Get Quotes from Top General Contractor in San Francisco, CA

Questions to Ask Before Hiring a General Contractor in San Francisco

Injuries, including fatal ones, are fairly common in construction works. For example, there were eight and five fatal construction accidents recorded in the San Francisco area in 2012 and 2013 respectively. Working with an astute general contractor will help mitigate such accidents during your home construction or remodeling project.

Besides the safety that a general contractor guarantees, they also ensure the proper delivery of your project. This involves making sure it is compliant with the city's construction codes, adheres strictly to a time estimate, and remains within your budget. General contractors also have more experience and rapport with subcontractors, vendors, and suppliers.

Always ask the following questions when choosing a general contractor in San Francisco to make sure they are competent to deliver your work:

Are You Licensed to Practice as a General Contractor in San Francisco?

In order to operate as a general contractor in San Francisco, a Class B General Building Contractor license is required from the California Contractors State Licensing Board (CSLB). This license applies to contractors whose primary line of work is the construction of building structures, chattels, or any movable property of any kind meant for people or animals and whose construction requires the use of at least two unrelated building trades or crafts, whether to complete the entire project or just a portion of it.

A contracting license is required in California for total projects that cost $500 or more (labor and materials inclusive). An individual, partnership, corporation, limited liability company, or joint venture can all receive a license. The license is the property of the person holding the individual license, the partnership, the corporation, the limited liability company, or a group of licensees participating in a joint venture registered with the California Secretary of State.

A person must be 18 years or older and possess the knowledge and abilities required to manage the day-to-day operations of a construction business, including field supervision, to be eligible to become a licensed contractor. Alternatively, they must be represented by another qualified person with the required knowledge and abilities. Before getting licensed, the applicant must also have a $15,000 bond in place.

The contractor or other person who will serve as the qualifying individual must have at least four full years of experience at the journey level or as a foreman, supervisor, or contractor in the classification for which they are applying within the ten years immediately preceding the filing of the application. The experience claimed on the application must be confirmable, and someone with firsthand knowledge of the experience must vouch for the integrity of the information.

Among many others, the following projects or people may be excluded from licensing:

  • A project is when the total cost of labor, supplies, and all other expenses across one or more contracts is under $500.
  • Public projects that are carried out by public personnel.
  • Owner-builders who construct new buildings or make improvements to existing ones on their property provided they do it themselves or hire their workers.
  • The installation or sale of finished goods that do not become a permanent component of the construction;

Applicants must submit a $450 application fee to begin the application process. They will need to complete either an online application or a downloadable PDF application or order a paper application, provided they meet the prerequisites for licensing. The following details are needed for the CSLB application:

  • Complete company name
  • Contact information
  • Requested license type or class
  • Type of business entity
  • Identification details for the qualified person
  • Personnel identification
  • Breakdown of work experience

The CSLB further requires candidates to provide fingerprints as part of the criminal background check. Additionally, the candidate must take a licensure test. Regardless of the license, the applicant must pass a Law and Business portion to demonstrate their understanding of the rules and laws that apply to the construction industry. Actual trade knowledge will be tested in the second half of the exam (or trades, in the case of the Class B General Building Contractor).

Working as a contractor in San Francisco without a license might have serious repercussions. A first-time offense is typically regarded as a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail, a $500 fine, and/or a possible administrative fine of $200 to $15,000. However, increased fines are imposed for repeated offenses. For a second offense, the maximum penalty is 20 percent of the contract amount for the work that was completed, or $4,500. Additionally, the unlicensed contractor must spend at least 90 days in jail. To verify that your contractor is licensed, use the CSLB license check portal.

Contractors State License Board Main Office
9821 Business Park Drive
Sacramento, CA 95827
Phone: (800) 321-2752
San Francisco Investigative Center
301 Junipero Serra Boulevard.
Suite 206
San Francisco, CA 94127

How Much Do You Charge Compared to Other General Contractors in the City?

