Hire a professional builder
On July 1, 2008, an important law went into effect in the State of Georgia: Builder Licensing. Prior to the law’s enactment, there were state licensed plumbing, electrical, and conditioned air (heating & air) contractors. However, anyone with a truck and a hammer could call themselves a “builder.” This was a major problem regarding ensuring the quality of construction performed and protecting consumers. Now that the law is in place, there are standards for becoming a licensed builder: passing a rigorous exam, meeting a experience qualifications, financial requirements and carrying Worker’s Compensation and General Liability Insurance. To further improve the system, starting in 2010, continuing education will be required to maintain a license.
Unfortunately, even for those who are aware of builder licensing, there are some major misconceptions about who can perform specific types of work. Most homeowners know that if you want to hire someone to install a new furnace, they need to be a licensed conditioned air contractor. You need an electrical panel upgraded, hire a licensed electrician. Major plumbing? Hire a licensed plumber. Need a deck built? Hire….some guy with a saw. Wrong.
A licensed builder is not someone who just constructs a new structure. A licensed builder also deals with work on an existing structure. Some examples of projects around your home that would require a licensed builder: build an addition, finish out a basement, moving a wall, installing larger windows than those existing, enclosing a garage, adding a door, building or repairing a deck, building a permanent outbuilding, etc. Any time you need “structural” work done or you are coordinating subcontractors, you need a licensed builder.
There is one exception: The requirement for a licensed builder is waived if you are personally performing the work on your own primary residence. However, if the property is anything other than your primary residence, you cannot act as the builder or general contractor. Rental properties, house flipping, offices, vacation homes, etc. do not count as your primary residence.
There are a lot of advantages to hiring a li- censed Builder. First, you know they are insured. If a worker gets hurt on the job or the property is damaged, the builder is responsible, not you. Second, they know the applicable building codes. This means that the job is performed at or above code requirements and will pass inspection (we’ll deal with permits and inspections another time). Next, a licensed builder is not going to be a “fly-bynight” guy with a truck; he/she is operating a state licensed professional business. Finally, you have a warranty. In fact, you have a two-tiered warranty. The builder will warranty the work (state minimum is 1 year) and is responsible for correcting deficiencies and damages related to the deficiencies. If for some reason the builder were not reachable, you would also have the warranty of the subcontractor (as applicable).
The big question: how do you find a licensed Builder and know that they are actually licensed? An easy local reference is to contact the Newton County Home Builders Association at (770) 7863333. They can provide you a list of licensed builders in the area. You can also check the Georgia Secretary of State’s Web site for a state-wide list. Any licensed builder should be able to readily provide copies of their license and insurance. You need to see these prior to any work being performed.