Get Quotes from Top General Contractor in San Jose, CA

Questions to Ask Before Hiring a General Contractor in San Jose

Are you looking to renovate your home or even build a new one? Your choice of a general contractor will significantly impact the outcome of this project. For a fee of 10 – 20 percent of the total value of your project, or an average wage of $53.86 per hour, a professional San Jose general contractor will ensure that

  • Your project is completed on time and within budget
  • You are spared the stress of coordinating several subcontractors, materials suppliers and vendors, and laborers
  • Your available resources are allocated properly
  • The work being done conforms to relevant local construction codes and standards
  • The occurrence of on-the-job injuries is reduced to the barest minimum

However asking the following questions during your search for professional general contractors in San Jose can help ensure that you end up hiring one that is licensed, properly insured, and has the right level of experience to ensure that your project is executed successfully:

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

General contractors who wish to operate in San Jose are required to obtain state-issued occupational licenses from the California Contractors State License Board (CSLB) before they bid for or work on projects valued at $500 or more. Note that this monetary value includes the cost of materials and labor required for the execution of the project. General contractors that provide services worth $500 or more without an appropriate CSLB-issued license can face statutory and administrative penalties, including fines of up to $15,000, jail time of up to six months, or a combination of both.

The CSLB currently has four main license classifications, and general contractors that wish to be licensed by this agency can choose one or more of these license types, depending on the nature of construction services that they intend to offer:

  • Class A – General Engineering Contractor: this license type is required for specialized engineering projects
  • Class B- General Building Contractor: this license type is required for individuals who wish to manage, oversee, or supervise construction and home renovation projects that require the use of at least two unrelated building trades or crafts. General contractors who obtain this license are also authorized to perform carpentry or framing work in these projects.
  • Class B2 - Residential Remodeling Contractor: this license type is issued to individuals who wish to manage, oversee, or supervise home renovation, remodeling, or improvement projects that require the use of at least three unrelated building trades and crafts. General contractors with this license are authorized to perform nonstructural work as well as minor electrical, plumbing, and mechanical system alterations in these projects.
  • Class C – Specialty Contractor: this license type is required to perform specific construction and home renovation work, many of which may require specialized skills and knowledge. Note that individuals who hold specialty contractor licenses are only authorized to provide the services specified on these licenses

Parties that wish to apply for contractor licenses from the CSLB have to meet certain criteria, which include:

  • Being no less than 18 years old
  • Possessing either a valid Social Security Number or an individual taxpayer identification number
  • Attaining at least four years of relevant construction-related work experience, knowledge, and skills

Parties that meet these eligibility criteria can subsequently obtain CSLB-issued licenses by taking the following steps:

  • Completing and submitting an Application for Original Contractor License Form, along with a non-refundable application fee, to the board
  • Providing acceptable documentation to verify that the minimum required work experience has been attained. Note that this experience must be obtained within 10 years from when the license application is being made.
  • Undergoing a mandatory background check
  • Sitting for and passing CSLB-administered licensing examinations. These examinations typically consist of a Business and Law portion and a Trade portion. However, the board operates a reciprocity program that allows eligible candidates with valid state-issued contractor licenses from Arizona, Nevada, and Louisiana to waive the trade portion of its licensing examination.
  • Providing proof of compliance with the board's mandatory insurance and bond requirements

Queries related to the CSLB's licensing process for general contractors can be directed to the board at (800) 321-2752.

Confirming that a general contractor has been appropriately licensed by the CSLB is an important step to take when determining their suitability for your construction or home renovation project, and you should always do this before signing any agreements with them. You can verify the licensing status of San Jose general contractors by contacting the CSLB at (800) 321-2752 or by utilizing the Check a License platform that the board makes accessible online for this purpose.

