At some time, most homeowners will hire someone for repairs or renovations. Even a homeowner experienced in home repairs may have to hire a contractor or renovator because of the size or level of difficulty of the job. This information found on The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation website will help you choose a contractor and work effectively and fairly with them to achieve the results you desire.
PART I - Who Do You Hire?
Once you have decided to renovate and have a good idea what you want, choosing a contractor or renovator is a crucial decision. It’s not something you should rush into if you are looking to improve the value of your home, especially if you are thinking of selling your house soon.
The contractor you hire should have good technical, business and interpersonal skills. They should have the tools and the experience needed to do whatever job you want done. Hire a contractor who has experience with projects similar to yours. This contractor will know what materials and techniques are needed for your work; and will hopefully have experience with a similar project and be prepared to solve any issue that could crop up.
For large renovation projects, you can hire a contractor to take charge of the whole job since many companies are set up to handle both design and renovation work. You may also choose to hire an architect, architectural technologist (depending on the size of the project) or a designer to prepare your project’s plans for permit application and then invite contractors to submit a quotation based on these plans.
When looking for suitable contractors, it's important to seek referrals from family members, friends, or neighbours who have had similar work completed. They can tell you about the dependability of the contractors they worked with, the quality of the work and their overall experience with specific companies. Other sources of information may include; local homebuilder and renovator associations, building supply stores, municipal building departments, and contractors' websites on the Internet.
Discuss your project with a few potential contractors to get their advice and suggestions on how they would complete the project. The first meeting is usually more to get to know the contractor and their work, however some may give you a rough estimate of costs, depending on the scope and complexity of your renovation. Unless you have been able to check out the contractor ahead of time you should not sign an agreement or pay anything at this stage.
You want to find out as much as you can at this initial meeting, so ask a lot of questions, such as:
• How long have you been in business?
• What work are you, or your subcontractors, licensed to do, e.g., electrical, plumbing?
• What kind of work do you specialize in?
• Have you done a similar job before?
• Will you use your own crew for the work or will you subcontract all or part of the job?
• How would you handle a specific problem related to this project (e.g., installing kitchen cabinets
on your sloping floor)?
• How will you deal with the health and energy efficiency aspects of the job?
• How and when do you clean up, particularly fine dust?
• What work schedule will you follow?
• What kind of warranty do you offer and what does it cover?
• Do you carry workers’ compensation and liability insurance?
• Will you provide a written contract?
• Will you take out all required permits (e.g., building, plumbing, electrical)?
You won’t offend reputable firms with questions. If a contractor doesn’t seem to know much about the technical details of the job or doesn’t want to talk about them, you may have the wrong contractor.
If the prospective contractor plans to do the whole job alone, make sure he or she has all the necessary skills and qualifications.
You also want someone who is willing and able to help you refine your plans where possible, resulting in a more desirable and cost-effective project. A contractor who is knowledgeable about the type of work you’re doing should be able to suggest ways to get what you want and meet your budget.
The best proof of quality is satisfied customers. The contractors you decide to meet with should have references from at least three previous clients who have had similar work done. Don’t accept the references at face value. Phone them and ask about their experience with the contractor and their tradespeople and ask them if they were satisfied with the quality of the work. Were there any problems? Did the contractor keep them informed throughout the project? Did the contractor’s crew keep a clean work site? Was the work done on schedule? Were there changes to the scope of the work and if so how were they handled? Would they hire the contractor again or recommend the company to friends or family?
If the previous clients are willing, visit them to see the finished job. Their willingness itself is usually a sign that they were satisfied. Check with your local Better Business Bureau. It records complaints about contractors in your community.
Don't be afraid to talk all of your concerns through with the contractors you are considering. If you cannot communicate effectively with the him, things can get very tense in a lengthy project. You want a contractor who will explain what’s going on as the project takes shape, who will discuss problems reasonably and who will work with you to achieve the best result in your home. Whichever contractor you hire is going to be a big part of your life while they handle such an important job for you and your family, make sure that you are comfortable with the decision before you move ahead.
Check back next time for PART II – Moving Forward With Your Project