General contractors in San Francisco base their pricing on a range of factors. In San Francisco, the following factors can have a big impact on how much it will cost to hire a general contractor:

  • Labor charges
  • Project type
  • Site conditions and accessibility
  • The caliber of the site plans and construction designs
  • The location of the project within the city
  • The cost of the project's licenses
  • The price of the necessary materials
  • The project's nature and scope
  • The project's urgency

Before making your final hiring decisions, getting project estimates from at least three local general contractors and comparing their prices makes perfect sense. Once the job begins, doing this could help you avoid a lot of headaches. When putting together their estimates for services, general contractors commonly employ the following pricing strategies:

  • Lump Sum Pricing: Under this strategy, the contractor often offers a single price for all of the agreed-upon services. When using this form of cost prediction, the contractor raises the markup to account for unforeseen circumstances. This kind of fee is often given to projects having a clear scope. Using the lump sum pricing technique, you won't have to worry about accruing extra costs as the project progresses.
  • Cost Plus Pricing: With this method, the client pays the contractor in full for the materials, labor, and support services in addition to a predetermined percentage of the project's overall cost. Under this method, the general contractor typically receives between 10% and 20% of the project's overall cost. Because the customer stands to win if the project's real cost turns out to be less than anticipated, this pricing strategy is appropriate for projects with an ambiguous overall scope. However, if the job ends up costing more than anticipated, the client will be required to pay more.

Never hire the contractor who offered the lowest price simply because they are the least expensive. You should not do this because some dishonest contractors deliberately offer low quotes to lure customers in before increasing costs after work has begun. Another trick con artists use to try to get your money with no work on their side is this one. Always take into account other variables, like the reputation and level of experience of the contractor, as well as the kinds and levels of services they plan to provide at the costs they are demanding.

General Contractors in San Francisco earn an estimated annual average wage of $71,670. The list below compares the average hourly wage of these contractors with those of general contractors in other parts of California and other locations across the United States:

San Francisco General Contractors Average Hourly Wage
Los Angeles General Contractors Average Hourly Wage
San Jose General Contractors Average Hourly Wage
San Diego General Contractors Average Hourly Wage
Sacramento General Contractors Average Hourly Wage
Oakland General Contractors Average Hourly Wage
New York City General Contractors Average Hourly Wage
Chicago General Contractors Average Hourly Wage
Houston General Contractors Average Hourly Wage
Phoenix General Contractors Average Hourly Wage
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Kind of General Contractor Services Do You Offer?

In San Francisco, general contractors are frequently hired to perform construction-related activities. Despite this being true, the particular contractor and the project for which they are hired tend to have a stronger influence on the particular services that these contractors provide. But many reliable general contractors in the city regularly offer these essential services:

  • Deliver the tools and supplies needed for the task.
  • Ensure that every step of the construction project is wholly and meticulously documented.
  • Make cost projections prior to the project's start.
  • Monitor the quality of the work being done.
  • Organize with suppliers and vendors.
  • Plan the administrative aspects of the project, including scheduling, cash flow, and labor payments.
  • Use as many workers as the project calls for.
  • Use specialized subcontractors as required.
  • Verify that the necessary permits are in hand.
  • Verify that the project complies with all relevant construction and safety codes.
  • When necessary, perform actual building, repair, and remodeling work.

It is always a fantastic idea to inquire about the services a general contractor will provide for your construction project before getting into any agreements with them. The general contractor may be able to finish the project with their own team depending on its size, or they may need to employ a subcontractor to undertake specific tasks. Keep in mind that a general contractor may occasionally need to hire these subcontractors from outside of their team if they are unable to find someone qualified to fill the position. The contract should be discussed and agreed upon before being signed.

