Get Quotes from Top General Contractor in Boston, MA

Questions to Ask Before Hiring a General Contractor in Boston

When it comes to building or remodeling a home in Boston, it is important to consider the services of a licensed and insured general contractor. These professionals are conversant with the local Building Code and have got a network of vendors, suppliers, and subcontractors to help deliver your project satisfactorily. In Boston, you can hire a good general contractor for an average of 47.64 per hour or about 15 percent of the total project cost. However, before you settle for any general contractor in the city, it is wise to ask the following questions:

Are You Licensed to Practice as a General Contractor in Boston?

Boston does not require general contractors to have city-issued occupational licenses. Nonetheless, these individuals must still register as Home Improvement Contractors with the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation (OCABR) before they can carry out any home improvement work on an existing one to four-unit residential property in Boston. However, certain general contractors are exempted from registration with OCABR, which include:

  • Full-time contractors and subcontractors working on projects with a total cost that is less than $500
  • Part-time contractors and subcontractors with a gross revenue that is less than $5,000 in the past 12 months
  • Properly licensed tradesmen such as HVAC contractors, electricians, and plumbers who are working within the scope of their occupational licenses

The registration process for home improvement contractors can be done online via a registration portal maintained and provided by OCBAR. Alternatively, applicants can fill out and submit an Application for Registration as a Home Improvement Contractor or Sub-Contractor Form alongside the applicable registration fees in the form of a money order or bank check to be made payable to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts via mail to:

Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation
Home Improvement Contractor Program
1000 Washington Street
Suite 710
Boston, MA 02118

You can also submit the completed form and registration fee in person at the office located at:

1000 Washington Street
Suite 710
Boston, MA 02118

To learn more about the registration process for home improvement contractors in Boston, you can contact the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation (OCABR) at (617) 973-8787 or toll-free at (888) 283-3757.

Besides registering at the state level as home improvement professionals, general contractors must register their business with the Boston Office of the City Clerk before offering their services. Business registration in the city can be carried out by filling out a New Business Application Form, notarizing the completed application form, and submitting it in person or via mail to:

Boston City Hall
Office of the City Clerk
Room 601
1 City Hall Square
Boston, MA 02201

In-person submissions can be made at City Hall from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Monday to Friday. Those who prefer to submit their applications in person can notarize their forms at the City Hall. Meanwhile, general contractors who prefer to mail their applications must include all necessary documents, including the registration fee, in a self-addressed, stamped envelope, with the words "ATTN: Business Certificates" included on the mail-in envelope. You can direct your queries regarding the registration requirements of businesses in Boston to the City Clerk's Office at (617) 635-4601.

Before hiring a general contractor in Boston, ensure that the individual has carried out all the necessary registration requirements in the city. You can confirm if the contractor has been registered with the state's OCABR via the office's Home Improvement Contractor Registration Lookup portal. Likewise, you can confirm local registration by contacting the Boston Office of the City Clerk at (617) 635-4601.

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

When it comes to hiring a general contractor in Boston, the amount of money that they will charge depends on several factors, such as:

  • Site conditions
  • Permit costs
  • Labor costs
  • Your location within the city
  • Accessibility to the work site
  • The nature and scope of this project
  • The urgency of the project
  • The type of project you plan to undertake
  • The type and cost of materials and supplies needed to be used for the project
  • The quality of prepped construction and design plans and drawings

Although some general contractors in Boston will charge an hourly rate, most will use a percentage fee structure that allows them to charge an average of around 10 percent to 20 percent of the project's overall cost. The contractor can use the following type of fee structure to calculate their charges:

  • Fixed Bid/Lump Sum Pricing: This pricing structure is usually presented to the client with a fixed price that covers the total cost of the labor and materials needed for the project from the beginning to the completion. However, it can also include a fee for any estimated labor and material costs changes or unforeseen circumstances. A fixed bid/lump sum pricing structure gives the client an estimate of how much they should expect to pay for the project. This eliminates the possibility of conflict between the parties during the execution of the project.
  • Time and Materials/Cost-Plus Pricing: This method usually involves the general contractor providing a written estimate of the total cost of all the materials and supplies that will be needed for the project, plus an hourly rate for the labor they will provide during the project. This method is ideal for projects with a clear scope and timeline, as it can help clients save money by completing the project earlier than expected. However, if there are delays or obstacles during the execution of the project, the client may end up owing additional costs.

