How to Find the Best General Contractors in Philadelphia

Here’s everything you need to know when it comes to finding the best general contractors for your renovation in Philadelphia.

Step 1: Determine your remodeling project goals.

Before you start meeting with general contractors for your renovation, figure out what you’d like to accomplish. As simple as it sounds, listing everything you want to do, particularly your remodeling “must-haves” versus “nice-to-haves,” is incredibly helpful so you’re prepared to talk over your actual scope. (Be aware that some of the “nice-to-haves” may have to be sacrificed for the sake of the budget.) Will you be gut renovating your entire trinity house, or focusing your attention on just the kitchen or bathroom, for example?

Step 2: Research costs.

The starting point to renovate an entire home in Philadelphia is $100 per square foot according to Sweeten, a free service that matches homeowners with vetted general contractors. That cost can increase to the $200-$300 range if you’re doing a gut renovation (down to the studs) or if you’re planning on purchasing luxury finishes. As with all renovations, material choices, specialized labor, and local permits can affect the final number. Learn more about kitchen, bath, and home renovation costs below.

Once you’ve assessed goals and budget, you’re ready to post your project on Sweeten. There’s no cost or obligation; when you post your project, our matchmakers will connect you with the best vetted general contractors whether you’re in Bella Vista, Grays Ferry, Spring Garden, Rittenhouse Square, or elsewhere in the Philadelphia Metro area.

Step 3: Evaluate the experts.

Equipped with what questions to ask and qualities to look for when interviewing general contractors, architects, or design-build firms, you’ll be better able to navigate the renovation process. Ahead, we highlight key qualities to look for, questions to ask, and how Sweeten can help.

Sweeten was founded in 2011 by trained architects with decades of construction experience. We take the intimidation out of renovating by matching homeowners and business owners with licensed, insured, talented general contractors for each project, providing support until project completion. Our service is absolutely free to the renovator.

As Philadelphia Magazine put it, Sweeten is “helping Philadelphians find the right people to do their home renovations.”

Sweeten is free and simple to use

1. Post your project

1. Post your project

Tell us about the renovation you’re planning and we’ll match you with the right general contractors for your project.

2. Meet your matches

2. Meet your matches

We’ll send you a shortlist of contractors matched with your project; you can browse past work, read reviews, and get introduced to your favorites.

3. Start renovating

3. Start renovating

After meeting your matches and receiving estimates, hire your favorite and get started. Sweeten will be there to help throughout the process.

Tips to Find the Best General Contractors in Philadelphia

Working with a talented and experienced general contractor should be at the top of your renovation priority list. Your general contractor is your go-to throughout the entire process, whether you’re remodeling your bathroom or tearing down walls and creating an open floorplan in your townhouse. General contractors create the schedule, review site conditions, obtain licenses and insurance, and coordinate subcontractors and other trades as needed. They are there to manage the project from start to finish. Since you’ll be working together closely, hiring someone you trust and can communicate with is crucial!

References from past clients and seeing a portfolio of work is key to understanding if the contractor is up to par for your project. You’ll want to check to see if there are projects like yours, and that clients have positive things to say about working with the crew—even if unexpected issues arise.

In a city like Philadelphia, where the housing stock is urban and old, working with a general contractor who is licensed and insured is essential. When you work with a contractor who has the right paperwork and documentation, you can feel confident about who is in your home and that the work is up to code. Sweeten contractors undergo a vetting process to ensure they have the right credentials and knowledge of varied building codes in Philadelphia, so rest assured that if you’re looking to remodel your Fishtown dream home or your downtown condo, you’ll be matched with contractors who can legally do that type of work.

Key takeaways:
  • Every contractor you work with should have a (HIC) or Home Improvement Contractor license. Every Sweeten contractor is vetted and maintains the proper licenses.

  • Look for photos and references/reviews of contractors’ previous work. Call the references!

  • Make sure a general contractor is a good fit personality-wise for you.

  • Ask if the contractor guarantees the work; Sweeten contractors’ work is guaranteed for a minimum of one year post-construction.