Subcontractors are frequently hired to perform construction-related activities, such as plumbing, electrical work, HVAC installation, carpentry, and roofing, for which the general contractor or workforce may not have the necessary expertise. There are a number of important differences between general contractors and subcontractors who work on construction projects, including the following:

General Contractors Subcontractors
Most of the time, they communicate directly with the clients that engaged them. They often work for general contractors and don't have direct contact with the project owner.
Monitors the project as a whole and may perform ordinary building duties. Work on the project's unique components
Usually, they are not required to have any special expertise May call for specific skills and knowledge.
Obtains payment directly from the project owner. Gets paid through the general contractor.

Will You Get the Necessary Permits as Required per the City Code?

All phases of granting permits in San Francisco are handled by the Department of Building Inspection's Permit Services. Through their services, projected construction is guaranteed to promptly and professionally meet all safety criteria. Every application for a building permit is examined by the Department of Building Inspection for compliance with building codes and life safety. To submit your application, stop by the Permit Center.

Simple projects use an over-the-counter permit application, whereas complex projects use an in-house permit application. Kitchen, bathroom, and other home remodeling projects, as well as door, window, roof replacement, deck, fence, and other external remodeling projects, are all eligible for over-the-counter permits.

To get started on obtaining an over-the-counter permit, determine if your project qualifies. The contractor should also ascertain if a building plan is required. Typically, a plan is required if you are :

  • Walls may be moved or the floor plan modified.
  • installing a new restroom
  • new laundry room construction
  • Adding usable space

Keep in mind that if the building project calls for one, you will need to engage a designer, architect, or engineer who can draw out the designs. You will also need to find out if your project requires earthquake safety improvements. Once all of that has been confirmed, you must select the form that best describes your involvement in the project, whether it be as an owner, contractor, or authorized agent. Print them out and bring them with you when you apply for a building permit.

You will also need to fill out:

The next step to take is to submit your application to the Permit Center. Take with you two sets of plans if any are required. You'll be given a building permit application number. Your application will be examined, your plans will be verified, and it will be personally routed to the relevant stations by the Permit Center. To complete your plans, you might have to return another day. You may also need to recheck and update your plans to meet plan check comments. Bear in mind that construction cannot begin until you obtain your job card and pay all required fees.

Be aware that the procedure for obtaining an in-house permit is similar. The Controller's Office will also require a labor compliance bond from you if your project will create 10 or more residential units. Additionally, you must register in order to track your construction trash for:

  • Constructions that are new
  • Constructions of more than 1,000 square foot additions
  • Changes or renovations that cost at least $200,000

For additional information on permits needed for general contractors in San Francisco, contact the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection at:

49 South Van Ness Avenue,
San Francisco CA 94103
Phone: (628) 652-3200

Do You Work with Subcontractors?

Always inquire about hiring subcontractors when choosing your preferred general contractor for your construction project. General contractors in San Francisco commonly need to work with subcontractors for the following reasons:

  • Cost-effectiveness.
  • Workplace productivity and adaptability
  • When neither they nor their workers are qualified or permitted to carry out particular technical tasks.
  • Obtaining funding for ambitious or varied projects

General contractors commonly subcontract the following industries for construction projects:

  • Appliance installation
  • Carpentry
  • Drywalling and insulation installation
  • Electrical work
  • HVAC installations
  • Mason work
  • Painting
  • Plumbing
  • Roofing
  • Welding
  • Window installation

Although the general contractor frequently selects these subcontractors, you should always take steps to ensure that you won't be held accountable if there are any problems between your main contractor and any subcontractors working on the project. The most prevalent causes of these issues include missed payments, subpar or inadequate service, and injury to the subcontractor.

A general contractor is jointly accountable under California law, as established in California Labor Code Section 218.7, for the failure of a subcontractor of any tier to pay the wages or fringe benefits owed to or on behalf of its employees. All private construction contracts are subject to this.

However, any penalties or liquidated damages are not covered by this liability. General contractors can somewhat prevent this by including subcontract clauses that allow them to more closely monitor the wage payment practices of their subcontractors, that permit them to withhold payments if they have a good faith concern about the non-payment of wages and benefits, and that expressly require their subcontractors to indemnify and defend them against non-payment claims.

