Tips On Hiring a General Contractor In San Jose or Bay Area

Searching for a general contractor in San Jose or The Bay area? I was sitting in my home in San Jose CA wandering why is it that all the online information about home remodeling is so general. I mean, wouldn’t a home renovation project in San Jose and the Bay Area be a bit different from a project in New York City?  Another issue that made me write this article was that I had to visit 10-15 different websites to find the information I wanted. That’s when I decided to collect all the information together and post it in one place.

In this article we will answer all the questions you should be asking yourself and the local contractors you interview in order find the right general contractor to start and finish your renovation project with maximum success.

If you are in San Jose California or the Bay Area and are looking to have a home makeover this article is for you!

I would like to remodel my home but where do I start?

Well before I answer this question it is important to go over the two types of companies and estimating methods out there. Getting to know these  methods will help you budget your project and save you time by narrowing your search for a contractor who will work with your preferred method.

Type of contractors:

Design build contractor

A design build contractors has all the element that are required to finish and start your project under one roof. A design build contractor company will offer design, architectural, engineering and building services.

It a great solution for large complex projects that require different professionals in order to be completed.

Bid build contractors-

This type of general contractor will offer construction/remodeling service only. Meaning, you will need to hire an external architect or designer if needed.

In some cases, bid build contractors might offer design services.

Estimating Methods

  1. The labor only method– This estimate will include the cost for labor and finish materials only. It leaves the cost of the material up to you.
    This method is great for those who want to have full control of the project design, as there is no limit to the cost and type of materials you can use.
  2. The all included method– in this type of estimating method, the general contractor will provide you with an estimate that includes both the labor and material. Keep in mind that this means that the contractor will set a price limit on the material you can buy for your project.

This method can be good if you tend to waiver from your budget, as it keeps it under control. It can also be useful when remodeling an investment property and wanting a low-cost budget, or if you don’t have the time to start messing around with choosing materials from the endless options out there.

Are you still with me? –  Great! Let’s create the first question list for starting a home remodeling project in San Jose and the Bay Area.

What do I want to remodel?

Is it a full home remodel, bathroom remodel, kitchen remodel or maybe a home addition?


Are there any structural changes?

If your remodeling project includes structural changes you will need to create architectural plans. This step is required in order to get accurate estimates from general contractors who will provide their estimate based on these plans. However, they can still provide a rough idea of cost prior to having the architectural plans. Keep in mind, that this cost might change based on the final plans.

You can hire your own architect to create the plans and present it to different remodeling contractors. Another great option is to work with a design build contractor who have in-house architects, and as I mentioned, have everything that you need in order to start and finish your project under one roof.

Hiring a design build company to create the plans does not obligate you to hire their services for the full remodeling work. Once you receive the plans you can do with them as you wish and get bids from other contractors.

However, if you decide to continue with the project and hire the design build company for the full remodeling project, many times these companies will deduct between 50% to 100% of the cost of the  plans, from the total amount of the full remodeling project estimate.

Do I need to hire a designer?

Most home remodeling companies in San Jose and the Bay area will have their own in-house designers and will offer this service as a complimentary service when signing a contract for a full remodeling project (kitchen, bathroom, home).

What is my preferred estimating method?

As you probably know by now, if you are remodeling your own house, it is worth considering  the labor only method which will give you full control of the quality of the materials and the budget.

What is my total budget?

Knowing you budget before meeting with remodeling contractors and getting estimates is definitely a good start. It will help the contractor know what is, or is not, relevant to your project and make sure that they provide you with the relevant information.

*Always remember to keep 15% of your budget on the side to cover any unexpected costs that might show up during the remodeling process.

Now that you have gathered the basic information, it’s time to take it to the next level with Questions List number 2!

Hiring A general contractor in San Jose or the Bay Area-Question list number 2

Were can I find a reliable remodeling general contractor?

Friends and family-
Checking with your friends and family to see if they can share some feedback based on their own experience is defiantly the number one choice for finding a reliable contractor. This will ensure that you receive honest information and maybe even get to see the contractors work before meeting with him.

Online– There are many directories and platforms in which the local community share their experience and rate different local companies. These local directories filter out reviews that they suspect as fake or unreliable.
Some of the more popular ones that are used to find remodeling contractors in san Jose and the Bay Area are:

This is my top choice. Their review filter system is so strict that some local companies report having up to 50% or more of their customer ratings filtered.

