How to Choose a Contractor


Eva archit1.2Eva Scalla working with architects

General contractors are project overseers and they typically bring together the people needed to complete a specific job—-your project.  This includes but is not limited to painters, carpenters, roofers, stone masons, and anyone else who is needed to get your job done.

General Contractors hire each sub-contractor and add a mark-up percentage to the sub-contractor’s cost.  Many general contractors also have their own crew of laborers, for which they charge an hourly rate. Eva has crews who she has worked with for over 10 years in some cases. Who would you rather have in your house, workers who want to work with Eva on her next project or, as can be the case with other contractors, workers that not only you don’t know, but that the contractor doesn’t know either?

Typically the contractor’ s crew will be general carpentry trades people, some who may have more specialized skills. Exactly how a general contractor charges for a project depends on the type of contract you agree to.  There are three common types of cost contracts, fixed price, time & materials and cost plus a fee.

Each contract type has pros and cons for both the consumer and for the contractor.  While you, as the consumer, are obviously interested in the pros and cons for yourself, understanding how the contract affects the contractor also provides valuable insight that will help you get the most for your money.

Fixed Price contracts are just what like they sound like.  The contractor bids your project for a specific price and that is how much it will cost…in theory.  For small, simple projects, you can probably count on this contract to work for you and for your contractor. However, for larger and more complex projects, the final cost is likely to be higher. No one—neither you nor the contractor—can predict what will be in the walls, roof and foundation when you open them up. It’s helpful for you to know that the contractor has more risk than you do with fixed price contracts.  If the job runs overtime, you don’t have to pay extra. Most of the time though, you will want to sign a contract that addresses the possibility of surprises neither of you expect.

Eva is meticulous about going over the possibilities and details of your own situation. She will make the major unknown areas clear to you, and will deal with any surprises quickly and efficiently—saving you money and stress.

Time and Materials agreements are easy to track.  You will have to rely on the contractor to figure the time part (dollars/hr) depending on how long it takes the crews to finish.  You should be approving material costs before they are purchased so that’s easier to pin down.  The problem with time and materials from a client’s standpoint, is that you have no control over the final cost. Eva works to keep down every cost and to anticipate every problem she can to make your experience easy and fun.

Cost plus fee agreements are a better way to keep control of varying costs than time and materials.  You approve all the invoice before things are purchased and you know you have a set fee for the rest of the cost.  If you know what you’re doing, this may be the way to go but beware giving away money in a fee that doesn’t match your situation. Eva has repeat customers that have come back to her for over 20 years. That’s the best evidence you could have of her integrity, skill and commitment to your goals.


Some contractors are honest and some are not, but you can’t tell which is which from the bid price alone.  The lowest bidder may have left out charges that are included in a competing bid, or may have bid low knowing they would come back with “unexpected” charges that run up your cost when you’re halfway through the project and can’t turn back. This a kind of bait and switch that you will never have to worry about with Eva. Her customers come back to her year after year because she is honest and will not low ball a quote figuring she will make it up later when it’s too late to change contractors. Eva includes everything in your bid, even if it means she looks more expensive up front because she wants you to know and be working with her years from now, not just at the moment.

Legitimate surprises happen in almost every job, but make sure you agree up front on how both you and contractor will handle it when the need arises.  The best way to avoid being lied to or taken advantage of is to deal with a contractor that has years of experience, references, and preferably has their own crews randomly hiring strangers.It’s one thing for you to not know who’s in your house, it’s a quite different thing if your contractor doesn’t know the people that will there everyday. Eva provides all that and more. She knows her crews personally, she’s on site every day, and her crews are eager to work on the next project with her so they do the job right.


The reason that the cost will probably increase is the high likelihood that there will be changes to your project.  Some of the changes may come as a result of changes you make and enhancements to the project, but some changes result from the unexpected.  Through no fault of your contractor, unexpected problems will likely crop up.  Things like a wall being opened up to reveal termite damage or pipes that can’t be easily relocated or an interior wall that turns out to be load bearing. Not even Eva can see through walls or predict the future, but her years of experience and satisfied customers means she is great at keeping your costs down and delivering exactly what you want.


The contractor will draw up a “change order” listing the additional work and materials required and a price to complete the work.  While the builder may have been a low bidder on the original contract, they don’t have the same incentive to give you a bargain price on change orders.  That isn’t to say that they are going to rip you off, but you need to keep an eye on things. Working with Eva gives you the peace of mind to know she’s on your side and will always keep you updated on whatever is going on with your project.




Contractors cannot know everything until they get into the walls and see what’s in there.  The best way to make sure you get what you want is to stay in regular contact with your contractor.  Ask questions, even if you think they are dumb questions.  Tell them what you want as specifically as possible.  Remember that contractors cannot build an abstract idea (“I’d like it to have sort of a tropical feeling”).  They will put in this particular tile, and paint with that particular color and so on.  Be as concrete as possibile when you are talking about what you want—“I want to have that green, not this one.  I want that design on the tile, not that one.”

You’ll be amazed how easy it is when you stay in communication with Eva when she is your contractor—and of course, since she concentrates on one project at a time–your project—she is always easy to reach and talk to about any concerns or ideas you may have. She will present you with concrete choices and help you define how to translate what you see in your mind’s eye into reality.

Contact Eva at 415.420.8345 or email

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