A General Contractor in Miami enters into an contract with the owner to fulfill a complete project and takes full responsibility of the construction. This includes the purchasing of all required materials, furnishing of all required labor, and the supervision and coordination of all sub-contractors in order to insure delivery of a completed project that falls within the agreed upon budget and construction schedule.
In Miami, the chosen construction company has to provide the corresponding city a copy of their Contractor's license, general liability insurance and workers comp insurance. Once the General Contractor is registered with the local building department, they can proceed to "pull" the building permit of the project and can begin working.
You must choose a quality contractor! This is the most important decision you can make because they are the ones building your project! It doesn't matter if you have the best architects, designers, engineers, or drawings. If the contractor doesn't have the skills, organization, and desire then it will be a very painful process.
So how do we know if a general contractor in the Miami area is good?
Step 1: Have an idea of what you want done beforehand
Make a list of things you want done in your new project or remodeling. Maybe you want to build a new addition on your home, or you would like to change all of your flooring, and put a fresh coat of paint on your walls. Whatever it is that you would like to have done, know exactly what you want to develope a detailed scope of work that you can give to any contractor you meet with who may be bidding your project. This will eliminate any confusion, and allow the contractor to provide you with an accurate and detailed bid.
Step 2: know what are their responsibilities and what are yours as the homeowner
Contractor's responsibility include:
- Pulling the building permit with their CGC license and scheduling the inspections
- Negotiating a price or providing a bid to the owner and writing up a detailed contract
- Hiring sub-contractors for the specialty trades
- Organize and supervise sub-contractors and the project schedule
- Sending timely draws for payment to the owner, paying sub-contractors, and getting lien releases from sub-contractors and suppliers
- Schedule the purchasing and delivery of materials as they are needed on the job site, in order to avoid delays to the project, due to the lack of required materials being on site.
- Maintaining a complete understanding of the construction documents at all times and building to the plans provided.
Homeowner's responsibilities include:
- Paying the contractor's draws on time
- Paying Permit fees to the City and/or County
- Choosing the finish materials on time
- Responding to any questions from contractor in a timely manner
- Understanding the scope of work and inclusions/exclusion of the contract. Additonal work requested will become a Change Order that will need written approval from the owner.
Step 3: Meet with at least 3 general contractors
It is always a good idea to meet with more than 1 contractor to make sure the prices are on the same level and you are not getting ripped off.
When you receive the bid estimates from all the general contractors, try to avoid focusing just on the bottom line price of the bid, and be sure to go through the entire proposal in detail. Analyze each scope of work to make sure you are comparing apples to apples. Many contractors will have sections of their proposals called "Inclusions and Exclusions" or "Assumptions & Clarifications" . These are where you, as the homeowner, can get hurt on a project because there may be terms or portions of the scope of work that you thought were included but were actually excluded from a contractor's bid.
Check out this post on Angie's List to see what they say about getting a good estimate!
Step 4: Ask a lot of questions
Don't be afraid to ask a lot of questions or to think that you should know the answer to everything! This can lead to a better relationship with your contractor since nothing will be hidden and you will know exactly what you are paying for.
You can find more information on questions that you can ask general contractors here.
Step 5: Check past work & references
Always ask to see past work or even go to other current projects that they are working on. You want to see their construction projects - pictures to make sure they are the quality you are expecting.
Go online and look at their reviews. One of the best places to check for reviews and their work for general contractors in Miami is on Houzz. If you don't know what Houzz is, I urge you to go and see for yourself. It is great for homeowners looking to build a new home or remodel.
Step 6: Make sure they are Licensed & Insured
This is very important! There a hundreds of contractors in Miami, some are small-medium companies such as HCD Construction Group but others are a "one man show". So make sure the contractors you are looking at are licensed and have updated their Worker's Comp and General Liability insurances.
Step 7: Sign a detailed contract
This is key. Make sure you read through all of the terms, Inclusions and Exclusions, and Assumptions & Clarifications before signing anything from the contractor. The contract should include:
- Total amount
- Down payment amount
- Duration of the project*
- Payment schedules
- Scope of work
When problems arise in the future, you can always look back at the contract to see what was included and what's not.
Step 8: Have a reserve fund or "contingency" built into your budget
One thing I always tell prospective clients when meeting them for the first time is to be sure and have a contingency fund built into their budget just in case there are unexpected problems during construction (not caused by the contractor). The choice of whether or not to share the amount of this contingency fund is up to the homeowner, and sometimes is even built into construction contracts. Especially in remodeling projects, when only selective demolition is being done, you never know what you might find behind the old walls and ceiling of your project. Unexpected issues and unforeseen conditions arise regularly in these types of projects and its good to have a portion of your budget allotted for any cost impacts that these issues may cause. Costs like these are not under the contractor's responsibilities.
Step 9: What to expect from your contractor after job is complete
Once the job is done you should be receiving these items from your general contractor:
- City approved construction drawings (your permit set)
- Updated property survey showing the new construction (if applicable)
- Final releases of Lien/NTO from sub-contractors and suppliers
- Certificate of Occupancy (CO). This document is issued by the City once all of the final inspections have been approved, and represents that the local Building Department certifies that the project is safe to occupy.
- Closeout binder (this includes warranties from suppliers-subcontractors-general contractor, specs sheets on items installed, and treatment recommendations for materials installed)
Step 10: Don't pay 100% of the contract until receiving the Certificate of Occupancy, or 100% of job is completed (depending on the type of project)
The title says it all! It does not happens often, but some contractors will "complete" a project and leave before providing you with a Certificate of Occupancy, the correct close out documents, or even finishing work on site once they receive a final payment. If you choose a reputable contractor, it is highly unlikely that this situation will occur. However, smaller contractors may think that because they received their final payment, the owner is happy and that it is time to move on to the next project. They may not even be aware they are required to provide a Certificate of Occupancy or a close out package to the owner. If you are careful during the selection of your contractor, and make sure to check their references and qualifications, there is very little risk that this situation will arise.
A contractor can pass all inspections and get a Certificate of Occupancy without finishing all the details inside the house, what we call a "punch list". A punch list is basically a list of small items like touch up paint, minor wall repairs, and any other cosmetic detail work that the owner may require. Be sure that the punch list work is completed to your satisfaction before issuing the final payment to the contractor. Remember, this is a service and the main priority for a high-end contractor is customer satisfaction.
Choosing the right contractor to do the job is the most important thing in building your dream project. If you have to pay a little higher for a construction company that you trust and feel they are the best choice then DO IT!. I promise you it will be more cost-effective at the end and you will be able to enjoy the process of building your dream home.