A look at the do’s and don’ts of hiring a contractor for your next renovation project

1. Who to Hire

Choosing the right contractor is the most important decision you will make when it comes to home renovations.  You’ll want to hire someone who has experience in completing jobs such as yours and understands the materials and construction techniques required for your particular job.  You’ll also want to choose someone that you like and feel comfortable with as you will likely be interacting with them regularly throughout the project.

2. Where to Find a Reliable Contractor

When it comes to finding a reliable contractor, one of the best sources available is a qualified referral from a family member, friend or business associate that has had a positive experience with their contractor.  You will want to ask them how reliable they were, if they were easy to deal with, if they were clean, if they keep their timeline, how they handled changes or problems, etc.  Alternately you may wish to look in the Yellow Pages for established contractors.  The best way to approach this is to look for ones that have a Better Business Bureau designation as that will help you determine how they might resolve any issues that may arise.  Should you decide to go with an unknown contractor, consider getting at least 3 quotes to make sure that you are getting a fair and reasonable quote.

What Questions You Should Ask

Don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions when getting ready to hire a contractor.  Renovations can be costly and knowing the answers to some of these questions will help your renovation go smoother in the long run.

  • How long have you been in business?
  • Do you have references?
  • Do you have contractor insurance? How much? (Keep in mind that a minimum of $2 million is standard)
  • How do you clean up after yourself? Is it broom clean, etc?
  • Do you do the work or do you sub contract out the work?
  • Have you done a similar job to this in the past?
  • What’s your usual work schedule? Do you work days or weekends, etc?
  • How long will it take until the renovation is complete?
  • Do you have a written contract?
  • How much is the deposit and when is the balance due?
  • What is your warranty policy?
  • Are you insured through the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board?
  • Who is responsible for permits?

Additionally, you will want to clarify if the price includes all materials and labour, what grade of materials they will be using, what your responsibilities are for the project, and whether or not there are any extras.

Starting the Project

Once you have hired your contractor they will likely ask you for your signature on the contract and for a deposit.  The deposit amount can vary, however you can generally expect it to be between 30-50% of the total cost of the job.  Make sure you have reviewed the contract in full and ensure that it encompasses all aspects of the project.  If you think there may be something missing, this is the time to bring it to the contractor’s attention.  If you have special needs, let them know so they can try to work around them.  Alternately, the contractor may have their own needs that should be accounted for, such as you providing access to the home, or having cars moved for deliveries etc.  Whatever the case, good communication is key in achieving a successful project.

Job Completion, Holdbacks, Arbitration, etc.

Hopefully your renovation goes smoothly, but if not, let’s hope that you and your contractor have been able to work out any deficiencies together in a peaceful manner.  Occasionally problems arise on projects such as these and there are a few ways they can be dealt with if needed.

Holdbacks are common in construction as they give the homeowners the opportunity to make sure that they are happy with everything before they pay for the project in full.  Generally, a 10% holdback is considered standard but depending on the deficiencies, a larger holdback may be necessary.  Once the contractor has completed the project, take the time to review all aspects of the job with them to ensure everything has been completed as planned.  Once you are satisfied that everything is okay, you can release the holdback and complete the transaction.

In the event that there is a disagreement that can’t be solved equitably, you may want to consider arbitration.  In an arbitration, both parties agree to allow an impartial person decide what’s fair.  They will listen to the claims of both parties and then decide on a fair way to resolve the issue.  If you are concerned about the possibility of needing arbitration, you may want to discuss this in advance with your contractor to make sure they are open to the idea.  Agreeing in advance may prevent a bad situation from getting any worse.

When doing renovations, there are sometimes unforeseen situations which may result in additional costs to you as a homeowner.  When these situations present themselves, immediately speak with the contractor and let them know your concerns so they can be addressed swiftly.  Any good contractor will be willing to work with you to find a good solution you can both be happy with.

In general, renovating can be a very rewarding process and when working with the right person it can truly be a great experience.  The success lies in keeping your communication lines open, in making sure all the little details are discussed, and ensuring that both you and the contractor are clear on your expectations of the project.  Keeping all these things in mind will help make your next project a success.

If you are considering a renovation and would like some advice or a hassle-free quotation on your project please feel free to contact me directly at 519-318-2241 and I will be happy to assist you.