Category Archives: General

Choosing residential general contractor



With a new year, comes new opportunities.  People would like to take the opportunity to finally turn their house into a home.  Perhaps you would like to finally build that dream home or purchase that lake home..  Perhaps you need more space or just update areas of the home.  Choosing the right residential general contractor can be exhausting.  Here are some tips to narrow down your selection process.  Make sure the general contractor carries a valid license to perform the work they say they can.   A license can be verified through the State.  North Carolina for General Contractors at and ask for a copy of their insurance.  All subcontractors are required to be licensed and insured.

Do you have a set of plans?  A set of plans will allow you to make changes with the designer on paper.  Changes on paper is much easier to do and less expensive prior to the start date.  Avoid paying twice, once for the work to be completed the first time and than how you really want it.   Changes are always part of the process, to minimize during construction will save time and money.  Formulate a list of finishes, flooring, tile, cabinetry, etc.  The homeowner should provide photos of completed projects that the homeowner loves.  The photos can set expectations of the completed project.  Many sites can help, like Houzz or Pintrest.

Distribute the plans and list of finishes to the general contractors in consideration.   Make sure they are all bidding the same type of flooring, cabinetry, tile, plumbing fixtures, etc,  apples to apples otherwise you will have numbers of various ranges.  You may not know all the names of the finishes nor the model numbers, but the photos can fill in the blanks for the builder and questions can be asked and options provided.  We are trying to minimize the many options in this industry so that we are all pricing the same vision.  If the project involves numerous trades, the contractor should set up an appointment to walk through the home,   The electrician, framer, HVAC and plumbing contractor can determine the best ways to handle the project and uncover any hidden hurdles.

Did anyone come out and actually look at the job, were questions asked or did the general contractor just phone it in?  The homeowner will ask why does the price varies from one general contractor to another.  The answer is it should not vary greatly if we are all using the same quality products.  Some general contractors purchase through the big box stores and others will purchase from local stores.  The price difference is usually in labor.  The amount of time spent during the initial process is crucial in formulating an accurate bid.  Past experience with similar projects will indicate potential stumbling blocks.  All bids should be broken down, indicating where the money is being allocated.  Do not accept a bid with an address, a lump sum number and no detail.

When we look at a finished wall, a general contractor cannot see through the wall and the contractor will not cut numerous discovery holes into a wall, only to have to repair.   Site visits and past experience will allow the general contractor to locate existing pipes and can price with confidence.  The general contractor who does not take the time to do this, will cost you money later.  Only to start the job and than figure out they need more money to complete the job.

Now you have met with all the general contractors and looked at their pricing.  Now is the time to request their contract and draw schedule.  References, photos of past projects could be the deciding factor, but how about the relationship you have developed with the general contractor?  Have they been easy to contact?  Have they been responsive during the bidding process and offered up suggestions or alternatives?   This relationship is vital, a small project or large project will test your patience.  Choose a general contractor that will come through for you in the end, knowing they will stand by their pricing and provide a beautiful product.  Good Luck.




The Reality of a Remodel

Congratulations! You decided to purchase an existing home or have been living in a home for a while and want to customize that home to fit your ever changing needs.  You love the neighborhood, the schools, the area and don’t want to move to a new home located outside of the neighborhood. Where to start?  Pick up some magazines for ideas or turn on the television and watch how a rundown fishing shack is transformed into a lake side bungalow in 30 minutes.

The photographs and video don’t convey the work, the noise, the dust, frustrations and complications associated between the before and after photographs.  Budgets are rarely mentioned, and if so, they are typically for materials supplied by the sponsors.  As a general contractor, I thoroughly enjoy working with my clients and subcontractors to transform a house into a home.  This post is to bring reality to the art of a remodel that is never seen on television.

Define a scope of work.

What really needs to happen for you to turn that house into a home?  Is it the kitchen?  Do the cabinets and counters need replacing or do you need more room?   As a general contractor I will look at your neighborhood and home from a resale point of view, whether you intend to list or not.  I will offer suggestions based on the return on investment.  If the neighborhood has an average price of $400k and you would like to install imported Italian marble and install gold fixtures,  I will convey the low return and high cost.   That being said, I understand in the end it is my clients’ home and money and I will do whatever the client decides.  I can only advise clients of the costs associated with their decisions.

Invest in a designer or architect and if structural walls are being relocated get an engineer.

The money spent on a good set of plans will save time and money in the long run by removing the guesswork.  Plans allow the homeowner to see first hand the final product on paper and serve as a guide for the contractor.  It is easier and less expensive to make changes on paper prior to the start of construction than to make changes mid project.  A good set of plans allows the general contractor to price the project accurately, avoiding cost overruns.  That being said, changes are part of every project.  Any change in price should be documented in a change order immediately, prior to the change being completed.  No one likes a surprise.  Even a number of small changes add up quickly.  Retain copies of the change orders to keep track of your budget.

Another reality of remodeling is the homeowner is in charge.

On television, the homeowners are introduced and then rarely seen. The homeowner is not tasked with making decisions because the television show picks up the majority of the bill and the on set designers take care of all decisions.  There is a reason the homeowners are not on site and/or on vacation.  An ever present homeowner will slow the job down.

If you are living in the home, contractors must come and go according to your schedule.  The electrical and water cannot be shut down and left off for an extended period of time.  Construction is noisy and inconvenient.  For instance, if you live in a home with a kitchen remodel, plan on eating out for a while.  I will not start a kitchen remodel until all cabinetry has arrived.  Once the cabinets arrive, the old cabinetry needs to be removed, the electrician, tile and countertop installation, carpenter, painter and plumber must do their work.  Add inspectors into the mix, to review the work, and it takes time even with all the decisions made ahead of time.

Even with great care taken, remodels are stressful.

A contractor must be cognizant of the homeowners needs and protect all belongings in the home from damage and dust.  Even then, the homeowner must be prepared for the dust to find a way inside.   Remodels can be stressful on homeowners and contractors alike.  Homeowners are excited in the beginning, than the work begins, the noise, the dust, a number of people in the home disrupting the routines can be unsettling.  Have patience.  We want to do our job and to do it correctly.  Construction is a process.  Trust me, I empathize with my clients during the transformation.

Be realistic about construction costs.

Televsion and magazines show beautiful photographs of completed projects, but they do not accurately reflect the cost of construction.  The shows create excitement about renovating your home, which is fantastic, but it is a show.  Construction and materials are expensive.  The sponsors provide the project with the latest and greatest products to promote on the show in hopes you will purchase them.  There are always ways to get the look you want without spending a fortune.  That is where a good general contractor can provide less expensive options.

This post is not intended to scare people away from remodeling.  Instead, it is to provide you with a realistic expectation of the process between the before and after photos.  In summary, decide what changes are needed, hire a designer or architect, establish a budget, interview a couple of general contractors, get contracts and payment schedules and turn your house into a home you are proud of.