Your Guide to Hiring General Contractors in Los Angeles

Planning a renovation project in Los Angeles is exciting, but finding the right general contractor can be daunting. In a city renowned for diverse tastes and a bustling lifestyle, our guide simplifies the process. Whether you’re revamping a historic Hollywood Hills bungalow or modernizing a beachside Venice condo, this guide serves as your compass in the vast landscape of LA’s renovation scene. From budgeting tips to navigating local regulations, we’re here to empower you with the knowledge and resources needed to find the perfect contractor for your LA dream project.

remodeled kitchen with green cabinets by a Los Angeles general contractor with Sweeten
Home remodeled by a general contractor with Sweeten in West Hollywood/Laurel Canyon, Los Angeles

At Sweeten, we’re experts at all things general contractors — we pre-screen them for our network, carefully select the best ones for your remodeling project, and work closely with general contractors in LA every day. So, we’ve tapped our internal expertise to bring you this guide.

What is a general contractor?

In many major cities like Los Angeles, general contractors, often referred to as “GCs,” play a pivotal role in overseeing significant construction and remodeling projects. They manage teams of subcontractors who handle the various specialized tasks involved in each project. They also source materials, secure permits, and ensure that the project adheres to the specified plan. In addition, they may collaborate with other stakeholders like architects, designers, or even Los Angeles coop or housing boards, depending on the nature of your project.

The term “general contractor” can be used interchangeably to refer to an individual person or a general contracting company. These companies come in all shapes and sizes, from one- and two-person operations, to mid-sized companies of 10-20 employees, and even large firms of 50 employees or more. 

What makes a great general contractor?  

Recognizing the crucial role they play in the success of any construction or remodeling project, it’s important to discern between good and outstanding contractors. Here are key attributes that set top-tier general contractors apart in the bustling landscape of LA:

Clear and transparent communication: Exceptional general contractors in Los Angeles excel in open and honest communication tailored to the city’s unique dynamics. They understand the intricacies of navigating local regulations set by the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety (LADBS) and the California Contractors State License Board (CSLB). They are knowledgeable about seismic considerations and the diverse architectural styles found throughout the city. By keeping clients informed and educated about these factors, they ensure that projects proceed smoothly and efficiently.

Adaptive agility: Los Angeles is renowned for its vibrant and ever-evolving urban environment, presenting contractors with a myriad of challenges and opportunities. Exceptional contractors in LA demonstrate adaptive agility, swiftly adjusting plans and embracing innovative solutions to overcome unexpected obstacles such as traffic congestion, zoning regulations, or environmental considerations. Their ability to navigate these complexities with creativity and flexibility ensures that projects stay on track and exceed expectations.

Dining room seating area next to white built in bookshelves and fireplace renovated by Sweeten general contractor

Commitment to precision and quality: In a city where design trends and architectural standards are constantly evolving, top-tier general contractors in Los Angeles uphold a steadfast commitment to precision and quality. They take pride in their workmanship, leveraging their expertise to deliver exceptional results that reflect the unique character of LA’s diverse neighborhoods. From historic restorations to modern renovations, they approach each project with meticulous attention to detail, ensuring quality and client satisfaction.

Respect for tidiness: Throughout the construction process, top-tier contractors prioritize the protection of clients’ homes and surroundings. They implement stringent measures to minimize disruptions and maintain cleanliness on job sites, ensuring that the work environment remains tidy and organized. By respecting clients’ spaces and minimizing construction-related inconveniences, they create a positive and comfortable experience for homeowners throughout the duration of the project.

At Sweeten, our decade-long expertise in vetting and collaborating with general contractors sets us apart. Our rigorous 7-step contractor vetting process ensures that our partner contractors possess the extra edge and a proven track record of satisfied clients. 

Traditional general contractors vs design-build contractors

A traditional general contractor oversees the construction process, from material procurement to subcontractor management. While some may provide limited design input or creative solutions, the extent of their involvement varies among firms.

On the contrary, a design-build company assumes both design and construction responsibilities. With in-house architects, designers, and construction experts collaborating, they develop plans and execute construction seamlessly. This approach is particularly efficient when comprehensive architectural design services are needed.

At Sweeten, we collaborate with a diverse range of contractors in Los Angeles, spanning from traditional build-only contractors to full-service design-build contractors. Whether you’re looking for a straightforward renovation or a comprehensive design-build solution, we’ve got you covered! Simply post your project to start connecting with our network of trusted contractors today. 

Typical remodeling projects in Los Angeles

In Los Angeles, you’ll probably need to hire a general contractor if you’re planning a project like renovating a kitchen, remodeling a bathroom, adding a deck or patio, remodeling an entire home, or converting a garage into an accessory dwelling unit (ADU). They focus on transformative projects that involve multiple trades, which is why you’ll typically only hire a general contractor for projects that cost $15,000 and up. 

Browse Sweeten projects in Los Angeles on our blog to see some of the amazing homes Angelenos have created with Sweeten and our trusted contractors. 

How much does remodeling cost in Los Angeles?

