Finding a Contractor
December 9, 2004 3:11 PM   Subscribe

How do I find a contractor for an unusual job? The members of my condo association want to look into enlarging the balconies on our building. Should I start at the 'A's in the General Contracting section of the yellow pages and work my way down?
posted by bonecrusher to Home & Garden (8 answers total)
Go to a non-chain lumberyard (i.e. NOT Home Depot) and ask if they have recommendations for contractors. Guys at those stores know which contractors pay their bills, which is a huge factor in a good choice.
posted by goofyfoot at 3:20 PM on December 9, 2004

Other condominium complexes may have had similar work done, so you could ask around. Enlarging balconies isn't a huge deal, and it seems to be a pretty common alteration for condos.

Are you doing all the condos at once or are you okay with going one unit at a time?
posted by LionIndex at 3:42 PM on December 9, 2004

Having a condo; start by talking to the condo's association board because it will have to be approved. Plus they may know a good cheap contractor that is already established with the place. Hopefully you know some of the nicer board members.
posted by thomcatspike at 3:58 PM on December 9, 2004

Have you already got an architect on the case? If so, perhaps they could recommend a few different contractors for the job and you could shop around. Presuming that you do have, or plan to, get the renovation professionally designed, the architect would be able to provide you with something like an itemized list of all the materials needed, and perhaps even a rough idea of how long the whole thing ought to take under ideal conditions.

Even if it seems as simple as, "We want our balconies to stick out two more feet," I would not want to leave all the decision making up to a contractor. Half of what you're paying an architect to do is think out all the structural details before hammers start hammering and saws start sawing.

Also useful is your local community development/permitting office. They tend to keep track of who the bad contractors are.
posted by contessa at 4:15 PM on December 9, 2004

You might also want to take a look at the architecture firm and related construction companies that did the original design and construction. IANAA and IANAC, but I'd be willing to wager that having the original people involved would guarantee better design and execution.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 5:50 PM on December 9, 2004

I'd be willing to wager that having the original people involved would guarantee better design and execution

You'd lose. They'd (maybe) know what was behind the drywall, but that has nothing to do with their level of competence, design talent, or trustworthiness.

Thomcat's got some good advice.
posted by LionIndex at 6:57 PM on December 9, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. I hadn't thought of checking at lumberyards. That's sounds like a pretty good idea, esp since the biggest problem finding someone is that contractors in my area (Minneapolis) tend to know only single-family homes. But I can think of some lumberyards in the city that probably have more familiarity with older, multi-unit jobs, and know the contractors that do that sort of work.

Asking the condo board won't help - I'm on it.

An architect seems like overkill. All we want to do is extend 4 balconies across the width of the back of the building. They currently are only half the width of the building. I can see talking to a structural engineer or something, but wouldn't the contractor be responsible for that?

I'd definitely want to do them all at the same time. In my experience, half the cost of doing any work like this is scaffolding or lift-rental.
posted by bonecrusher at 6:28 AM on December 10, 2004

Have you tried Service Magic? I am on my condo assoc's BOD; we use SM to find all of our vendors/contractors. It's been great so far (handyman, painter, plower, paver, the list goes on).
posted by suchatreat at 12:03 PM on December 10, 2004

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