Contractors – Seven Tips to Help You Hire the Right One.
One of the biggest challenges of a home renovation is finding the right contractor.
Getting the best one for your home—the true professional who shows up and delivers quality work on time and on budget—depends on doing some serious screening before the job starts, and this is one area where many homeowners fall short.
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Here are seven simple tips to help you hire the right contractor for your project.
7 Tips for Hiring Contractors
- Get Recommendations. Talk with people you know and trust. Your real estate agent is a great resource, but also talk with family, friends, neighbours, and others who have undergone projects similar to yours. Browse professional listings to find general contractors in your area. Check out their reviews and browse photos in their portfolios to see how their work lines up with the scope of your project. You can even message them to get a conversation going. Are there recently completed or under-construction projects in your area? Ask the owners about their contractor and the working relationship they have with him or her.
- Determine the contractors specialty. Interview contractors who do the type of work you need. For example, if you want a renovation, you want a renovator, rather than a new-home builder. Look for someone who focuses on homes that are the same age and style as yours. While a contractor may have more than one specialty, you want to ensure that your renovation project aligns to a contractor’s experience and expertise.
- Verify licenses and insurance. Make sure your contractor candidates are licensed and in good standing with your province license board. Hiring a licensed contractor will protect you. For example, worker’s insurance is a contractor’s responsibility, not a property owner’s, but that’s not the case if a contractor is not licensed or does not carry proper insurance.
- View recent work. After looking at a contractor’s portfolio, request to visit a few projects similar in size and style to yours. Try to check out one that was recently completed, one that’s under construction and one completed 5-10 years ago. Ask yourself:
– Does the work carry a warranty, and are problems corrected?
– How does the construction site look?
– Did the older finished project stand the test of time?
- Check references. Ask for a list of references. In private, discuss with previous clients their experiences working with the contractor. Ask the following questions:
– Was it a pleasant working relationship?
– Did they and the contractor communicate well?
– Was the contractor fair and honest?
– Was the project completed on schedule and within budget?
– Were there extra costs or surprises?
– How were problems handled?
– How was the quality of craftsmanship and follow-up?
- Understand the contract. Decide on the contractor you wish to hire and while your plans are in the permit-review process, discuss the different kinds of contracts available and ask for one to review.
– Ask for updates to the construction bid if plans change for any reason.
– Do not sign the contract until your permits have been approved and all costs have been finalized.
– Be aware that there are always unknowns in the construction process that create change orders and additional costs.
- Don’t part with too much money at one time.
Your contractor will not be able to start on your project for a few weeks. So don’t part with a large chunk of your renovation money upfront.
To book the job, you should put no more than 10% down and that should not be more than $1,000.
Follow up with small increments as the contractor meets certain pre-set milestones on the project. Schedule the final payment — about 15% of the total — for 30 to 45 days after the job is complete.
Incremental payments ensure against disappearing contractor syndrome. Withholding the last payment guarantees that if there are any problems after the job is done, they’ll be fixed promptly. This type of payment schedule is business-as-usual for professional contractors.
There are far more reputable, honest and hardworking contractors than there are bad ones that we read about in the news. With proper planning and research, you will find the right contractor for your project. Invest the time and remember that spending a few extra dollars in the beginning could save you thousands of dollars in the end.