Google maps-
This directory does not only filter reviews but also present their search results based on proximity, showing you the companies that are closest to your location.

Houzz– In addition to having a local business directory, Houzz also offer a large database of kitchen bathroom and home  images and design ideas that you can use for your project.

Tip– don’t just pick up the phone and start contacting companies. Instead create an organized list  of all the contractors you would like to contact, and contact them once the list is completed. This will give you the option to keep track and take notes, which can be used to make comparisons between the different companies later.

Now that you have a list of contractors who you would like to contact, its time to create a check mark and question list.

Kitchen-Remodeled-By Element-A-General-Contractor-In-San-Jose-or-Bay-Area

What do I need to check before hiring or even meeting a general contractor?

License– It’s important to check if a contractor is licensed and if the license is currently active.  This will ensure that you are dealing with professionals

Insurance– When contacting the remodeling company ask them to provide proof of insurance. This is an extremely important step, as it ensures that the contractor is covered if something happens to the property during the remodeling process.

Do you have in-house teams?

Many companies will subcontract a project to another general contractor. This is not necessarily a bad thing. However, it is recommended to work with a company that have their own team of builders. This means that if there is an issue with the work, the contractor can take responsibility for the repairs directly, rather than needing to contact the sub-contractor, which can lead to a longer process. Another good point is that if an issue arises sometime after the project is completed while the warranty is still valid, there is no guarantee that the subcontractor will still be in business, which means that the company will need to hire new subcontractors who have no experience with your project.

Do you offer on-site consultations free of any fees or obligations?

I chose this to be the first question you should ask because Most companies will offer free on-site consultations, in fact I have never heard of a company who charges a fee for visiting the property and providing an estimate. If you do bump in to one, I would definitely consider this as a warning sign and walk away.

Do you have in- house architects (if needed)?

There is really no issue in working with a company who does not have their own architects.  Having an in-house architect just gives the extra comfort of being able to cover all the required remodeling elements within the one company instead of mixing and matching between different professionals

Do you have in house designers?

Most remodeling companies have in-house designers, although not all of the customers will take advantage of this service. If you want to use a separate designer service, you can. However, no matter which option you choose, make sure to check what is included within the service that is offered (help with choosing materials, 3D design etc…).  In addition, don’t forget to check the cost of this service.

Note: Hiring your own designer or architect is ok, but can sometimes lead to a conflicts between the design or plans and building it. For example, an architect or designer might create a beautiful design for your project, however, the contractor might offer a bid on building this design that does not fit the budget that you based the design on.

How long has the company been in business?

You want to work with a company that is at least 1 year in the business. The reason for this is that after a year in business the company should have some finished projects and will be able to refer you to some of their customers for feedback on their experience. You can also check if you can visit one of their open projects to see their work for yourself.

Note – A 20-year home remodeling business will not necessarily provide better service then a 1 year in business company.

Will we have a dedicated project manager?

I feel that this question is very important.
You want to make sure that you have someone to talk to and get updates throughout the entire project, and that it should be the same person for the entire project.

Having more than one to two managers can really complicate the communication between you and the company, and even more important, can complicate the communication between themselves.


How do you communicate with your customers during the remodeling process?

This question might be the most important out of them all and is often overlooked and underappreciated.

You will notice that once the work begins (building, design, or architectural) you will have questions and lots of them. It could be questions regarding corrections in the design or plans, or just questions about the timeline. In addition, every remodeling project whether it is small or complex will have some setbacks. Sometimes it can be something small like the workers not showing up that day or a more important issue, like not passing an inspection.

No matter what issue comes up, you want to make sure that that you can easily contact your project manager and the different professionals involved in your project.

Tip: One way that I find highly effective and convenient, is by creating a  text messaging group, which includes yourself and  all the project members.

Be sure to take advantage of this group and get daily and weekly updates regarding your project.

Visit the property on a weekly basis.

If you do not live at the property during the remodeling, make sure to visit the property once or twice a week to check on progress and see that everything is running as expected.

Do not rely only on images, text or phone call updates. You want to see with your own eyes that the construction site looks safe and as clean as possible. It’s very important that your contractor knows that you are on top of things,  it will prevent them from cutting corners.

This article will continue to update.

Contact us today for a free on-site consultation and get a bid for your home remodeling project.

Element Home remodeling
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