How Do You Find the Best ADU Contractors?
Most people considering a renovation are keenly aware of the potential stressors involved when undertaking such a major project. Whether it’s a kitchen remodel, Accessary dwelling unit, garage conversion, or even just installing new flooring throughout the house, there are so many things that can go wrong. While some issues are unpredictable and unavoidable, most issues (like delays and added costs) can often be avoided… as long as you take the necessary precautions from the start.
Here at GreatBuildz, a free service that personally matches homeowners with reliable general contractors, we take contractor screening seriously. We’ve worked on hundreds of accessory dwelling unit projects in Los Angeles, Orange County, Ventura or San Diego.
After being involved with hundreds of remodeling projects throughout Los Angeles, I can assure you that the most important decision you’ll make during your project is to hire the right ADU contractor for the job. Working with a bad team can easily turn your life into a renovation nightmare, so it is crucial to find an ADU contractor you can trust. Learn about ADU definition here.
The best way to find a contractor for your project is to ask your friends and neighbors if they‘ve recently hired an ADU contractor and been happy with their construction and experience. Make sure to ask for contractors that do the kind of work you need. A recommendation to a plumbing contractor won’t help you if you need a kitchen remodeler. Also, if you seek recommendations on Facebook or any other online platform, only trust recommendations from ‘real-life’ friends. Suggestions from any of your other FB contacts are often biased (their cousin is a contractor, etc).
How Can I Find a Good ADU Contractor?
The best way to find a good ADU contractor is to ask family, friends, or colleagues if they can recommend someone good.
If you don’t get any quality suggestions from people you personally know and you need to look online, start with sites that do the most intensive contractor pre-screening and offer personalized service and support.
Here at GreatBuildz, a free service that connects homeowners with reliable general contractors, we take contractor screening seriously.
Our thorough screening process (including background checks, license/insurance checks, in-person interviews, reference calls, etc) ensures our clients get connected to only great local contractors. We know it’s difficult and stressful to find a contractor for any type of construction project, so we’re here to simplify the experience for you.
What Should I Look For in a Good ADU Contractor?
Regardless of where you find a contractor you’re considering to build your accessory dwelling unit, always make sure to take precautions to ensure they are truly trustworthy and reliable. Below are 10 tips to get you started.
- Contact several ADU contractors by phone; the ones who don’t answer the phone or don’t call you back quickly…that’s a bad sign that they may not be very responsive during your project.
- Do a contractor license lookup online. In California, you should navigate to https://www.cslb.ca.gov/OnlineServices/CheckLicenseII/CheckLicense.aspx. Here, you can confirm the company you’re considering has an active license, check company owner names, see if they have any infractions on their license, and determine how long the company has been licensed.
- Get a copy of their insurance certificate and call their insurance broker; ask whether they have had any insurance claims in the recent past.
- Call at least 3 references and take a look at pictures of their prior work. If you have the chance to visit one of the ADU contractor’s past jobs and see the construction in person, even better!
- Interview the owner (or at least the supervisor who will be your day-to-day contact during the project). Especially common with larger ADU contractors, the person at your first meeting is often just a salesperson, probably one of several on their staff.
- Check their reviews online. Read any negative reviews and determine how bad their behavior seems to you…and feel free to ask the ADU contractor to explain their bad reviews. A significant number of bad reviews (especially in the last 2 years) clearly indicate a pattern and you should think twice about hiring this company.
- Set out your expectations of them. A good way to do this is to present them with a “Contractor Code of Conduct” document. If they don’t agree with some of these expectations, have them explain why.
- Consider running a background check on them – Your contractor and his team will be in your home, quite likely without you in it. You want to make sure you can trust them, the same as you would with a nanny for your child.
- Ask the potential ADU contractor important questions you need to know about them and their process to ensure they are a good fit for you. Some good questions to ask are listed at the end of this article.
How Can I Vet ADU Contractors?
Be aware of the following red-flags:
- The contractor keeps suggesting upgrades to your project or additions to your scope
- The contractor’s estimate includes many “TBD” items will have to be determined during construction
- Any contractor that continually talks about how great they are and how bad the other companies are
- A contractor that takes longer than a week to meet with you or respond with an estimate
- A contractor is pushy or doesn’t seem to respect your budget & scope.
- If a contractor asks for more money before starting the project
- If a contractor is unresponsive or slow to respond to you
Should I Pick the Cheapest ADU Contractor?
Many people make a contractor hiring decision based on the cost estimate and their ‘gut feel’ of the contractor after one meeting. This is a start, but it’s grossly insufficient to tell the good guys from the bad guys. Once you find an ADU contractor and meet with them, they are trying to sell you, so they are on their best behavior. The price they give you for the job is important but tells you nothing about whether they are a quality contractor.
Remember that building an ADU is just like building an entire home, only smaller. Most people would never just hire a handyman or unlicensed contractor to build them a home. And it’s also probably unwise just to hire the cheapest contractor to build your ADU. Although price is always an important factor, you should also be confident you’re hiring the best contractor based on other criteria.
Also, contractor estimates may vary significantly in what is and isn’t included, so you have to compare them carefully to ensure every bid is ‘apples to apples’ comparable. Before you meet with contractors, it’s a good idea to create a checklist of every item you want to be included in your project and hand it to every contractor you meet.
Los Angeles should take as many steps as possible to protect themselves from having a renovation nightmare. The more of these steps you take, the more confident you’ll feel you found a quality professional to build your accessory dwelling unit.
What Should I Ask an ADU Contractor?
- When could you start?
- What do you estimate would be the duration of the project?
- Will you assume responsibility for obtaining all permits and ensuring compliance with all regulatory requirements?
- Are you familiar with the personnel in our city planning department?
- Would I receive guarantees and warranties on labor and materials?
- Do you prefer to work with clients who already know what they want or do you enjoy providing ideas and advice?
- Would you assist with the selection of materials such as appliances, paint, flooring, countertops, tile and other materials? Do you shop with your clients? Do you purchase on their behalf?
- Cite any parking restrictions and discuss disposal bin location as needed
- What work hours would your personnel be on-site? How often will the GC be on-site?
- Will there be a foreman or project supervisor on-site at all other times?
- How often would the GC and homeowner meet in person or telephonically, to keep us abreast of project progress and issues as they arise?
- How will changes in project scope work? Written change orders? Verbal approvals?
- When can I expect a proposal? Will it include labor and materials? What won’t it include?
When it comes to finding a reputable ADU contractor for your project – GreatBuildz is simplifying the contractor search.
GreatBuildz is a free service in Los Angeles, Orange County, Ventura or San Diego that connects homeowners with reliable, thoroughly screened general contractors and provides project support from start to finish.