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Tips for choosing a commercial contractor

Tips for choosing a commercial contractor

May 30, 2016

When you're ready to build, you want to partner with the right contractor for your business construction needs. Yet choosing a commercial contractor for your project can be an overwhelming first step. For most business decision-makers, it can be a daunting task to consider the many contractors in their market, their reputation in the industry and their widely varied experience levels. So what should you look for? Here are several tips to help get you on your way to selecting the right partner for your project.

Consider adopting the design-build model over design-bid-build. Increasingly, design-build is becoming the preferred method for the construction of new facilities, as well as expansions and renovations to existing facilities, for multiple reasons. First, upfront collaboration between the owner and design-builder results in optimization of budget and quality goals during design and preconstruction, as well as fewer change orders during construction that can affect your bottom line and your project timeline. Second, with design-build, there is a single point of responsibility for all issues related to design and construction, placing responsibility for coordinating all project elements squarely in the hands of the design-build team and allowing the owner to focus on their business priorities. Third, because the design, vendor bidding and construction phases can be overlapped, the process is expedited, saving valuable time and reducing the overall project schedule.

Request several references. The U.S. Small Business Administration recommends asking for several references whom you can contact about the work a prospective commercial contractor has completed. You may even want to do some research about a project you have admired and perhaps completed projects which have similarities to your vision. Find out which contractor performed the work, and follow up with project leaders to hear about their experience with the contractor. Past work is one of the primary indicators of how a contractor will perform on your project. Further, gathering input from people you trust within the community can give you insider information about a contractor that you may not find through other resources.

Check licensing and other qualifications, which differ from area to area at both the state and city levels. The Federal Trade Commission recommends checking with your local consumer protection agency or city building department for licensing requirements in your area, then request that prospective contractors provide proof of current licensing. Additionally, all contractors should carry acceptable limits for general liability, worker's compensation and property damage coverages, and design-build contractors should also carry acceptable limits for professional liability coverage. Lastly, ask prospective contractors about their safety practices, and obtain their EMR (Experience Modification Rate) and TRIR (Total Recordable Injury and Illness Rate).

Refer to online resources. Research the ratings others have left for the contractors you are considering. Everyone can have a bad day now and then, but if poor reviews seem to be the norm, you may want to move on to other contractors who consistently rate high and are known for excellent customer service. Consumer Reports recommends referring to the Better Business Bureau and other consumer affairs groups to see whether a contractor has a documented history of complaints against them. A wealth of online ratings sites provide feedback from members of the general public.

These tips will help you when it's time to take the step toward building the next phase of your business. Armed with this knowledge, you'll be sure to lay a foundation for project success, from start to finish.