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

The cost of hiring a general contractor in San Jose is usually influenced by certain key factors, such as:

  • The type of project to be undertaken
  • The scope of the project
  • The types and cost of materials needed for the project
  • Labor costs
  • Availability of resources
  • The location of the project
  • The urgency of the project
  • The quality of available construction plans, site plans, building drawings, and other similar documents
  • Accessibility to the project site
  • The condition of the project site

General contractors in the city typically charge clients a percentage of the project's total value, which usually falls between 10 and 20 percent. However, some of these contractors may charge hourly rates for their services. Regardless of the charging method utilized by the contractor, these charges are usually calculated with one of the following structures:

  • Fixed Price Fee Structure: contractors that utilize this fee structure bid for projects at a stipulated price, and if this bid is accepted, this is what the client will be expected to pay. An advantage of this fee structure is that it allows the client to know exactly how much they will be expected to spend on the project.
  • Time and Material Fee Structure: under this structure, the contractor sets an hourly rate for workers involved in the project and also provides rates for materials to be used, along with a markup for these rates. In some cases, a "do-not-exceed" clause may be included to limit the maximum number of labor hours allowed per day or week if the project goes beyond its projected timeline.
  • Cost Plus Fee Structure: the key difference between the time and material fee structure and the cost plus fee structure is that the contractor does not include a markup for labor and materials in the cost plus fee structure. Instead, the contractor bills the actual cost for any labor, subcontractors, and materials used and bills a separate, predetermined fixed fee as their profit.

You should consider asking at least three different general contractors in the city for quotes and bids for your project and comparing these quotes before deciding on a general contractor to hire. This is an effective way to ensure that you do not get scammed by unscrupulous contractors who grossly inflate their charges. Note that you should not automatically hire the contractor that submits the lowest bid, and be suspicious if contractors with significantly lower bids cannot offer a reasonable explanation for these price differences. Also, ensure that any general contractor you end up hiring is appropriately licensed, reputable, and has experience handling similar projects.

General contractors in San Jose earn an estimated annual average wage of $112,020. 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 Jose General Contractors Average Hourly Wage
Los Angeles General Contractors Average Hourly Wage
San Diego General Contractors Average Hourly Wage
San Francisco General Contractors Average Hourly Wage
Sunnyvale 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
Washington D.C. General Contractors Average Hourly Wage
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Kind of General Contractor Services Do You Offer?

San Jose general contractors typically offer a wide range of services to clients, which include:

  • Providing cost estimates for projects
  • Coordinating with materials suppliers and vendors
  • Making arrangements for necessary labor and materials needed to execute the project
  • Hiring subcontractors to provide specialized services, where necessary
  • Making sure that all required permits are pulled
  • Ensuring that the work complies with relevant building regulations and safety measures
  • Overseeing the quality of work being done
  • Ensuring that project timelines are met
  • Overseeing administrative aspects of the project. This includes cash flow, work schedules, and payroll management.
  • Ensuring that proper records of all project-related documents are kept
  • Performing actual construction and renovation work, where necessary

Note that the specific nature and scope of services that general contractors in the city are equipped to provide varies by contractor, client, and project. As such, you should always find out the types of services that your preferred general contractors offer their clients and agree on the scope of these services before signing any contracts with them.

Be aware that, depending on the scope of your project, your general contractor may be able to get the job done with an in-house crew, or they may have to outsource certain parts of the project to subcontractors. This typically happens in situations where either the general contractor or members of their in-house crew are not licensed to carry out the particular task or lack the required knowledge to do so effectively. Plumbing, HVAC installation, roofing, electrical work, and rough carpentry are examples of construction and home renovation work that commonly require the services of qualified subcontractors.

The table below lists crucial differences between general contractors and subcontractors that are involved in San Jose construction and home renovation projects:

General Contractors Subcontractors
Usually hired by the project owner and interact directly with them Usually hired by general contractors and do not interact directly with the project owner
Oversee the entire project and may perform general construction activities Work on specific aspects of the project
Do not usually require specialized knowledge May require specialized knowledge and expertise
Receive payment directly from the project owner Payment is usually received through a general contractor

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

Per the provisions of Title 24 of the San Jose Code of Ordinances, also referred to as the city's Technical Codes, permits are required for the construction, alteration, improvement, and modification of buildings, structures, and building service equipment in the city. This building service equipment includes plumbing, electrical, and mechanical systems and equipment. However, permit exemptions may be made for work involving surface or cosmetic improvements, minor repairs and replacements, and small structures, such as:

