There seems to be a great mystery surrounding the relationship between the "consumer" (whether it be residential or commercial) and the "builder/contractor". "How does one go about selecting the right people to do the work?" Is a question that I hear almost daily. Or the tale of woe from someone who has just been taken for a ride by a disreputable person claiming to be a "licensed contractor" or worse yet by someone who is licensed who claims they know what they are doing, and don't have a clue.
Word of mouth is one way of finding the right contractor for your project. You hear about someone who has a friend whose uncle is a contractor. Your neighbor had some work done by Joe Handyman and he did a great job. And so forth.
In commercial construction it is basically the same. You pick through a list of potential contractors based on references or common knowledge of projects completed.
But whether you are an individual looking to build a house or contract out remodelling work or if you are a commercial client looking for a general contractor to develop a extensive project. You still need to do some proactive leg work to find that desirable builder.
For the residential client one of the easiest things you can do is go through the neighborhood you are going to build in and look at who is building what and get out of your car and try to get a look around. Most builders will allow potential customers to preview projects under construction. If you are browsing the phone book for contractors, see if you can get a tour of some of their completed projects and also projects in various phases of completion.
Are the projects under construction clean and organized? Or do you have to climb over mounds of debris just to get into the place? Sure, there is going to be a certain amount of trash here and there on any jobsite but evidence of a job under control is how clean it is regardless of the phase it is undergoing.
Look closely at the quality of work. Do corners look straight? Windows and doors level? How are the finishes in the drywall and woodwork? Put your head up to a wall and look down it for ripples and waves. Try to look beyond the paint and tile to see what is going on underneath it all. I am sure you have heard the term "lipstick on a pig" well even if you put lipstick on the pig, underneath it is still a pig. So getting an opportunity to see what is under the drywall etc. can be a good way to get the feel of what the rest of the building will eventually be like.
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