General Contractors: General contractors coordinate and construct projects that typically involve three or more subcontractor trades, such as carpentry, plumbing, painting, roofing or electrical work. In New York, a state license is required for asbestos abatement only. All other licensing is done at the local level, and businesses must register with the Secretary of State. Separate boards license HVAC and plumbing trades. Those general contractors who specialize in production, concentrate on bidding and building from plans drawn by design specialists and do not offer much, if any, design or drawing services unless they advertise themselves as being design and build contractors.

Design and Build Contractors: Design and build contractors offer both architectural and construction services. They can carry a job from inception to move-in, and some experts believe the results are more cost-effective and allow for more collaboration during the building process. Using this method, one firm is accountable for the entire project, which can result in a less expensive design that is practical to build and causes less confusion between design and construction specialists who may not see eye-to-eye. Due to these advantages, the design-and-build method has become increasingly popular.

As you speak with these various professionals in the home-building process, look for people whose experience, designs and ideas best reflect your taste and sensibilities. There also should be good communication flow and understanding of the project. After all, it’s about building your new home, one of the largest investments you’ll make in your lifetime and the center of your family’s life.

Choosing your remodeler is the most important decision in a remodeling project. Take your time and be thorough in your search. Here are just a few places to start looking for the best contractor for your home improvement project:
  • Word-of-Mouth Referrals: Nearly half of all projects signed by a remodeling contractor are the result of client referrals. An additional 22 percent of jobs are the result of word-of-mouth. These are your best sources for leads:
    • Relatives
    • Friends
    • Neighbors
    • Business colleagues
    • Lenders
    • Architects and designers
    • Real estate agents
    • Suppliers
    • Subcontractors
    • Local material suppliers (e.g., lumber yards, specialty product providers)
  • Remodeling Resources: There also are professional resources to help you in your decision.
    • The LA chapter of the National Association of Remodeling Industry (NARI). NARI is a national professional association whose members voluntarily subscribe to a strict code of ethics. Consumers can search at NARI to find a qualified, member remodeler. Contact the LA chapter at
    • The Southern California Builders Association (SCBA). On the SCBA Web site (, you’ll find a searchable database of member professional builders, remodelers, developers or product and service providers, which include financial institutions, architects, interior decorators, carpenters, painters, material suppliers and more.
    • California Contractors State License Board (CSLB). CSLB protects consumers by licensing and regulating California’s construction industry. There are about 300,000 licensed contractors in the state in 43 different licensing classifications. In addition to educating consumers about contractors and construction law, CSLB activities include administering examinations to test prospective licensees, issuing licenses, investigating complaints against licensed and unlicensed contractors, issuing citations, suspending or revoking licenses, and seeking administrative, criminal, and civil sanctions against violators. Visit for more information.

Other Remodeling Resources
Here are other ways to look for remodeling professionals in your area:
  • Job-site signs: Pay particular attention to homes with signs from their contracting company on their lawn. Is the site clean? Are tools and materials being handled in a responsible manner? Are there dust covers over the owner’s belongings to protect them?
  • Local media coverage: Look for articles about local remodelers. Also check out local home improvement columns in the newspaper or stories on TV and radio talk shows in your area. They can be a great source for finding a qualified, reputable and personable contractor.
  • Seminars: Attend local seminars on home improvement topics. Some firms host free seminars on how to choose a remodeler and other interesting remodeling topics. Check your local newspaper community news section for information.
  • Home trade shows: This is a somewhat tricky place to interview contractors since they are surrounded by other consumers and professionals; however, this is a great place to gather information about a lot of companies in a short time and to make an initial contact with the contractors. Later it is possible to meet with them at their place of business or in your home.

A major nationwide trend is building with sustainability in mind. This also applies to remodelers, who are leading the charge to provide eco-conscious solutions for home-remodeling projects, according to NARI ( Faced with mounting scientific evidence that climate change threatens the health of the planet, homeowners are compelled to ask how they can make a difference. Green remodeling practices have become more popular as homeowners cope with ever-increasing energy costs, health concerns and diminishing natural resources. In some environmentally conscious LA neighborhoods, green living is required or already a way of life. Contractors are assisting homeowners to choose eco-friendly solutions for their remodeling projects year round. Here are a few specific ways NARI remodelers can help plan a green remodel.

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