  • Constructing detached accessory structures that are not more than 120 square feet and will not be electrically wired
  • Painting, papering, carpeting, tiling, cabinets, countertops, and similar finish work
  • Replacing, repairing, or overlaying less than 25 percent of an existing roof within any twelve-month period
  • Constructing fences that are not more than seven feet high and retaining walls that are not more than four feet high when measured from the bottom of the footing to the top of the wall.
  • Installing prefabricated swimming pools in single-family residences, provided that these pools are above-ground and do not hold more than 5,000 gallons.
  • Electrical outlet, faucet, and toilet replacements

The San Jose Planning, Building, and Code Enforcement Department is responsible for issuing permits for construction and home renovation projects in the city, and performing these kinds of projects without the required permits can result in a $1,000 citation. Permits can be obtained by either licensed contractors, property owners, or authorized agents acting on behalf of a property owner, and the department offers eligible permit applicants several permit services and options based on the scope of their intended projects:

  • ADU Permit Service: this service is specifically for projects involving accessory dwelling units
  • Simple Project Permit Service: this service is utilized for home renovation and improvement projects that do not involve structural changes to the building or structure
  • Over-the-Counter Permit Service: this service is solely for residential projects and can be used for projects under this category that do not involve major structural changes to the building or structure and use conventional framing and codes
  • Plan Review Permit Service: this service is used for new construction and residential or commercial renovation projects that involve major structural changes to the building or structure
  • STI/ITI Expedited Plan Review Service: this service is solely for office, R&D, and industrial projects, as well as projects that involve industrial tool installations
  • Resubmittal/Revision Service: this service is for permit applicants who have already gone through an initial project submission and wish to either resubmit plans or submit revised plans for already permitted projects
  • Approved Permit Issuance: this service is for permit applicants with already reviewed and approved plans who need to provide certain outstanding documents before they can be issued their requested permits

Eligible parties that wish to obtain permits from the Planning, Building, and Code Enforcement Department may do so via the following steps:

The completed application form, prepared plans, and any other necessary additional forms, documents, and fees should be submitted in person at the department's Development Services Permit Center located at:

San Jose City Hall
200 E. Santa Clara Street
San Jose, CA 95113
Phone: (408) 535-3555

Note that applicants are expected to book an appointment with the center via the phone number provided above before submitting their permit applications and supporting documents. Alternatively, permit applicants with projects that fall under the department's simple projects category can submit their permit applications online through its SJPermits portal. However, these applicants must register a user account on this portal before doing this.

It should also be noted permit applicants are typically required to schedule inspections with authorized officials of the Planning, Building, and Code Enforcement Department after obtaining their permits. These inspections are conducted to ensure compliance with relevant construction codes and standards, and the precise kinds of inspections required for a project depend on its nature and scope. Some benefits of complying with the city's permitting and inspection requirements for your construction and home renovation projects include:

  • It ensures that the construction or renovation meets pertinent safety codes.
  • It helps you avoid non-compliance sanctions
  • It limits your exposure to additional and avoidable liability and costs
  • It helps protect your construction or remodeling investment

Queries related to the San Jose permitting and inspection process for construction and home renovation projects can be directed to the city's Planning, Building, and Code Enforcement Department at (408) 535-3555, (408) 535-7641, or via email.

Do You Work with Subcontractors?

General contractors in San Jose commonly hire subcontractors on projects that they supervise or oversee to work on areas like:

  • Electrical work
  • Plumbing
  • HVAC installations
  • Carpentry
  • Roofing
  • Flooring
  • Painting
  • Welding
  • Door and window installations
  • Flooring and floor covering installations
  • Appliance installation
  • Drywall and insulation installation

Some reasons for hiring these subcontractors:

  • To tackle aspects of the job that require specialized knowledge and skills
  • To increase their job productivity
  • To enhance the cost efficiency of the project
  • To get expert assistance on complex, large, or diverse projects
  • To increase their flexibility and allow them to focus on other aspects of the project
  • To mitigate project risks
  • To perform services that they are not appropriately licensed to offer

Before hiring any general contractors in the city, make sure to confirm whether they will also be hiring subcontractors for your project and the aspects of the project that these subcontractors will be working on. This way, you can avoid any disagreements between the general contractor and the subcontractors, such as late payments or improperly done work, and insulate yourself from any liabilities that may arise from these issues.