Before you hire a general contractor in Boston, it is essential that you thoroughly compare the multiple bids and quotes that the different contractors in the area have to offer. Doing so will allow you to avoid getting ripped off by dishonest general contractors. One of the most critical factors you must do when comparing contractors' bids is ensuring that the project parameters you give them are as similar as possible. You should ask the contractor why their prices are lower than those of the other contractors and not hire a contractor who cannot provide an explanation.

Although cost is essential, it should not be the only factor you consider when choosing a general contractor. You should also look into other qualifying factors such as their experience level, insurance, and licensing status.

General Contractors in Boston earn an estimated annual average wage of $99,090. The list below compares the average hourly wage of these contractors with those of general contractors in other parts of Massachusetts and other locations across the United States:

Boston General Contractors Average Hourly Wage
Bedford General Contractors Average Hourly Wage
Leominster General Contractors Average Hourly Wage
Pittsfield General Contractors Average Hourly Wage
Springfield General Contractors Average Hourly Wage
New York City General Contractors Average Hourly Wage
Los Angeles 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?

General contractors in Boston are usually involved in various types of projects in the city, such as building and remodeling. Their specific services and scope of work can vary depending on the project and the client. Nonetheless, if you hire a professional general contractor, you can expect them to provide you with the following key services:

  • Make arrangements for required construction equipment and machinery
  • Handle the hiring of subcontractors for specialized work
  • Pull all required permits
  • Ensure that the project complies with pertinent city construction codes, building regulations, and safety measures.
  • Oversee administrative aspects of the project, like cash flow, scheduling, and worker payments.
  • Keep proper records of all project-related activities
  • Creating and managing a project schedule
  • Organizing and managing activities at your project site
  • Come up with reasonable cost estimates for the project
  • Coordinating material suppliers and vendors
  • Provide necessary labor for the project
  • Perform actual labor construction and clean-up services where necessary
  • Ensure that the project is executed satisfactorily and within the expected timeline

However, before hiring a general contractor, it is important that you thoroughly confirm their capabilities. Also, you should agree on the scope and nature of the services they will provide. Another essential aspect you should check is the contractor's agreement regarding any intended subcontracted work. Usually, subcontractor work involves the use of specialized skills and equipment such as:

  • Electrical work
  • Plumbing
  • HVAC installation
  • Demolition
  • Woodwork

Subcontracted works often require additional licensing requirements that the workers on the project don't have. You need to hire licensed subcontractors to carry out such work.

Although it is possible to handle the hiring of subcontractors yourself, it is generally advisable to leave this task to the general contractor. This is because general contractors usually have better access to experienced workers, and it will also minimize your legal and financial liability should something go wrong during the project.

The following are some significant differences between general contractors and subcontractors who work on construction and remodeling projects:

General Contractors Subcontractors
Typically hired by the project owner and interact directly with them Typically hired by general contractors and do not interact directly with the project owner. Interaction is with the general contractor.
Oversee the entire project and may perform general construction activities Work on specialized portions of the project
Do not generally require specialized knowledge Usually 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?

If you are planning a building project in Boston, you should hire a licensed general contractor who is knowledgeable about the Massachusetts State Building Code. This will allow you to avoid the penalties that come with violating this code. One of the most common violations a contractor can face is the alteration or reconstruction of a structure or building without a permit. Other violations include the removal or demolition of a structure, the installation of equipment without a permit, and the change or occupancy of a building.

A permit is usually required to construct, remove, alter, or repair any building structure in Boston. The Boston Inspection Services Department is the agency that issues these permits. Certain types of ordinary work, such as:

  • Carpentry trim
  • Installation of energy conservation devices like thermostats, light bulbs, weather stripping
  • Driveways
  • Repair and maintenance of kitchen cabinet installation, except it is part of a large building project
  • Landscaping routine
  • Masonry and landscaping, as long as it is no threat to public life
  • Exterior and interior painting
  • Installation of patios

Only individuals who have completed the permit application process will be considered for a building permit. This department issues two types of permits, namely:

  • Short-form permits: These permits are usually required for minor work that doesn't involve building use, fire protection, or living area changes.
  • Long-form permits: These permits are usually required for various types of construction projects, such as renovations and structural repairs, and changes to the use or occupancy of a building

Individuals wishing to apply for a short-form permit can visit the Inspectional Services Portal of the Boston Inspection Department. However, first-time permit applicants must register for a user account in order to access this portal. On the other hand, those who wish to apply for long-form permits can initiate their permit application online but must complete the process in person at the Boston Inspectional Services Department's office located at:

Building Division
Counter 1
1010 Massachusetts Avenue
5th Floor
Boston, MA 02118

Before a building permit can be issued, submission of plans and additional supporting documents may be required for review. Where a permit is issued, the work will be subject to inspections by the city officials to ensure that it is in compliance with the regulations and provisions of the permit and the Massachusetts State Building Code. Before starting a project, contact the Boston Inspection Services Department at (617) 635-5300 or (617) 635-5360 to find out if you need a permit and to get more information on the city's permitting process.

