Referral or word of mouth is a great start. If someone you know has had work done, and they are happy with their Contractor, ask them for a referral. Make sure your Contractor is licensed by the California State Contractors’ License Board. The California State License Board website, www.cslb.ca.gov, will provide information about your Contractors history, bonding, insurance and if there are any pending actions against the Contractor. Even though a contractor is licensed, it is a good idea to make sure the company has adequate financial resources to complete the job. Never do business with a contractor who asks for money up front. Ask for proof of insurance and always check references.
The cheapest contractor is not always the best choice. Someone may quote a low price to get your work, but increase costs later in the form of change orders. The more information you provide up front, the more accurate your price estimate will be.
Be realistic about the project. Start with an itemized list of what you want done. Be as specific as possible, including what type of materials you want used. If you want granite countertops, for example, make sure you indicate that on your list. Make sure to indicate items that are a necessity (must have) and be willing to entertain costs savings suggestions from your contractor, especially If you have a specific budget to work within.
It is always a good idea to start with a cost analysis from a Consultant, Architect or Contractor BEFORE obtaining plans, engineering services or materials. A cost analysis establishes what you can afford. Then it is up to the Architect to design within your budget and the Contractor to work within your budget.
Some projects will not require an Architect. Your Contractor should be able to advise you if you will need one, and perhaps even recommend someone.
Projects that will require an architect include eliminating or moving walls, relocating doors and adding square footage to the building.
Most structural changes will require plans that have to be engineered. The Architect and Engineer will be able to provide the City/County with information that tells how the project is being built. This will be required to obtain permits from the City/County.
Most projects will need a permit unless the changes are strictly cosmetic.
Building permits are a critical element to any construction project, helping to ensure that construction is performed according to established state and local code, and safety standards. Permit violations are not only a health and safety issue for the property owner, but can also become a financial liability if someone is injured. When a contractor performs work that requires a permit and doesn’t have one, a local building department can issue a "Stop Work" notice and assess fines against the property owner.
It's smart to play by the rules to avoid problems and save money in the long run. Your contractor should be able to work with the building department for your location to determine whether or not permits are required.
The General Contractor has the knowledge and experience to help you navigate through the building process. He will ensure that the work is done according to plan and in compliance with government codes and coordinating the work in the correct sequence to avoid costly mistakes.