Choosing the right Design Build Contractor can make all the difference in how smoothly your construction project runs. Much like choosing the right auto mechanic when your car breaks down; making a bad decision about who is providing a time and cost sensitive service can be like being up a creek without a paddle- resulting in unnecessary frustration and stress. But how do you ensure that you’re getting involved with the right construction management group to fulfill your construction project needs? Here are a few tips to consider before signing a new construction contract.

The best Design build contractors don’t have to advertise. They get work through satisfied customer referrals. Consult your local business associates and local business organizations. Ask questions and check up on the contractor being considered. Consult member directories through local builder organizations to help you find a contractor who specializes in design build construction. Many building suppliers also recommend contractors based on the type of work to be performed.

In all, a design-build contractor’s best advertising is not an ad in the local newspaper or on the radio or television. It is repeat customers and referrals from their clients for a job well done. It is the quality of previous projects. It is the confidence that an owner has in the construction team. It is effective communication.

Call the Better Business Bureau or a local consumer-affairs agency for complaint histories of the contractors you’re considering. One or two gripes shouldn’t necessarily induce you to look elsewhere, but be wary of a contractor with more problems than that. You’ll also want to check with the appropriate agency to see if the contractor is properly licensed and insured. Most states or counties as well as most cities or townships license contractors; other jurisdictions require them to be registered. As a rule, licensing entails passing a test to measure competency and provide evidence of financial stability, while registering involves only payment of a fee. If a problem arises, a government agency may be able to pursue a licensed or registered contractor on your behalf.

Licensing won’t guarantee success, but it indicates a degree of professionalism and suggests that the design build contractor is committed to his or her job. Check the contractor’s license. Be sure that the license category complies with the project. Ask where the contractor’s specialization lies. An owner looking specifically for a design build contractor wants a contractor who knows the industry. An owner shouldn’t want a parking garage contractor to build a multi-million dollar Assisted Living facility.

When checking references, ask whether the contractor is insured and, if applicable, licensed, to do the work. If, for example, someone gets hurt or your neighbor’s property is damaged by an unlicensed or uninsured contractor, you could wind up paying. Be sure to ask the contractor for a Certificate of Insurance which names the owner and project as an additional insured under the policy provisions.

No matter how you find potential Design build contractors, be sure to ask for a list of previous customers; then call them or, better yet, visit their projects to look at the work.

Ask some penetrating questions such as these:

Would you hire this design build contractor again?
Were you satisfied with the quality of the work?
How did the general contractor handle cleanup each day?
Was the team easy to communicate with?
How did the team handle differences and work changes?
Was the job completed on time and at the bid? If not, why not?

You might also ask the general contractor for a list of his or her building-material suppliers. Call them to see if the contractor has an account or pays for items upon delivery. Most suppliers are willing to extend credit to financially reliable construction management companies.

The bottom line is to do the research and make the necessary inquiries before rushing into a commitment with any design build contractor. Check references, visit completed project sites, check on licensure and certifications first. Spending time doing these things can mean the difference between a disastrous time and money eating experience and getting your project done on time and under budget. For more information about Marsh Bell Construction Co.’s Design build methods click here.