Do You Work with Subcontractors?

In Boston, general contractors often hire subcontractors to work on projects that they are managing. Subcontractors can be hired for different reasons, such as:

  • To provide assistance on diverse, large, or complex projects
  • To increase cost efficiency and avoid adverse risks
  • To increase their job productivity and flexibility
  • To provide specialized tasks that the general contractor or their labor cannot provide because they are not licensed, equipped, or skilled enough

Some subcontractors that general contractors in Boston typically hire for building and remodeling projects include:

  • Demolition experts
  • Window and door installers
  • Painters
  • Flooring installers
  • Insulation installers
  • Siding installers
  • Plumbers
  • Electricians
  • Roofers
  • HVAC contractors
  • Carpenters
  • Welders

When a general contractor hires a subcontractor for your project, ensure you are provided with their details and who will work under any pulled permits. You must also execute a contract with the general contractors stating that they will be hiring a subcontractor, their scope of work, how much they will be paid, and the types of material they will be using during the project. This ensures that you are always informed about the various parties involved in your project and helps you avoid potential issues between the general contractor and the subcontractors over certain issues such as:

  • Late payments
  • Incomplete payments
  • Poor service delivery

Per Chapter 29E of the Massachusetts General Laws, homeowners are required to make payments to their hired general contractor within 45 days following the approval of an invoice. Meanwhile, general contractors in Boston are required to make payments to their subcontractors within 45 days following the approval of their invoice. The payments are also subject to approval or denial within 15 days and may be extended for an additional seven days.

These laws are designed to ensure that all payments are made to the general contractor and the sub-contracted parties on time. These laws aim to ensure that the project's working capital and cash flow are maintained. Note that the Massachusetts Prompt Payment Law is only applicable to private projects with an original contract price of $3 million or more. One exception is that they don't apply to residential projects of four or fewer residential dwelling units.

However, per Chapter 254 of the Massachusetts General Laws, if suppliers or subcontractors hired for your construction project in Boston do not get paid, they can file a mechanic's lien to secure payment. This type of legal tool allows the unpaid party to have a security interest in your property even if the scope and nature of the project are not the same. To avoid this, it is important that you take the necessary steps to ensure that you are always informed about the various parties involved in your project.

  • Due Diligence: You thoroughly research your general contractor to ensure they have the necessary licenses and experience to handle your project. You should also check their online reputation to see if they have a good track record regarding timely payments of subcontractors, suppliers, and workers.
  • Preliminary Notices: Ensure the general contractor provides you with a list of all the potential subcontractors and suppliers that will be participating in the project. This will allow you to make informed decisions regarding their services.
  • Written Contracts: Make sure you have a written contract with the general contractor. This will allow you to ensure that all of the agreements you have made with the company are included in the contract.
  • Release of Lien/Lien Waiver: Before you make a payment, ensure that the general contractor provides you with a written release of lien from all of the subcontractors and suppliers participating in the project. If the agreement with the general contractors requires you to make certain partial payments before the work begins, then you should get a Partial Release Of Lien. You should also get an affidavit from the general contractor that clearly states all unpaid parties and final releases from these unpaid individuals before you make a final payment.
  • Timely Settlements: Make sure that you and the general contractor have a schedule that will allow you to make timely payments to them.
  • Contractor Bonds: Preferably, hire a general contractor with a secured payment bond. If the contractor fails to make payment, claims can be made against the payment mode instead.

