It’s no surprise that your architectural goals require the expertise and guidance of many different players. In fact, you may already be working with an architect and designer. But to take your project from a dream to reality, you’ll need the help of city officials, engineers, and the subject of this blog, the general contractor.
At Hoke Ley Architecture & Interior Design, we value our relationships with contractors. Construction is one of our favorite phases, and we work closely with contractors for every project we take on. Our goal as an architectural firm with more than 50 years of combined experience is to help our clients make informed choices about their projects, including the hiring of a contractor.
We know what a qualified contractor looks like, and what red flags to look out for. If you want to know how to choose a contractor in Kansas City, we at Hoke Ley Architecture & Interior Design would love to share our expertise with you. In this blog, we’ll discuss the role of a general contractor, the factors to consider when hiring one, and what to look for in a construction contract.
What is a general contractor?
When working with an architectural firm in Kansas City, such as Hoke Ley, we will guide you through the process every step of the way, but we recommend hiring a general contractor to actually build your project. So, what exactly is a general contractor?
A general contractor is an individual or company that oversees the construction phase of your project. They coordinate and supervise the construction process from beginning to end, including hiring and managing laborers, ordering materials, and creating a timeline to ensure on-time completion of the project.
General contractor vs. architect
While they work together closely and share the same goal of a timely and successful project, an architect and a general contractor play two very different roles. An architect designs the project, assembles a team, and then acts as a liaison between these individuals. One of those individuals is the general contractor, who is responsible for the construction of the project.
Do you need a general contractor?
Some people who are particularly savvy with a handsaw—or who want to be more economical with their project—may choose to perform the job of General Contractor themselves. This DIY approach works for some, but typically we do not recommend it.
Construction is a lengthy process with many moving parts and requires meticulous care, planning, and attention to detail. The beauty of hiring a general contractor is that they understand the inner workings of construction on a large scale, such as local codes and ordinances, construction methods, and industry standards. Hiring a contractor not only ensures your own safety but also ensures timely completion of your project.
Additionally, general contractors have established relationships with the numerous vendors required to build your project. This network gives them the capability to achieve lower cost bids or expedited schedules, which is an advantage you may not have while doing your own contractor work.
Another benefit to hiring a qualified general contractor is that they have proper licensing, insurance, and the ability to compensate their workers. They take on the liability for damage or potential injuries. While you’re perfectly at liberty to work as your own contractor, our expert advice is to leave it to the pros.
When to start looking for a general contractor
At Hoke Ley Architecture & Design, we use a 5 step process to complete projects. They are:
- Phase 1: Conceptual development
- Phase 2: Schematic design
- Phase 3: Design development
- Phase 3.5: Interior design and development
- Phase 4: Construction documentation
- Phase 5: Construction
Because hiring a general contractor is so important, it’s never really too early to start looking. However, as your architectural team,we typically start to look for a contractor after we’ve completed the first 2 phases of design and enter into phase 3. The construction documents that we produce will become blueprints that guide your contractor through the build!
Tips on how to choose a contractor in Kansas City
You’re up to speed on why it can be beneficial to work with a general contractor and when you should start looking into hiring one. Now it’s time to select your general contractor. Consider these tips and tricks from expert architects on how to choose a contractor in Kansas City.
Look at past projects
There are lots of factors that go into choosing the right general contractor for the job, but it doesn’t hurt for your tastes and styles to line up. Check out some of the contractors’ previous builds to see if you like the work they’ve done.
At Hoke Ley, we always make sure to showcase our previous projects. After all, it’s important to give prospective clients an idea of whether you have the skill set and style they’re looking for. In your search for a general contractor, you should be looking for businesses with the same level of experience and transparency!
Trust your instincts
This is generally a good rule of thumb in any area of life. With regards to construction, you’ll definitely enjoy the process a lot more if you have a good rapport with the contractor.
The construction phase can last anywhere from 6 to 24 months depending on the scope of the project. You’ll be working with this person for quite some time on a project that is important to you. Don’t underestimate the power of a friendly relationship!
Look at how they manage their schedule
Construction inevitably incurs some delays. This is a natural part of the process, as the job involves many moving parts. An important consideration when choosing a general contractor is how they manage those delays and their overall schedule.
How your potential general contractor manages their time and the time of their team will give you a good sense of how they work. Ask about their scheduling system and how they manage delays, holidays, or weather issues. Specifics will be outlined in your contract after you hire them, but make sure to get a general understanding.
Learn about their contract
The general rule of thumb for contracts is the more detailed the better. A quality general contractor will include the following information in their contract.
This includes their name, phone number, email address, and physical address.
Detailed scope of work
Make sure there is a description of the work the general contractor will finish within the agreed upon time-frame. This means what they will demolish, what they will build, what plans they will use, expected milestones, and an estimated date of completion.
Cost and payment details
There are a number of different kinds of payment methods one might use. Some contracts indicate the client pays a fixed fee for an agreed-upon deliverable. Other contracts say the client pays time and materials plus a percentage of the project cost to the general contractor.
Whatever it is, make sure you understand the type of contract and the payment details outlined in your contract. If you have questions, your architecture team will always help you understand the best route to take with contract and payment details.
Insurance and licensing guarantees
Make sure you see the contact information of the general contractor’s insurer. Also, make sure the contract indicates your contract must be insured. Additionally, you should check that the general contractor has the necessary licenses to perform the desired work.
You’ll definitely want to make sure the contract indicates the construction team will leave your property spic and span.
Look for referrals and reviews
Another way to choose a quality general contractor is to ask your architectural and design team if they have any referrals. If we have ideas for general contractors we think would fit well for the project, we will bring those suggestions to the table.
Additionally, think of any friends or family members who may have recently worked with a general contractor on a similar project. Reach out to them to see if they enjoyed working with who they chose.
It also doesn’t hurt to look at online reviews. Let those who have come before you help you in your search for a general contractor.
Rely on your architects for support!
As the architects for your project, it is our pleasure and responsibility to facilitate all phases of the project, and that includes helping you figure out how to choose a contractor. We’ve worked with many of them throughout our experience, and we know what to look for. Don’t hesitate to ask questions.
We will also let you know of any red flags we see in potential general contractors. We are here to guide you throughout the entire process, from start to finish. We will always advocate for you, and that includes during your search for a general contractor.
Listen to Katie from Hoke Ley talk about how to choose a contractor in Kansas City!
Get the help you need to start your project!
At Hoke Ley Architecture & Interior Design, we absolutely love helping people bring their dreams to life. We understand the process can be at times daunting, exhilarating, a little messy, kind of complicated, and all-around a wild ride.
We think of architecture as not only an art but an act of service. We are committed to following through, listening to your ideas, and being a liaison between you, your project, and everyone involved, including your contractor. If you’re ready to get the guidance you deserve, reach out to us today to see how we can help. We can’t wait to meet you!