Hiring a ContractorMarch 16, 2006
The most difficult and important job of any project is the selection of the contractor that will do the work for you.
Hiring the right contractor can make the difference between having a fantastic experience or an ugly nightmare. Also, you will want to be sure to give yourself plenty of time since there is an ever increasing demand for qualified contractors.
Word of mouth is still one of the best ways to choose service trades but whom should you trust for their opinion? Talk about your renovation project with family, friends, building supply stores, city planning and permits offices, etc. If you are lucky enough to find someone who had a similar project go well, you are off to a great start.
I recommend that you get in touch with the HouseSmart Referral Network. Our HouseSmart Referral Network is made up of carefully screened contractors that we will recommend to you.
Always consider obtaining three quotes on your project and make sure that you compare apples to apples. By that I mean to make sure that all the parties who provide you with an estimate have an identical understanding of your needs and will provide the same deliverables and quality.
When hiring a contactor there are a few questions you should ask;
Do you have a show room?
Are you a member of the Better Business Bureau? Are you bonded, licensed to do work in this city/municipality and are you insured?
How many years have you been in business?
Will you provide me with a list of your past customers that I can use to do a reference check?
Can I see any of your completed projects?
Do you have a home and/or office phone number?
Personally, I wouldn’t associate with companies who operate exclusively with a cell phone or pager. Many of these companies will be what I refer to as “tail-gaters” who may be here today and gone tomorrow.
Who will supervise the job while it’s under construction? I find that when I personally go out to visit the projects that our HouseSmart Home Improvments team have on the go, it gives the homeowner assurance and peace of mind.
Who pays for the material to be used?
Is the project budget based on time and material?
How are sub-trades paid? Keep in mind any unpaid services to sub-trades can show up as a mechanics lien on your home making you responsible for payment.
Spell out and detail your wish list in writing. Resist entering into verbal agreements because they can backfire. Make sure you document quality expectation issues such as the model numbers and brands of your new fixtures such as kitchen cabinets, sinks, faucets, lighting, etc. As an example, if you want a specific brand of cabinets, they must be that brand – no substitutes.
Get the contract in writing with a breakdown of material and labour charges.
Any changes made to the plans or any part of the project must have a change order form filled out and signed by you before the changes are made.
You should expect to pay a deposit prior to the work beginning.
Other things to think about:
- 25% of budgeted labour costs
- 15% of budgeted material costs (unless you have agreed that you will pay all material costs as they occur)
Remember warranty issues. Ask about a (written) warranty that should cover:
- Project workmanship
- Materials – including any manufacturer’s warranties
Think about quality assurance issues. Is the contractor a member of?
- The Better Business Bureau, and/or;
- The Canadian Home Builders Association, and/or;
- The HouseSmart Referral Network, and/or;
- An appropriate accredited organization
Insurance: Will all work to be performed by qualified trades with paid-up Workers Compensation premiums? What happens if a worker injures himself while on your property?
- Estimated date of project completion (with a clause outlining what happens in the event of a weather delay, etc.)
- What are the penalties in event of delays?
- Agree on the final completion date, inspection and final payment of contract.
On many of our major renovation projects, I ask my HouseSmart Referral Network contractors to invite me to visit the site when they have completed their task. I then perform an inspection and give it my stamp of approval. This provides me with the opportunity to show the homeowner that we care about quality, value and customer service. Hopefully, your renovation contractor will do the same.
Hopefully this will better prepare you to take on that renovation project you want to do. It is a bit of work but proper preparation will help ensure that your project goes as it should, that there are no nasty surprises and you end up with the result you were hoping for.
For more information, feel free to visit our HouseSmart Referral Network office located in South Surrey/White Rock or visit the HouseSmart Referral Network area of this website.
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