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

When finding a general contractor in Boston, it's important to consider the contractor's insurance status. According to data from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 88 fatal and over 5,090 non-fatal injuries were reported by general contractors in the United States in 2020. Likewise, in 2020, the construction industry recorded the second-highest highest fatal injuries in the Massachusetts private industry. This industry has a wide range of hazards that can affect the safety of workers, such as:

  • Injuries from falling, flying, swinging, and slipping objects
  • Cuts, tears, and lacerations
  • Exposure to loud noises, toxic chemicals, and harmful airborne fibers and materials
  • Exposure to extreme weather conditions
  • Electrocutions
  • Falls from heights
  • Awkward working positions

Before hiring a general contractor in Boston, it is important that you confirm they are carrying the right general liability insurance coverage and workers' compensation insurance. In the city, home improvement contractors are required to provide a copy of their insurance certificate and an affidavit for workers' compensation insurance before they can be issued a home improvement or remodeling work permit. If you hire a general contractor who does not have the proper insurance coverage, you will be held liable for any property damage and bodily injuries that occur during the course of your project.

As such, before finalizing a general contractor's hiring process, ensure you confirm the contractor has the proper insurance coverage by requesting a copy of their insurance certificate and authenticating it with the appropriate insurance company. This will allow you to ensure that the contractor is adequately covered and that all their workers are covered. Another important aspect to consider is that the insurance policy covers all subcontractors and laborers that the general contractor hires for the project. You should also confirm that the individual has professional liability insurance to cover the defects and errors that a general contractor might cause.

To learn more about the workers' compensation insurance requirements in Boston, contact the Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents regional office at (617) 727-4900 and (800) 323-3249.

Do You Provide a Warranty for Works Completed?

Warranties are a type of promise made to consumers, stating that the products or services they purchase will function as expected. There are two types of warranties that general contractors provide, namely:

  • Explicit warranties: An explicit warranty is made in writing and is typically included in a contract or project proposal.
  • Implied warranties: Although implied warranties are not always written in writing, they are still recognized by law and can be included in various types of building and remodeling projects regardless of whether or not a written warranty is eventually provided.

These warranties can be broken down into several sub-categories, such as:

  • Call-back warranty: This type of agreement gives the project owner a set amount of time during which the contractor will be obligated to resolve any issues in the project that were not done correctly
  • Material and equipment warranty: These assure that the products and services are new, defect-free, and will perform as expected.
  • Warranty of habitability: The warranty of habitability is typically issued by a general contractor for residential projects, which means that the finished structure can be safely occupied and is appropriate for its intended purpose
  • Design-build warranty: This typically covers the services provided by design professionals like architects and engineers involved in the project.
  • Workmanship warranties: These types of warranties are commonly offered by general contractors to ensure that the work performed by the workers and subcontractors during the project is performed to the highest standards.
  • Vendor warranty: This type of agreement is typically issued by the manufacturers or sellers of appliances and other similar products or services used for the project.

When it comes to hiring a general contractor for a project, it is important that the terms and conditions of the warranties are clearly communicated to you. No laws mandate the coverage of certain types of warranties in Boston. Nonetheless, section 2 of Chapter 142a of the Massachusetts General Laws provides that a contract between a homeowner and a general contract must make provision for all warranties and the owner's rights.

Before you sign a contract, make sure that the terms and conditions of the warranty are clearly communicated to you. Per section 2B of Chapter 260 of the Massachusetts General Laws, any civil actions arising from deficiency or neglect in the design, planning, construction, or administration of a property must be filed within three years from the time the cause of action accrues. This timeframe can be extended not more than six years after the project's completion.

Can You Provide References of Clients Served in Boston?

It is usually recommended to get in touch with friends and family in Boston who have experience with similar projects to find general contractors in the area. You can additionally contact various associations for more information, such as:

  • The Home Builders & Remodelers Association of Massachusetts
  • The Builders and Remodelers Association of Greater Boston (BRAGB)
  • The Massachusetts Builders Association - FHA
  • The National Association of Home Builders

Before you hire a general contractor, make sure that you ask them to provide references from their past clients. Ask these references to give you their testimonials and reviews about the general contractor's services. This is an essential step in evaluating their professionalism and legitimacy. It should be considered a red flag if the contractor is unwilling to provide you with multiple verifiable references. You can also check out the contractor's reviews and testimonials by visiting various websites such as Google Review, the Better Business Bureau, and Yelp.

What Is the Expected Timeline for This Project?

