Finding the right general contractor is perhaps the single most important part of an office renovation. Unfortunately, it can also be the hardest. According to Zippia.com, there are more than 36,000 general contractors in the United States. That’s a lot of possible contractors to consider. And even when you focus on a single location or state, there are frequently still thousands of options. For instance, there are more than 6,000 general contractors in the Chicago area alone! With so many choices, how do you find a general contractor that is experienced, reliable and available that is also able to ensure your project stays on schedule and within budget? Here’s what you need to consider, whether choosing a Chicago general contractor or one in your own city or state:
Have you ever picked up the phone to order take-out only to discover the meal you want can’t be delivered in your area? It’s a bummer, right? Save yourself the disappointment by searching only for contractors working in your specific area. Big cities like Chicago often have a website where you can find information about local businesses and professionals, including contractors. You could also try narrowing your search using other databases and media sources, such as BBB or Yelp. Limiting your initial search to your general area will save you time and frustration.
Licensure and Insurance
General contractors may or may not be required to have a license based on the state and/or city in which they work. The State of Illinois, for example, doesn’t require general contractors to have a license. Nevertheless, the City of Chicago does. Thus, any general contractor working in Chicago must be registered and licensed appropriately according to the type of project at hand:
- Class A – Unlimited contract amount
- Class B – up to $10,000,000
- Class C – up to $5,000,000
- Class D – up to $2,000,000
- Class E – up to $500,000
Check state regulations, as well as the rules in individual municipalities and cities, to verify if any special licensure is needed in your area. (You can check individual contractors in Illinois here.) If licensure is required, ask for proof that any potential contractor does, indeed, possess it. While you’re at it, ask about insurance, as well! You don’t want to find someone you think is perfect for a job only to discover later on that his or her business isn’t operating legally.
Typically, the more experience, the better. Once you have a relevant pool of Chicago general contractors, look for the ones who have been in business for several years (at a minimum) and have a sizable portfolio, as well as a lot of references. You want to make sure the Chicago general contractor you hire has the qualifications and expertise to actually bring your vision to life. Past clients who can speak about their own experiences with a contractor can help you determine the reliability, customer service and quality of that contractor’s work.
Seek bids from multiple Chicago general contractors before making a final decision. Review each contractor’s demeanor to see if your communication styles, personalities, timelines and priorities match one another. Sometimes a more expensive bid is worth it if everything just clicks! Other times, an exorbitant bid might indicate something fishy.
Finally, get a contract. Don’t rely on a handshake or goodwill. A renovation or construction project is a major undertaking. Protect yourself by securing a legally-binding agreement with a Chicago general contractor that specifies (among other things):
- Address of Project
- Anticipated Start and Finish Dates of the Project
- Proposed Construction Schedule
- Cost and Payment Schedule
- Responsibility for the Acquisition of Permits
- Termination Rights
- Other General Terms and Conditions
Want to Learn More?
Hiring a general contractor is an important step in any construction project. To maximize your chances for success, you might wish to partner with an experienced design-build firm. Key Interiors has been in business for over 40 years and has been a reliable Chicago general contractor for all types of commercial construction projects. Please contact us to learn more.