All ADU Resources

How to Choose the Right Contractor

There are general contractors, design firms, prefab ADU companies, & modular builders. Hillary Scott explains what to look out for when deciding on a builder

July 1, 2021

Choosing the right contractor is crucial to the success of any home renovation, addition, or ADU project. Whether you’re remodeling your kitchen, adding a new room, or building a detached ADU in your backyard, a skilled and reliable contractor will turn your vision into reality and deliver a great customer experience. On the other hand, a poor choice in contractor can lead to delays, unexpected costs, and subpar work. Read on to understand how to choose the right contractor for your project.

What To Look For in a Contractor

You’ll want to keep a few key considerations in mind when selecting a contractor:

Do They Have Experience in Your Project Type?

When looking for a contractor, it's important to assess the quantity and quality of their work. If you're doing a kitchen renovation, have they completed ample kitchen renovations? How does the quality of these projects seem? The construction process is distinct for each type of home construction project and requires specific expertise, so you'll want to ensure that your contractor has a track record of success for your project type.

Good news: Cottage connects you with vetted ADU contractors who have deep experience in your project type, and a track record of high-quality completed projects. Of the hundreds of contractors who have applied to our Builder Network, only 5% have met our standards in expertise and quality.

Did Their Previous Clients Have a Positive Experience?

A good general contractor will not hesitate to provide references to some of their past clients. These homeowners will have the best insight into what it’s like working with this builder.

Some helpful questions you can ask past clients include:

  • How was the contractor’s communication and transparency?
  • How often were they or the site manager on-site? (Keep in mind that general contractors have a lot of work behind the scenes, so they may not be present on your site every working day. However, your project manager should always be available to support you should anything arise.)
  • What kind of obstacles arose and how did your general contractor resolve them?
  • Did they stick to the timeline and budget?
  • Overall, were you happy with your experience working with this general contractor?

At Cottage, we recognize the challenge of finding a reliable contractor that checks all the boxes. Our vetting process includes speaking with prior clients to hear their experience first-hand, as well as reviewing the builder’s completed projects and assessing sample bids.

We’ve vetted countless contractors and selected the best to join our Builder Network. With Cottage, you’ll get multiple competitive bids from contractors who are the best fit for your project. Multiple bids not only means you’re getting the best value, but means you don’t need to research contractors yourself (saving you time and energy!).

Are They Licensed and Fully Insured?

Your state has requirements that all general contractors accepting jobs valued over a certain amount need to be fully licensed and insured to protect you as the homeowner. At Cottage, we make sure that all the contractors we work with hold the required licenses and insurance.

While your builder should be the expert of all things to do with construction, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with some of the local regulations for construction - whether you're taking on a renovation, addition, or ADUs - so that you can actively participate in the decision-making process and ensure compliance with local guidelines.

How Cottage Finds You Qualified Contractors

The ADU construction process is complicated, and you don’t have to take it from us. Hillary, an industry veteran with years of experience at CBRE, says: “With so many different parties involved in your ADU construction—architects, consultants, city permitting offices, and builders themselves—you want a team that knows how to navigate the whole system.”

You're in good hands with Cottage. At Cottage, we rigorously vet all potential contractors and ensure they not only deliver the highest quality work, but collaborate seamlessly with all the various stakeholders along the ADU journey.

Building an ADU? Consider These Additional Factors When Choosing a Contractor

An ADU is typically more complicated than your average renovation project, as it involves the construction of an entire new home. Given the added scope, be sure to keep these additional factors in mind when looking for an ADU contractor.

Is the ADU Construction Quality Exceptional?

High-quality build-quality is a non-negotiable for us here at Cottage, and it should be one of the top priorities when you choose an ADU builder. Having a solid foundation, wood framing, drywall, roofing, and custom finishes are essential items you need in ADU construction, and they’re a given for Cottage contractor partners. Still, although this should be a requirement for your project, it’s not necessarily guaranteed with prefab home and ADU companies.

With projects ranging from second homes for family members, home offices, or a new art studio to rental income ADUs, the contractors in Cottage's network have completed hundreds of high-quality ADUs for the full range of ADU use cases. Cottage provides each homeowner multiple competing bids from our network of vetted contractors. We rigorously review builders for quality, service, and value. Of hundreds of contractor applicants to our Builder Network, we've accepted only 5% that meet our standards in quality, communication, and value.

Is Project Capacity Guaranteed for Your ADU Project?

Finding a good contractor for ADU projects can be challenging, as smaller contractors are often driven by local demand and might be hard to secure at a fair price. When choosing an ADU builder, you'll want to find one that has the time and resources for your project without requiring you to spend an unreasonable amount. When you speak with a prospective contractor, ask them about their project volume to ensure they can dedicate the necessary bandwidth and support for your project.

Cottage looks for contractors to build long-term relationships with through a steady stream of projects in their location of expertise. We are committed to learning what projects work best for each contractor. These relationships are critical in connecting homeowners like you with the best contractors for your project.

Are ADU Delivery Timeline and Expectations Clear?

Once you have settled on a general contractor or other ADU provider, timeline expectations are important to confirm up-front. Timeliness, good customer service, communication, and construction quality are non-negotiables.

The timeline for completing an ADU project should be transparent and clearly communicated by your builder, especially if the right team with ADU expertise is on it.

Your contractor should provide you with a clear sense of construction deadlines and expectations up-front. Even then, contractors who have little to no information about your specific ADU design may not be able to provide you with an accurate estimate, both for cost and timing. That's why at Cottage, we've hand-selected vetted builders who consistently perform well against timelines and budgets to ensure you have a smooth and efficient ADU build.

How to Choose the Right Contractor for Your ADU

Whether you're choosing between a stick-built ADU through the general contractor path, or considering the prefab ADU route, there can be hidden issues along the way. State laws and jurisdictions, zoning laws in your municipalities, and building permit applications are just some examples of ADU considerations you should be aware of for any new constructions or renovations to your existing structure.

An additional consideration when choosing the right ADU builder is to find out how others’ experiences have been. How good is the prefab company or general contractor at addressing your questions and concerns?

Cottage can help you through each stage of the ADU journey, but you don’t have to commit to everything up front. You can move as fast as you want and pay as you go. Get started by scheduling a free consultation today!


Senate Bill 9 | California Legislative Information

Check A License | Department of Consumer Affairs

COVID-19 Pandemic Continues To Reshape Work in America | Pew Research Center