How to Select a Commercial General Contractor

What is the first step to hiring a commercial general contractor? Typing “commercial contractors” into Google will return a number of options, but how do you narrow that list down and qualify each contractor? It’s important to find the right contractor for your project.

What is a Commercial General Contractor?

Before discussing how to select a commercial general contractor, it’s important to understand what one is exactly. A commercial general contractor works to complete commercial construction projects, as opposed to residential. It is typically a business entity, rather than an individual, and they are responsible for planning the construction from beginning to end. They are typically selected through a bidding process where the lowest bid from the most reputable company is awarded the project.

Define Project Scope & Priorities

The first step in selecting a commercial general contractor for your project is identifying what you need in terms of construction or renovation. Some key questions to ask include:

  • What are your goals for the project?
  • What is your budget for the project?
  • What is the desired schedule for the project?

A well-defined plan sets the tone for success, so it’s important to have the scope and goals of your project well defined.

Sending the Project Out for Bid

Once that’s complete, the next step is to send the project out for bid and request proposals or estimates from qualified, licensed commercial contractors. The contractors will review your project to create their bid, which is a project plan that details timelines and estimated costs. Upon reviewing bids it’s important to ensure that each bid includes all of the requested components and details anything that is excluded. Also, look for “Add Alternates” and/or “Upgrades” when it comes to materials, as these are potential causes for increased cost.

Selecting Your Commercial General Contractor

When narrowing down the list of bids you should take into consideration pricing, communication processes, level of detail, quality of work, proposed timeline, and company reputation. You should not choose your commercial general contractor based solely on price. Communication is paramount for a successful construction project and you want to select a general contractor that will be clear and transparent every step of the way.

You should also evaluate the payment terms to ensure there is a schedule of values and associated costs detailed in conjunction with the timeline. A progressive payment schedule allows you to make payments as certain milestones are completed. Lastly, in addition to the timeline, there should be a completion date or substantial completion date that is clearly stated in the contract.

Additional Tips

Be sure to start early. This can be a time consuming and taxing process and you do not want to make the wrong selection based on timeline constraints alone.

Pay attention to word of mouth referrals. Oftentimes a referral can tell you more about the quality of work than anything else. Also, ask for references and check them. If the general contractor does great work they will be more than happy to provide referrals from previous, happy clients.

You can also get information about companies in your area from trade groups like the Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc. or The Associated General Contractors of America.

The Ultimate Goal

The ultimate goal for any commercial construction project is to find a reputable company that provides quality work, in the defined timeline. Remember, the company you choose for your commercial general contractor will be your business partner, so choose the company that is a fit for your project and has the qualities you’re looking for.