The competitiveness of a contractor’s pricing in Los Angeles is influenced by a combination of service level, experience, and local factors such as extreme heat and earthquake preparedness. General contractors typically earn their revenue through service fees, which may include a commission or markup on materials and labor costs. Additional fees may be charged for project management or specialized services. The contractor’s fee, whether a flat rate or a percentage of the total project cost, is usually negotiated with the client beforehand.

Explore our extensive library of remodeling cost guides, taking into account the city’s unique characteristics. Whether you’re planning a kitchen, bathroom, or home renovation in Los Angeles, we provide comprehensive pricing guides to help you budget effectively. When you post your remodeling project on Sweeten, you’ll be matched with a curated selection of contractors offering competitive bids. This ensures you find a contractor that strikes the perfect balance between cost and value for your Los Angeles project. Learn more about how Sweeten works and start your renovation journey today!

Los Angeles
Stunning kitchen renovation in LA

Risks of remodeling without a qualified contractor

Remodeling projects in Los Angeles can be substantial investments, tempting homeowners to consider cost-saving measures such as DIY paths or opting for discounted, unskilled labor. However, navigating such shortcuts in LA requires careful consideration due to the following risks:

Inferior workmanship: Entrusting your project to DIY efforts or inexperienced laborers may result in subpar workmanship that fails to meet the city’s renowned standards. From uneven finishes to structural flaws, the repercussions could necessitate costly and time-consuming corrections or even complete project overhauls. In earthquake-prone Los Angeles, ensuring the structural integrity and safety of your home is paramount.

Code violations: With Los Angeles’ stringent building codes and regulations aimed at upholding structural integrity and safety, overlooking or violating these standards poses significant legal and financial risks. Inexperienced contractors or DIYers may inadvertently run across one of these regulations, leading to potential fines and complications.

Liability risks: Safety is paramount during renovations. If accidents occur on-site, uninsured or inexperienced workers could leave you vulnerable to liability. From slip-and-falls to property damage, the financial ramifications of accidents can be significant. Protecting yourself and your investment with qualified and insured contractors is essential for peace of mind.

Delays and cost overruns: Los Angeles’ fast-paced lifestyle demands precision and efficiency in project timelines and budgets. However, DIYers or inexperienced contractors may struggle to accurately estimate both, leading to frustrating delays and unexpected expenses that disrupt the project’s flow and strain financial resources.

General contractors are there to ensure that your project is completed in a safe, efficient, and code-compliant manner. Additionally, contractors can tap their vast experience to provide valuable advice and guidance on how to best complete your project, including, importantly, helping to identify potential issues before they become major problems. 

How to hire a general contractor in Los Angeles

You’ve come to the right place — helping people hire the right contractor for their remodeling project is exactly what we do at Sweeten! Here’s a breakdown of the process. 

1. Source 3-5 contractors who are fit for the job

Finding qualified general contractors in Los Angeles can be a challenge. You’ll want to research and narrow down a handful of contractors with the right experience, who work in your area, provide the services you need, fit within your budget, and are available and interested in the job. Start by posting your project on Sweeten and choose between 3 to 5 contractors for the project. 

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2. Hold site visits

Schedule and hold a separate meeting at your project site with each of the contractors you’d like to get a bid from. This is your chance to learn more about their firm and evaluate how well you think you’d work together with them. Come prepared with questions! (Hint: we made you a list below.) 

3. Collect estimates

Sweeten contractors meticulously craft estimates tailored to your project. Expect a thorough breakdown of costs, reflecting the nuances of LA’s bustling construction scene. This process can usually take 1-2 weeks, since they’ll need to coordinate with their subcontractors to prepare the document. 

4. Compare the bids

There’s no standard form for contractor estimates, so it’s rare that you can truly compare them apples to apples. Instead, you’ll need to comb through to get an idea of what is and is not included in each bid, ask some questions, and do your best to evaluate those differences. This is the critical decision-making stage, which is why we offer a free bid-leveling call to help you make the best hiring choice for your project.

5. Conduct negotiations

Armed with insights from the bid evaluation process, it’s time to engage in negotiations. Perhaps there are a couple of aspects in the proposal that need fine-tuning before you’re ready to commit. This is your opportunity to have that final conversation and ensure alignment with your vision.

6. Sign a contract and pay your deposit

With negotiations finalized, it’s time to formalize the partnership. Sign a comprehensive contract that outlines the terms and conditions of the project. In accordance with California regulations, deposits are capped to safeguard your investment. Sweeten simplifies this process by offering secure, electronic deposits, providing peace of mind as you embark on your renovation journey.

