One of the hardest parts – and no doubt the most important part of any home renovation is who you select as your contractor. It’s important to select the right contractor for your home renovation, or you will end up in endless battles, risk poor workmanship, go way over budget or perhaps end up with a partially finished project. By taking steps to carefully select the right contractor for the job upfront, you avoid the multiple pitfalls that can occur when you don’t. The following steps will help you make this important decision the right way.
1. Ask the right questions – and lots of them.
Don’t be shy about asking potential contractors a host of questions. Contractors should be willing (and wanting) to do a pre-quote site visit to your home to get a sense of the project and to ensure it is also the right fit for them.
This is your opportunity to see if their personality fits with yours and to ask all the things you need to know before you decide on who to hire. Here are some of the top questions you should ask, but each project is unique, and you should spend some time researching what else to ask for your particular needs.
What is your experience?
It’s important to know just how long the contractor has been in business, and even more important to know what experience they have in doing residential construction work.
What are your credentials?
Trades school, certification in carpentry and/or being a member of your local association are just a few of the credentials a contractor might have.
Where can I find you online?
Of course, not every contractor is internet savvy. But in this day and age, it’s important that a potential contractor have at least some kind of online presence to legitimize them and get a feel for what people are saying about them online. Either a webpage, a Facebook business page or another social media account will do, but there should be some way to review them online.
What is your area of specialty?
This one is important, but often overlooked. If you are doing an outdoor renovation and are using someone who mainly does kitchens, things might not go so well.
Is there a warranty on your work?
A good contractor will guarantee their work for a period of time after the work is complete. This should be recorded in writing on the contract.
How will you communicate with me?
This is a big one. Communication breakdown will surely lead to conflict, confusion and dissatisfaction with the end product. Ask the contractor who will be the main contact, how they can be reached and what the process is if there is a disagreement along the way.
Do you have any concerns about my project?
A good contractor will be honest from the get-go on any potential issues they can foresee on your project. It’s better for you to know upfront that there may be an abatement issue or an issue with site integrity that could add to the budget.
How often will you be on the property and when?
Who will be here?
No matter the size or length of the project, this is your home. It’s certainly reasonable to assume there will be people on your property for a length of time during construction, but you should always know who will be there and what hours of the day to expect them. It isn’t too much to ask a contractor to call you if there is a change in schedule or to let you know if a tradesperson wants to come at an unscheduled time.
2. Be sure they have the basics.
Without fail, your contractor should have the proper legal paperwork readily available. If they don’t, cross them off the list. Hiring someone who is not properly insured could put you at considerable legal and financial risk.
At a minimum, paperwork should include workers’ compensation, a local business license, and business liability insurance.
In Alberta, another credential I highly recommend is having a prepaid contracting license.
“There are special rules for contractors who accept money before work is complete and discuss or finalize a contract away from their normal place of business (i.e., your home). These contractors are considered prepaid contractors. They must be licensed by Service Alberta and post a security.” – Alberta.ca
Here at Lambert Brothers, we are proud to be a licensed pre-paid contractor in Alberta, a designation that less than 10% of contractors in the province have! If you are not in Alberta, check with your provincial regulator to see what enhanced licensing they offer.
3. Be sure the contractor has “street-cred.”
Being a legal entity through minimum licensing requirements is important, but it’s the bare minimum. Being qualified is different than being a proven expert. Check for certifications such as the one right here on RenovationFind, the Better Business Bureau, references, and the local Chambers of Commerce as well as the company’s own online presence such as a website and social media accounts. A Facebook business page is common and can give you a lot of information based on reviews and photos.
Reputable contractors want to show potential clients their past work, their past client testimonials and their personality and area of specialty. They also know that having an online presence is a great way to find new clients, so if your contractor can’t be found anywhere online, you should be very hesitant to hire them.
4. Know their area of specialty.
Finally, reputable contractors tend to have an area of specialty. This doesn’t mean they can’t or won’t do work in a variety of areas, but you want to ensure they have good experience and knowledge for your specific project. Do they specialize in budget projects? Whole home renos? Kitchens? Bathrooms? Rejuvenating old homes? This is important so that they are on the same page as you are for the project.
Imagine if you were wanting a full kitchen renovation but the contractor you hired specialized in outdoor construction projects. If they don’t usually do kitchens, you can imagine the inadvertent mistakes and misses they could make because they just don’t have the knowledge to ensure the kitchen is properly installed and functional for your needs.
Hiring the right contractor for your home renovation is the most important step in your project and having trust and peace of mind that your needs will be met by your contractor is priceless. Be sure to do the legwork ahead of hiring and you will see the return on those efforts in spades. For more information on how to maintain your home after those renovations happen so you can enjoy them for years to come, please visit www.lambertbrothers.ca and download our free home maintenance guide.