If they are not paid, contractors, subcontractors, workers, and material suppliers may place what is known as a "mechanics lien" on the home of the homeowner. In order to avoid potential financial and legal issues, property owners can do the following:

  • Only work with licensed contractors and confirm their licensing status on the CSLB website.
  • Make sure the subcontractors your contractor hires are all licensed, and verify their licenses.
  • Check the reputation of your direct contractor for paying suppliers of materials and subcontractors, and search the local courts for lawsuits.
  • Obtain a list of all the laborers, material suppliers, and subcontractors your direct contractor will be using.
  • Ensure you get a schedule of payments that specifies the beginning and ending dates of several work stages as well as the cost of each section.
  • Make sure your contract names the laborers or subcontractors for each segment, as well as the suppliers of the materials.

Do You Carry the Necessary Insurance Policy for General Contractors in the City?

Given the 13 construction-related fatalities in San Francisco that were reported to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics between 2012 and 2013, it is only acceptable to see construction as a dangerous occupation that demands good caution and readiness for the worst-case scenario. Construction workers may experience serious safety dangers such as, but not limited to:

  • Accidents caused by flying and falling objects
  • Being outside in inclement weather
  • Electrocution
  • Exposure to dangerous compounds like asbestos and silica dust
  • Falls from a very high place
  • Uncomfortable working environments
  • Work-related cuts, rips, and lacerations brought on by tools and other sharp objects.

General contractors are obliged by law to have worker's compensation insurance for each employee they hire in San Francisco. A general liability policy should also be carried out by your general contractor because not having enough insurance coverage will put you at financial risk of being liable for injuries and damages related to your project. Be aware that general contractors must also post a $15,000 cash deposit or bond before the California CSLB can issue them a license.

If your general contractor doesn't have the required insurance, you run the risk of being held liable for any incidents they or any subcontractors working on your project cause. Due to this, it is usually in your best interest to confirm these documents with any general contractor in San Francisco that you decide to engage before they begin working on your project and to receive insurance confirmation.

You should get in contact with the contractor's insurance provider to determine whether the minimum insurance and bonding requirements are adequate for the scale of your project and to confirm that any subcontractors they hire are insured. To protect yourself against your general contractor's mistakes, also ensure they possess professional liability insurance.

Do You Provide a Warranty for Works Completed?

Warranties are offered to assure that the products and services customers purchase will function as intended. Warranties are also useful because they specify the conditions under which repairs or exchanges will be done if a product or service does not operate as promised or intended. Fundamentally, warranties give clients peace of mind that the service they are purchasing is reliable in the future. Two warranties are frequently provided by general contractors:

  • Explicit Warranty: This is a written assurance, sometimes referred to as an express warranty. It is frequently included in a project proposal or contract. An express promise is formed when a buyer learns about a good or service, and that information affects their choice to purchase the good or service.
  • Implied Warranty: The law recognizes implied warranties even when they are not expressly stated in writing. Implied warranties are widely employed in a variety of different sorts of building projects, whether or not a documented warranty is provided. They are regarded as the default warranty protection provided by the state.

Typically, the following warranty types are available:

  • Warranty on Tools and Materials: This guarantees that the tools and supplies used in construction are new, error-free, and will function as intended.
  • Workmanship Warranty: The project team and its subcontractors are committed to carrying out their tasks to the highest levels under this warranty.
  • Assurance of Habitability: The completed building or structure is warranted to be safe for habitation and appropriate for its intended use under this warranty. Usually, residential constructions are covered by this warranty.
  • Call-back Warranties: These warranties specify a window during which the homeowner and the builder can speak about any structural issues. It can take a year or longer, depending on the general contractor.
  • Vendor Warranty: This type of warranty, which normally covers those products, is provided by the firm that sells the fixtures and appliances in the building.
  • Design-Build Warranty: The design-build warranty frequently covers the services of project specialists like architects and engineers.