Note that, per Section 218.8 of the California Labor Code, general contractors are liable for any debts, unpaid wages, and other fringe benefits owed to subcontractors and other individuals hired by these subcontractors for the project. While this law affords you a level of protection from dishonest general contractors who withhold payments to subcontractors, you are still exposed to liabilities if these subcontractors have placed a lien on your property.

Per Sections 8160 – 8848 of the California Civil Code, homeowners in San Jose with liens placed on their property are ultimately responsible for unpaid wages to subcontractors, material suppliers, vendors, or laborers who work on their construction or home renovation projects. This responsibility holds even if you have already made the payments for these services to the general contractor.

Having liens placed on your property may lead to several frustrating issues, such as:

  • Paying for the same services twice
  • Having your property foreclosed
  • Difficulty borrowing against, refinancing, or selling your property

To this end, it is always in your best interest to completely avoid the time and money-consuming process of having to dispute liens on your property by taking the following precautionary steps when hiring general contractors in San Jose:

  • Valid licensing: make sure that the general contractor you plan to hire has been properly licensed by the California Contractors State License Board
  • Due Diligence: ensure that you carry out proper research on the general contractor and make sure that they have a good local reputation before signing any contracts with them
  • Written contracts: always insist on a written contract for your project and make sure that it identifies each subcontractor, material supplier, vendor, and laborer involved in the project, as well as the nature of services that they will be providing. The contract should also include a timeline for each portion of the project, the cost of these portions, and the total cost of the project, as well as a payment for each project milestone.
  • Timely payments: make sure that you pay your general contractor on time for the subcontractors, material suppliers, and laborers' services
  • Preliminary notices: request preliminary notices from each subcontractor and material supplier involved in the project that state the nature of services they intend to offer.
  • Get lien waivers and releases: request signed lien waivers and releases for each payment that you make. These documents help you avoid liens claims for already made payments and effectively ensure your general contractor's accountability.
  • Notice of completion: file a notice of completion with the Santa Clara County Recorder's Office after the work is finished. Doing this will shorten the time that any third parties have to file a liens claim against your property. However, it should be noted that this notice of completion must be filed no later than 15 days after the work is finished.

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

A total of 464 fatal injuries were recorded in California's construction industry between 2013 and 2019, and 92 construction-related occupational fatalities were recorded in 2020 alone. Several physical and safety hazards contribute to the high-risk nature of the construction industry, and these include:

  • Working from heights
  • Slips, trips, and falls
  • Electrocutions
  • Exposure to loud and repetitive noises
  • Awkward working positions
  • Cuts, tears, and lacerations
  • Exposure to extreme weather conditions on work sites
  • Exposure to harmful chemicals and airborne fibers and materials
  • Injuries from moving or swinging objects and falling debris

Hiring uninsured or inadequately insured general contractors in San Jose makes you responsible for bodily injuries, property damages, and any other adverse work-related events that may occur during your construction or home renovation project.

To this end, you should always ensure that your intended general contractor has complied with the California Contractors State License Board (CSLB) mandatory insurance and bond requirements before finalizing any hiring arrangements with them. These requirements include:

In addition to this, general contractors who wish to perform renovation work on existing residential properties are required by law to inform their clients on whether or not they carry commercial general liability insurance. This insurance is important as it covers third-party bodily injury and accidental property damage, and you should always make sure that your general contractor carries it, regardless of the nature and scope of your project. It is also a good idea to determine if the contractor carries professional liability insurance to cover defects or errors caused by negligence.

You can verify your general contractor's insurance and bonding status by requesting copies of their insurance and bond certificates and contacting the issuers of these certificates to authenticate them. You can also contact the CSLB at (800) 321-2752 to get additional information on its insurance and bond requirements for general contractors operating in San Jose.

Do You Provide a Warranty for Works Completed?

