

Contact MMID