“The contractors go through a fairly rigorous vetting process.” The contractors go through a fairly rigorous vetting process.
“A free service that matches homeowners with vetted professionals” A free service that matches homeowners with vetted professionals
“Sweeten makes the whole process less daunting–and even fun!” Sweeten makes the whole process less daunting–and even fun!
“A renovation game-changer” A renovation game-changer

Kitchen Remodeling in Philadelphia

It typically costs about $320 per square foot to renovate a kitchen in Philadelphia, according to Remodeling’s latest Cost vs. Value report. If you are doing a “rip-and-replace” renovation, which doesn’t entail any major structural work or moving plumbing and gas lines, your estimate will be lower. Of course, as you start choosing top-of-the-line appliances, or if you’re doing a gut renovation, costs will climb. From Center City to Brewerytown, homeowners have used Sweeten to remodel small galley kitchens to larger open floorplan kitchens.

Key takeaways:
  • An average kitchen renovation costs $320 per square foot in Philadelphia.

  • If your budget is tight, keep plumbing or gas lines where they are.

  • Allow three weeks to four months for your kitchen renovation, depending on the complexity of the changes and size of the kitchen.

  • If you have the space to store things, try to purchase cabinets and appliances before demo even begins, so that you’re ahead of the game for installation.


Bathroom Remodeling in Philadelphia

In Philadelphia, a mid-range bathroom costs about $570 per square foot. The construction period typically lasts about a week, though the entire process, including planning, demolition, and execution, can take anywhere from two weeks to three months. A “rip-and-replace,” which involves swapping out fixtures and finishes while keeping them in the same place, will typically take less time than reimagining the layout to make it bigger, or moving plumbing. Homeowners often focus on maximizing storage, light, and updating outdated fixtures. Recently, Sweeten projects in Philadelphia have involved making bathrooms more accessible through the installation of safety bars, curbless showers, and higher toilets.

Key takeaways:
  • An average bathroom renovation costs $570 per square foot in Philadelphia.

  • A “rip-and-replace” should typically be less expensive and take less time than a bathroom renovation involving layout changes.

  • Accessible design is on the rise in bathroom renovations, as homeowners customize to stay in their homes in their later years.

  • Delivery delays can affect your renovation timeline. If you have the space to store things, try to purchase tile and fixtures before demo even begins.


Home Remodeling Contractors in Philadelphia

If you’re looking to renovate your entire home in Philadelphia, expect a range from $100 to $300 per square foot, according to Sweeten. An entire home renovation includes more expensive “wet spaces,” such as kitchens and baths, and less expensive “dry spaces,” such as living rooms and hallways. As always, the scope of work and finish level will go a long way in determining where you land on the cost-per-square-foot spectrum. Whether you’re planning to gut renovate your home in Strawberry Mansion or refresh your home in Chestnut Hill, Sweeten can help you find the right general contractor for your specific project.

Key takeaways:
  • $100 per square foot is a basic starting point for a home renovation in Philadelphia.

  • Remodeling “wet spaces” is more expensive than remodeling “dry spaces.”

  • Evaluate what you’ll use the space for to get a better sense of cost and timing.


When should you meet with and hire a general contractor?

Homeowners typically start meeting with contractors 1-3 months from when construction begins. Every project will have a unique schedule, so look at this as a starting point. The pre-construction phase of your project can be planned even 3-6+ months in advance.

A start date should be a big factor in your search for a general contractor. Some may be booked months in advance, while others have a schedule that aligns with your timing.

When you post a project to Sweeten’s website, for example, a matchmaker identifies multiple general contractors who are 1) qualified, and 2) interested in your job. You receive links to their portfolios and reviews, and can ask for introductions, as well as help evaluating estimates. If you hire a Sweeten contractor, you’ll receive regular check-ins until the project is complete, with encouragement to reach out with any questions so you can renovate with confidence.

Our renovation expertise includes:
Trinity Homes
Single-Family Houses
Landmark Buildings
Living Rooms
Rooftop Decks
Outdoor and Exterior Renovations
Wood Flooring
Apartment Combinations
Gut Renovations
Historic Restorations

Sweeten also handles commercial projects, including restaurants, retail spaces and offices. Find out more here.