When making hiring arrangements with general contractors in San Jose, you should always find out the types of warranties that you will be offered at the end of your project. Professional general contractors in the city typically offer their clients several types of warranties that assure them of the quality of the goods and services used in relation to their projects. These warranties come in two main categories, namely:

  • Explicit warranties
  • Implied warranties

Explicit warranties refer to written warranties that are usually included in the bid or contract the general contractor issues for the project. On the other hand, implied warranties are non-written warranties that generally occur in every construction and home renovation project undertaken in the city. Note that these types of warranties are recognized by law regardless of whether or not the general contractor eventually offers an explicit warranty. Common subcategories of both warranties include:

  • Call-back warranties: these warranties set specific timeframes during which clients can call back their general contractor to rectify any problems that they discover in their projects, usually at no additional cost to them
  • Warranty of habitability: this warranty is typically offered for residential projects, and it guarantees that the building or structure in question is safe to occupy and use for its intended purpose
  • Materials and equipment warranties: these types of warranties are issued for materials and items used for the project and are offered to guarantee that these materials and items are new, defect-free, and will perform as specified
  • Vendor warranties: these warranties are usually issued by product and appliance manufacturers or suppliers
  • Workmanship warranties: workmanship warranties are offered as a guarantee that the work done by subcontractors and laborers is optimal and of a high standard
  • Design-build warranties: these warranties are typically issued by design professionals like engineers and architects to cover any services that they provide in relation to the project in question

Note that Section 900 of the California Civil Code requires general contractors to offer a one-year written warranty that covers the 'fit to finish' of the following items in new construction projects:

  • Cabinets
  • Interior and exterior walls
  • Mirrors
  • Paint finishes
  • Countertops
  • Trim
  • Flooring

Section 896 of this code also makes provisions for several other new construction warranty coverage. These include:

  • Manufactured products, irrigation, drainage, and landscaping systems for one year
  • Untreated wood posts and dryer ducts for two years
  • Plumbing and sewer systems, electrical systems, exterior pathways, driveways, hardscape, sidewalls, sidewalks, and patios, untreated steel fences, and adjacent components that cause unreasonable corrosion for four years
  • Paints and stains that cause deterioration of the building's surfaces for five years

Warranties typically come with terms and conditions, and you should always take care so that you do not void them. In situations where your general contractor breaches any of these warranties, you can file a claim against them to seek damages. Note that, per Sections 337.1 and 337.15 of the California Code of Civil Procedure, you must file these claims no later than four years after the project in question was substantially completed for patent defects and 10 years for latent defects. However, this statute of repose on latent defects does not apply to claims based on willful misconduct or fraudulent concealment.

Can You Provide References of Clients Served in San Jose?

Before retaining the services of any general contractor in San Jose, you should always ask them to provide you with verifiable references of past clients that they have served in the area. This is an effective way to get first-hand reviews on their reliability, competence, and service delivery, and professional general contractors in the city will not hesitate to provide you with this information. Be wary of any general contractor that cannot provide you with up to three verifiable local references, as this is a strong indication that they do not provide their services satisfactorily. Also, never skip out on asking and contacting references, regardless of whether the general contractor was recommended to you by friends and family, platforms like the CSLB's Find My Licensed Contractor portal, or organizations like:

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

In addition to requesting references from your general contractor, you can get extra reviews and testimonials on them through platforms like the Better Business Bureau, Yelp, Google Review, and other similar websites that allow interested parties to publish their opinions and reviews on local professionals and businesses in the area.

What Is the Expected Timeline for This Project?

One major benefit of hiring skilled and experienced general contractors for your construction or home renovation projects in the city is that they not only help you come up with a practical timeline but also ensure that the project is concluded within this timeframe. Note that the timelines for construction and home renovation projects in San Jose are generally affected by factors like:

  • The specific nature and scope of the project
  • Availability of resources like funds, necessary materials, laborers, and subcontractors
  • The time of year and weather conditions
  • Ease of access to the project site
  • Changes and modifications to the scope of the project once it commences
  • Regulatory requirements like permits and inspections

Having a set timeline for your project affords you the following benefits:

  • Easier project monitoring
  • Better budget/cost control
  • Increased work efficiency
  • Timely identification of possible delays
  • Proper task allocation and execution
  • Ease of planning for future events, such as births, weddings, visits from friends and relatives, relocations, and retirements
  • Reduced room for misunderstandings and disputes on project milestones

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

You can file complaints against bad general contractors in San Jose locally with the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office and also at the state level with the California Contractors State License Board (CSLB).

