Now that you have decided which projects to tackle around your home, the most difficult and important job of any project is the selection of the contractor that will do the work for you.
Before the first nail gets pounded or the first piece of tile chosen, you’ll have to make a decision that influences every facet of your project.
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.
Homeowners often think that they can go it alone – that they can be their own renovation contractor. Some can succeed in this, but more often than not, it has been my experience that homeowners-turned-contractors fail. I am constantly invited into homes and guided through this or that horror story in which renovations went terribly awry.
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.
People working with friends: in my experience it seldom works. Some detail gets overlooked, or found not to be necessary (like a building permit or WorkSafe BC Coverage). In one case, a client had a deck extension built by a friend in offence of a bylaw and, as a result, the deck had to be reduced to its original size.
One of the most powerful, compelling reasons to choose one renovator over another is reputation. But unless you’ve already dealt with a company, a solid reputation is sometimes difficult to assess. Ask for references and then check them out. I’m amazed by how many people will get references and then never bother to phone or drive by. If the onsite people are not registered with the Workers Compensation Board, you are responsible in the case of an accident. What are their work habits; where are they buying materials from; and are the bills being paid to the materials’ supplier? (Remember, a contractor’s supply store can lien your house). Does your contractor have third-party liability insurance? Are they properly licensed? Do they 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.
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 materials and quality.
Over the years, professional networks sprouted up across Canada that became trusted to accomplish renovations properly. In the 1960s, there was Blue Army. Later, there was Mr. Build and Mr. Renovator. For a time, an automobile advisory network, had a renovation services network for its members. The reason for such networks is simple. Homeowners demand quality products and professionals. However, to refer a company, tradesman, or product, one has to understand how the job has to be done. Companies and individuals have to be checked out before they can be recommended.
People often think that referral services can create an unnecessary expense when dealing with home improvement projects. But how much more does it cost if the job isn’t done right? Getting caught by an inspector attempting to band-aid a repair can be plenty more costly than having professional do it right.
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.