Residential Building Contractor

The Benefits of Using a
Licensed Contractor

A Licensed Residential Building Contractor will be qualified and experienced in residential construction.

If you are planning a home improvement project and you are probably busy looking for the right contractor.

Ask family and friends who had work done recently - if they have had good experiences with a contractor whom they would contract again.

Ask neighbors who have had similar improvements done, if their improvement came in on time and on budget, how happy they were with the contractor and would they recommend him or use him again...

Also ask at your local building office, you will need to go there a few times to secure permissions, depending on what you are building of course, so it would be a good idea to see if they have a local or national list of licensed qualified Residential Building Contractors available to you.


There are different types of main contractors who are licensed to build or improve your home but we want you to focus on the first two who are specalists in home building and home improvement projects.

contractors hard hat

  • A Residential Building Contractor
  • A Home Improvement Contractor
You may also find a:
  • A Repairing Building Contractor
  • A General Contractor

Plus there are many different types of contractors who will often be subcontracted by your contractor and should be fully licensed to do different jobs.

  • Plumbing Contractor
  • Electrical Contractor
  • Roofing Contractor
  • Concrete Contractor
  • Dry Wall Contractor
  • Painting Contractor
  • Swimming Pool Contractor
  • Heating Contractor
  • Tile Contractor - etc... etc...

A residential building contractor or a home improvement contractor will often sub contract a roofing contractor or a plumbing contractor or an electrical contractor to work for them - although the big guys will sometimes already have these experts on their team.

home improvement hard hat collectin

In this case your main residential building contractor is responsible for paying the subcontractors and suppliers - which is often in the form of a down payment and remainder in stages or whole upon completion of the specialist work to a satisfactory standard.

If you are unlucky enough to employ a main contractor who does not act correctly and does not pay the subcontractors or material suppliers - you will be responsible and the subcontractors may well be able to take out what they call a "Lien" on your house.

You want to do everything possible to take out the "Luck" factor of employing a contractor and find a contracter with a proven work history:

Residential Building Contractor licenses are issued by State and by Expertise.

In some states which are more lax with contractor license laws it can be more difficult to ascertain the credibility of the contractors you interview for the work you need doing at your home - remember the above organisations have stringent requirements for anyone joining their ranks.

Even with this assurance it is still important that you personally meet and talk to a number of recommended licensed contractors - up to 6 would be reasonable, more until you find the right one.

To prepare yourself for the interviews - a visit to your local building department will make you more informed about the specific licensing requirements and lein laws for your area and what you especially need to look out for.

Interview Potential Contractors

  • You will want to find out all you can about the stability of each contractors business and how long it has been running to find out how established they are.

  • You will want proof that they are licensed and that their license applies to the state you live in and that the license will be current well after the duration of your job.
If you are satisfied with the information and proof you have been given so far carry on with the interview, if not you can cross this one out.
  • A real "Licensed" residential building contractor will have personal liability insurance together with workers compensation and property damage coverage. He should be able to give you copies now and you should make sure that they are valid and current.
If you are satisfied with the information and proof you have been given so far carry on with the interview, if not you can cross this one out.
  • The residential building contractors you are interviewing should give you a list of all works similar to your proposed project that they have completed within the last year.

  • 99.9% of real home improvement projects - even for easier ones like building a deck - require building permits - a properly licensed contractor will have no problems getting the permits you need BEFORE starting work. If fact he should know the good folks down at your local building office quite well and will keep popping in there until your permits come through.
(an unlicensed contractor will NOT be able to get the paperwork together and will try to get you to do it - DON'T trust this approach - NEVER EVER.)

If you are satisfied with the information and proof you have been given so far carry on with the interview, if not you can cross this one out.

  • Ask the residential building contractor how many jobs he usually has going at one time. A big advantage of a smaller properly licensed business is that they dedicate themselves to one job until it is finished before taking on the next.

    This dedication can often improve workmanship, speed up the project, cut down on wastage and ensure a clean site - sometimes the result of this dedication to getting the work done to a high standard before moving on can mean a financial saving for you.

  • Find out about any subcontractors that will be working at your home and ask to meet them. You will want to check their licenses and insurance as well. Use this opportunity to find out - in a straight forward way - their experiences with your proposed main contractor.

    Ask if they have found him to be reliable regarding payments to them...

  • Get your proposed residential building contractor and all the subcontractors together and ask them if they will agree to a "lein waver" for your project to help you protect yourself and your home.

  • A residential building contractor with nothing to hide but a good working history should be quite transparent with you. Also keep in mind that your contractor should be in or around your home on a daily basis - you need someone that you can talk to from the overall picture to the nitty gritty details.

    A residential building contractor with ideas to improve your project is great but he should also listen to you, your opinion and your needs.

If you are satisfied with the information and proof you have been given so far carry on with the interview, if not you can cross this one out.

What to do next...

You may well now have a short list of residential building contractors or one that really stands out as being fully competant to do the job. What should you do next... well you should now have copies of his licence, insurance and a list of references.

Another quick visit to your local building office should help you verify the license and insurance paperwork if you are not familiar with these.

What is down to you is the list of references and these really should be followed up and now.

Phone the people on the list and explain the situation, ask if you can visit them and see the work that the contractor has completed.

Ask them if there were any problems and if the contractor was approachable and kept them informed throughout. Find out if the site was kept tidy (it is still your home after all) and if the work was completed on time AND on budget...

Basically what you want to know is their overall opinion of the residential building contractor and his subcontractors, and if they would they use the same contractor again.

One advantage of a residential building contractor with a full team of experts is that he may have more control over the whole site, time frames and daily clean-ups, at the same time many contractors work continously with the same sub contractors and the control factor is effectively the same.

Visiting the referal list is time consuming but people are usually proud of home improvements and grateful enough to good residential building contractors to answer your questions and show you the work done.

Remember - you can pick up more ideas for your project by talking to people who have already gone through the experience AND within a few months you may well be on their referal list yourself.

Contractor LIcenses - State By State

Someone holding a residential building contractor license in Florida is not qualified to work in say Alaska.

One has to deal with heat, a damp atmosphere and hurricanes - the other with hot summers and sub temperatures in the winter which create a lot of expansion and contraction of buildings through the materials they are made of - which of course means that materials and building techniques will differ.

This is a stark example I know - and to make it clear know that due to the differences in weather conditions - a residential building contractor from Alaska has to pass a "residential endorsement general contractors license" needed by anyone who wants to undertake the construction of or alteration projects of a private residential structure in that area.

In Summary

Choosing the right residential building contractor is more important than choosing tiles, designs or anything else associated with your home improvement project.

This is one part of any big home improvement project that should not be underestimated...

A Residential Building Contractor will advise you on materials and designs - his trade contacts could save you thousands and because he knows his team and how well they work together you are more likely to meet your completion date with quality workmanship.

P.S. Make sure that your contractor has the updated version - the current copy of the International Building Code.

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