In 2018, media station ABC 7 reported that a contractor couple had swindled consumers in San Jose out of more than $800,000 in what was dubbed the largest contractor scam in California at the time. Similarly, in June 2022, the CSLB announced that statewide sweeps and stings it had conducted in Santa Clara County and several other locations across California had led to 142 legal actions being taken against offending contractors in these areas.

Construction and home renovation scams are one of the top complaints filed by residents of the San Jose area, and unscrupulous general contractors constantly come up with several new methods to scam unsuspecting consumers in the city. Some common techniques used by these unscrupulous contractors to pull off these scams include:

  • Falsifying their license status and performing work outside the scope of their licenses
  • Failing to pull all necessary permits for projects
  • Requesting full payment upfront and abandoning the project before it is completed
  • Failing to pay subcontractors, materials suppliers, and vendors
  • Grossly exaggerating the cost of materials needed for the project or pressuring clients to pay for unnecessary goods and services
  • Quoting rates for high-quality materials and using inferior or substandard materials instead
  • Insisting on verbal contracts or including malicious clauses in written contracts
  • Conspiring with third parties to get clients to sign up for cut-throat financing options

To avoid falling victim to these scams and ensure that you hire a legitimate general contractor, you should consider the following tips:

  • Always verify your contractor's licensing status. You can do this online or by calling (800) 321-2752
  • Always confirm that your contractor is properly insured and bonded
  • Always look up your contractor on the CSLB's Most Wanted List and make sure that they are not listed in it
  • Always request and check references
  • Always do your due diligence on the contractor. You do this by using websites like the Better Business Bureau and Google Review to get independent reviews and testimonials on them

Other tips that can help you avoid construction and home renovation scams in San Jose include:

Do's Don'ts
Get referrals to general contractors in the city from trusted sources like relatives and friends. You can also use online directories provided by reputable organizations like the NAHB, the AGC, and the BBB to do this. Do not hire unsolicited contractors.
Get and compare written quotes and bids for your project from at least three different general contractors before making your hiring decision Do not automatically hire the general contractor that submits the lowest quote or bid for the project
Get a well-detailed contract for the project before any work starts. Make sure that it includes a timeline for the project, the types of materials and equipment to be used, its total cost, and warranty information Do not hire general contractors who cannot provide you with up to three local and verifiable references
Review contracts, warranties, and other written documents that you are issued thoroughly before signing them Do not make full payment for the project upfront. Limit advance payments to a maximum of $1,000 or 10 percent of the total cost of the project, whichever is less, and ensure that this advance is made payable only when the project materials arrive
Verify that the project has been completed satisfactorily and per the terms of your contract before making final payments Do not let payments for the project get ahead of its progress and avoid cash transactions
Make sure that all subcontractors, suppliers, vendors, and workers involved in the project are paid Do not let the contractor arrange financing for the project
Request lien waivers from the general contractor and all subcontractors involved in the project Do not pull permits for the project by yourself. Permits should always be obtained by the general contractor or subcontractors where necessary

You can file complaints concerning construction and home renovation scams and other fraudulent activities of general contractors in San Jose by contacting the Consumer Protection Unit of the Santa Clara District Attorney's Office online or by completing and submitting a consumer complaint form to:

Santa Clara County
Office of the District Attorney
Mediation Services
Consumer Protection Unit
70 West Hedding Street
San Jose, CA 95110

Complaints concerning these types of matters can also be reported to the California Contractors State License Board by filing a construction complaint with this agency.

Likewise, you can also seek damages against the general contractor by pursuing private legal action against them at the Santa Clara County Superior Court. However, it is important to note that you should always get proper legal advice before taking this step. You can get referrals to licensed attorneys in the San Jose area by contacting the Santa Clara County Bar Association at (408) 971-6822 or by using the resources that the State Bar of California provides on its Need Legal Help webpage.