One of the advantages of hiring a general contractor in Boston is that they can help you come up with a schedule for your building or remodeling project. This can help you avoid getting stuck with a tight timeline. There are a variety of factors that can affect the building and remodeling project timelines, such as:

  • Pulling permits, scheduling inspections, and other regulatory requirements
  • Availability of resources like money, materials, workers, and subcontractors
  • Changes to the original project scope or plan
  • The nature and scope of the intended project
  • Weather conditions

Having a good plan and proper timeline for your project can help you plan for various upcoming events, such as weddings, visits from friends and family, relocation, retirements, and birthday parties. It can also provide you with other benefits, such as:

  • Improved communication
  • Reduced misunderstandings
  • Fewer project delays
  • Increased work efficiency
  • Better cost control
  • Better progress monitoring
  • Proper task allocation and execution

How to File a Complaint Against a Bad General Contractor in Boston

If you are a victim of fraud and want to file a report with the authorities, you can do so at the state and city levels. At the state level, you can file with the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office and the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation. Likewise, you can file a report at the city level with the Boston Consumer Affairs Division.

The authorities in Boston are constantly looking into reports of fraudulent general contractors. Due to the immense amount of money that Americans spend on residential projects, such as home renovations and building new houses, which is estimated at $400 billion, it is common for contractors to target homeowners through various scam schemes. Some of these schemes include:

  • Deceiving consumers into giving them money without completing the job or before doing any work at all
  • Overcharging for materials and services
  • Exaggerating the benefit of certain services to obtain more money from consumers
  • Downplaying the need for written contracts and warranties
  • Negotiating multiple contracts with consumers in order to get them to sign them. They often include hidden charges and other misleading terms.
  • Using fake licenses
  • Pressuring consumers to sign up for high-rate financing options
  • Using low-quality materials and charging premium prices for these materials
  • Failing to pay subcontractors and suppliers as when due
  • Failing to pull necessary permits for projects

In February 2022, a local news outlet reported that a home improvement contractor from Boston was banned from operating in the state of Massachusetts. He was also ordered to pay $150,000 in restitution to victims of home improvement fraud. In 2021, the number of complaints about home improvement fraud in Boston reported to the Attorney General's Office was approximately 730. This was the second-highest number of complaints reported in the state. The following tips can help you avoid building and remodeling scams when searching for general contractors in Boston:

  • Make sure that the general contractor has been properly registered with the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation (OCABR). You can confirm using OCABR's Home Improvement Contractor Registration Lookup portal.
  • Check the contractor's insurance status and confirm they have adequate coverage.
  • You can check for positive feedback and testimonials about the contractor using platforms such as Google Review, Better Business Bureau, and Yelp to get
  • Always request and check references of past clients.

Other actions that you can take to avoid fraudulent and dishonest general contractors in Boston include:

Do's Don'ts
Get referrals to general contractors in the city from trusted sources like family, friends, and reputable online directories provided by organizations like the NAHB, the AGC, and the BBB. Avoid hiring unsolicited general contractors, especially the ones who employ high-pressure sales tactics.
Get and compare bids and quotes from at least three local general contractors before selecting the most suitable for your project. Do not automatically hire the general contractor that submits the lowest bid or quote for the project. Get a reasonable explanation for the low price.
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. Do not hire general contractors who are reluctant to provide you with up to three local and verifiable references. Make sure you contact these references to confirm their professionalism and service delivery.
Review contracts, warranties, and other written documents that you are issued thoroughly before signing them Do  not make full payment upfront and limit advance payment to one-third of the total cost of the project, which should be made payable 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. Also, avoid cash transactions to enable you to keep a record of all transactions made to the general contractor
Make sure that all subcontractors, suppliers, vendors, and workers involved in the project are paid as when due 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

If you have been a victim or suspect of a home improvement scam or a deceptive business practice, you can report it to the Boston Consumer Affairs Division. You can also file a consumer complaint online with the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office or send the completed Consumer Complaint Form via mail to:

Office of the Attorney General
Consumer Advocacy & Response Division
One Ashburton Place
18th Floor
Boston, MA 02108

You can also file a complaint against an unlicensed general contractor with the Office of Business Regulation and Consumer Affairs by completing and submitting a Home Improvement Contractor Complaint Form via mail to:

Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation
Home Improvement Contractor Program
1000 Washington Street
Suite 710
Boston, MA 02118

If you are not satisfied with the resolutions made by the authorities mentioned above, you can also file a legal action against the contractor at an appropriate court. For instance, if the claim is worth less than $7,000, the appropriate court is the Boston Municipal Court, which is located at:

Edward W. Brooke Courthouse
24 New Chardon Street
6th Floor
Boston, MA 02114

Note that it is important to consult with a lawyer before filing any legal action in court. You can use the Find a Qualified Lawyer platform provided and maintained by the Boston Bar Association to find licensed lawyers near you.