Sample questions to ask at your site visits

  • How long have you been a general contractor in Los Angeles?
  • Are you experienced with hillside construction (if applicable)?
  • How many projects have you managed simultaneously? How many do you plan to manage while working on my project? 
  • Who will be in charge of my project and who will be working on it?
  • How will you handle any unexpected challenges, delays, or changes during the project?
  • What is your policy for communication and updates during the project?
  • What potential challenges could you foresee with my project? 
  • How do you plan to protect my home during the course of my renovation? 
  • How does your payment schedule work?
  • What is your insurance coverage?
  • Do you provide a warranty for your work?
  • Do you have references from previous clients?
garage exterior home and ADU remodel in Los Angeles
Renovated ADU in Los Angeles

How Sweeten connects you with top LA contractors

At Sweeten, we understand that renovating your home in Los Angeles comes with its own set of challenges and opportunities. With our expertise, we aim to make your renovation journey as smooth as the California breeze, so you can transition from merely residing to truly thriving in your space. Having facilitated over 3,000 transformations over 13 years, we’ve honed our approach to address the unique needs of Angelinos. Here’s how we add value to your renovation experience, completely free of charge: 

Thoroughly vetted, trusted general contractors

We recognize the importance of working with trusted professionals in a city where renovation regulations and standards can vary. That’s why we meticulously vet our general contractors, ensuring they meet the stringent criteria necessary to tackle projects in Los Angeles.

Carefully selected contractors for your unique project

Los Angeles is a melting pot of architectural styles and design preferences, from sleek Hollywood Hills abodes to cozy beachfront bungalows. We have a wide selection of contractors specifically suited to your project’s unique requirements, whether you’re aiming for a modernist oasis in Silver Lake or a Spanish-style retreat in Venice Beach.

Competitive bidding process for fair pricing

Renovation costs in Los Angeles can fluctuate depending on factors like location, permit requirements, and material availability. We provide you with a set of competitive bids, guaranteeing fair and market-driven pricing for your project, whether you’re revamping a mid-century gem in the Valley or refurbishing a historic Craftsman in Hancock Park.

Guidance through the decision-making process

Making decisions amidst the vast array of options can be daunting. That’s why we offer bid-leveling calls with our knowledgeable team members, guiding you through the toughest aspects of the decision-making process, whether you’re torn between countertop materials for your downtown loft or debating paint colors for your Malibu retreat.

Peace-of-mind from start to finish

From the initial planning stages to the final touches of your renovation, Sweeten is here to support you every step of the way. With extensive knowledge and experience in renovations, we’re dedicated to ensuring that your project is a success from start to finish.

Los Angeles contractor licensing requirements

In California, all businesses or individuals who construct or alter any building or other structure, ground, or infrastructure must be licensed by the California Contractors State License Board (CSLB) if the total cost (labor and materials) of the contracted work is $500 or more.

In Los Angeles, general contractors are required to obtain a valid contractor’s license from the CSLB — use this lookup tool to verify your contractor’s license is up to date. All contractors must pass a written exam and meet the financial, experience, and insurance requirements established by the CSLB. The license must be renewed every two years. 

Additionally, contractors in Los Angeles must have a valid Business Tax Registration Certificate from the Los Angeles County Tax Collector’s office, and have a surety bond or cash deposit of at least $15,000. Furthermore, all contractors must register with the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety, and have liability insurance of at least $300,000.

FAQs about hiring general contractors in Los Angeles City

Yes, most renovation projects in Los Angeles City require permits. The specific permits needed depend on the scope of work, such as structural changes, electrical upgrades, or plumbing modifications. Your general contractor should be familiar with the local permit requirements and can assist you in obtaining them.

In Los Angeles, all contractors must be licensed by the California Contractors State License Board (CSLB). You can verify a contractor’s license status online through the CSLB website. Additionally, ensure your contractor holds the appropriate classifications for the type of work involved in your project.

Earthquake retrofitting is crucial in earthquake-prone regions like the Southern California Coast. When hiring a contractor for this specialized work, ensure they have experience with seismic retrofitting projects and are knowledgeable about local building codes and regulations related to seismic safety and resilience.

Yes, contractors in Los Angeles City are typically required to carry general liability insurance and workers’ compensation insurance. Before hiring a contractor, request proof of insurance and verify that their coverage is current and adequate for your project’s needs.

Los Angeles is home to many historic neighborhoods with architectural treasures. If you’re renovating a historic home, look for contractors with experience in historic preservation after posting your project on Sweeten. They should be familiar with the guidelines of local historic preservation boards and skilled in preserving architectural details unique to historic properties.

Renovation costs in Los Angeles can vary depending on factors such as the size of the project, the scope of work, and the neighborhood. Additionally, consider potential expenses for permits, materials, labor, and unforeseen contingencies. It’s advisable to consult with multiple contractors to get accurate cost estimates for your specific project. 

Yes, many renovation projects in Los Angeles may qualify for energy efficiency incentives and rebates offered by local utility companies and government agencies. A knowledgeable contractor can help you identify eligible upgrades, complete required documentation, and maximize available incentives to make your project more environmentally friendly and cost-effective.

Outdoor renovation projects in Los Angeles require careful planning due to factors like climate, soil conditions, and water conservation regulations. When hiring a contractor for outdoor projects such as landscaping or pool installation, look for professionals familiar with local environmental regulations, drought-tolerant landscaping practices, and sustainable design principles tailored to the Southern California climate.

The Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety (LADBS) offers a range of services including permitting, plan checks, inspections, and code enforcement for both residential and commercial properties within the City of Los Angeles.

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“I really liked how Sweeten made the process of vetting licensed contractors easy for me. I felt confident knowing that I wasn't hiring a GC with forged credentials or wasnt qualified.”

— Jennifer M. from Jersey City, NJ

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