According to California law, a building's contractor and professionals must apply the same level of caution as reasonable tradespeople who are performing similar work. The property owner may take legal action against the builder and/or the professionals if a breach of this standard of care results in a construction defect that damages the property. It should be noted that this is true whether the owner bought the property directly from the builder or from a third party, like a previous owner or the developer.

In construction defect claims, a breach of an express warranty requires that the building contractor had actually provided the property owner with a particular warranty or that the property owner had signed a contract with the builder that specifically guaranteed the state or caliber of the building. The warranty is often in writing and outlines in the contract the duties and standards that must be met. In California, a written contract's four-year statute of limitations might be extended if the aggrieved party was unaware of the breach and could not have been expected to know about it.

Additionally, California imposes an implied warranty that works done on new buildings should be carried out in a reasonable and workmanlike manner in accordance with industry standards and legal requirements. Also, take note that proving a flaw resulting from poor planning, building, or preparation is sufficient to prove the builder's or developer's culpability and a breach of this implied warranty.

How long a lawsuit can be filed depends on California law. The time frame for bringing a claim for a building defect against the builder is determined by:

  • the time frame following the property's substantial completion
  • the nature of the defect
  • when the owner of the property first became aware of the problem.

The statute of limitations for hidden faults that cannot reasonably be expected to be detected by the owner is relatively lengthy, frequently surpassing ten years in certain situations. These statutes of limits regulations can be quite challenging to comprehend and apply, and ideas like concealed faults can result in lengthier statutes of limitations, which are typically still limited to 10 years, even if discovered later.

Keep in mind that within the four-year statute of limitations, the homeowner is expected to bring a case in San Francisco for a claim of warranty breach. However, arbitration is typically utilized to resolve disputes when the parties are unable to agree on the length of the warranty. To resolve these disputes, arbitration may be a less expensive and time-consuming option than going to court.

Can You Provide References of Clients Served in San Francisco?

You can ask friends and family who have completed comparable projects for referrals for general contractors in San Francisco, explore the web, or get in touch with reputable trade groups and organizations like:

  • The Associated General Contractors of California
  • The Building Industry Association Bay Area
  • The National Association of Home Builders
  • The Associated General Contractors of America

Before signing any hiring contracts, regardless of how you get in touch with them, you should always request references from nearby general contractors. You should ask for references from previous clients that a general contractor has worked with if you want to evaluate their professionalism, honesty, level of experience, and service performance. You shouldn't engage a general contractor if they are unable to provide references. This is most often a sign of poor service delivery and may even be a sign that the contractor is a fraudster.

It is crucial to remember that to gain first-hand opinions and feedback on the general contractor and how they carry out their services, you should always get in touch with the references given to you. You should conduct additional research on the contractor on unbiased review sites like Yelp, Google Reviews, and your local Better Business Bureau. To find out more about any complaints made against the general contractor and the details of those complaints, get in touch with the California Attorney General's Office.

What Is the Expected Timeline for This Project?

Selecting an educated and experienced general contractor in San Francisco is ideal because these professionals can frequently provide you with a projected completion date. Along with assisting you in effectively managing your building project, the provision of an estimated timeline can really help to move the project along quickly. The following factors must be taken into account because they frequently have an impact on how much a capable general contractor will bill for a project:

  • Modifications to the project's scope or plan
  • Permits and inspections
  • The availability of construction labor, supplies, and subcontractors
  • Type and extent of the project
  • Type and extent of the project

Any construction project's success and effective use of resources hinges on a precise time estimate that accounts for the project's high points. The following are some benefits of creating a schedule for a building project:

  • It aids in preventing miscommunication with your general contractor.
  • It allows the contractor the flexibility to develop strategies to reduce project delays and gives you time to prepare for any eventualities.
  • It increases the efficiency of task assignment and fulfillment.
  • It gives you time to plan for such things as moving, having a kid, retiring, and getting married.
  • It is simpler to monitor the project's development and ensure that the contractor isn't purposefully creating delays.
  • Costs are decreased while production is increased.

How to File a Complaint Against a Bad General Contractor in the City

Consumers in the city can contact the California Contractor State License Board (CSLB) with complaints regarding construction and general contractors in San Francisco. Complaints about your general contractor can also be sent to the Consumer Protection division of the California Office of the Attorney General, which also investigates consumer rights. You can also direct your complaints to the San Francisco District Attorney.

SFGate, a digital publication of the San Francisco Chronicle, reported in June 2016 that a man who had been collecting $110,000 from a family over the course of a year in San Francisco's Inner Richmond while acting as a licensed contractor had been charged with felony grand larceny. Eventually, the California Contractor State Licensing Board learned about the man.

In San Francisco, dishonest contractors and con artists regularly prey on trusting homeowners using a variety of deceptive techniques intended to deceive them into parting with their money. One of the following tactics will be employed by the typical general contractor fraud:

  • Exaggerates the cost of particular services
  • Offers a faulty and incomplete contract
  • Provides multiple contracts in hopes it will confuse the homeowner
  • Requests for a sizable advance payment
  • Arranges with third parties to provide high-rate financing for your project
  • Provides fake or unverifiable credentials
  • Suggests that licenses are not required

Before they start any work, you can confirm the legitimacy of your preferred general contractor by conducting the following:

  • Check Contractor License: Use the California Contractor State Licence Board's license check portal to confirm the general contractor's licensing status. Inform the board immediately if you cannot locate the desired contractor.
  • Collect Numerous Quotations: Before starting any project, getting several estimates from general contractors is essential. A written estimate should include a description of the work to be done, the materials to be utilized, a completion date, and a cost. Don't just pick the lowest bidder when you get them. Ask your insurance company to confirm the amount and provide an explanation in its stead. They will give you a price estimate.
  • Check Online for Customer Reviews of the Company: It is important to conduct extensive research because it could help you avoid falling for a scam. Look up the contractor's profile on sites like the Better Business Bureau. In the future, use search engines like Google and Yelp to find skilled general contractors. Avoid contractors who don't have a website or who only provide references from other sources.
  • Insist on a Detailed Contract: Get a well-detailed contract for the project before any work starts. Ensure that it includes a timeline for the project, the types of materials and equipment to be used, its total cost, and warranty information.
  • Avoid Paying in Full Up Front: A down payment may be requested by reputable contractors, but you shouldn't give them the total money until the job is complete. If necessary, put down 10% of the whole amount. When possible, avoid paying with cash and defer making the final payment until you are satisfied with the project and it is in agreement with your contract.
  • Get Contractor Recommendations: Ask for referrals from people you know and trust. Ask your family members and close friends who they used for similar jobs and how it went. From their recommendations, you may reasonably infer what to expect from these contractors.
  • Steer Clear of Door-to-door Sales Pitches: Even while they can knock on doors, legitimate contractors do not do so as frequently as con artists. These con artists are very likely to convince you that they have unsold stock from previous tasks, saving you money. They frequently act dishonestly in an effort to take advantage of vulnerable and uninformed homeowners, so stay away from them at all costs.

Fill out an online construction complaint form and submit it to the California Contractor State Licensing Board if you believe you are dealing with an unscrupulous contractor or have been a victim of general contractor fraud in San Francisco.

You can also direct your online complaints to the California Attorney General's Office.

You may also contact the San Francisco District Attorney by submitting a complaint form online.

Bear in mind that resolution is not guaranteed, even if these organizations are able to help you pursue financial compensation for the dishonest general contractor's acts. Remember that none of the aforementioned organizations can speak in the legal system on your behalf. However, the San Francisco Superior Court is where you should file a lawsuit if you wish to recover money from the contractor. If you are considering suing the contractor privately, you can get in touch with The Bar Association of San Francisco online or by calling (415) 982-1600 to ask for recommendations for knowledgeable lawyers who can outline your options and assist you with the process.