If you are planning a major home renovation, hiring the right contractor or renovator will be crucial to the success of your project. Itís important to take your time and do your homework to ensure the person you hire has the skills, tools and experience needed to do the job.
A good source of referrals for suitable contractors may be family, friends, or neighbours who have had similar work completed. Other sources are your local home-builder and renovator associations, local building supply stores and the Internet.
The contractor you hire should have experience with projects similar to yours. They will know what materials and techniques are needed for your work and, even better, about problems with similar work and how to solve them.
Itís best to meet with a few potential contractors to get their advice and suggestions on how they would do the work. Although contractors may give you a rough estimate of costs at this first meeting, you should not sign anything or pay anything at this stage unless you have been able to check out the contractor ahead of time.
Take the time to ask questions about how long they have been in business and what work they are licensed to do. Ask about their experience and if they have done a similar job before. Itís also very important to discuss scheduling, warranties, liability insurance and workersí compensation coverage. A reputable contractor won't be offended by lots of questions or concerns.
However, the best proof of quality work is satisfied customers, so be sure to ask for references from at least three previous clients who have had similar work done. But don't accept the references at face value. Phone the customers and ask about their experience, and if they were satisfied with the quality of the work. Ideally, if the previous clients are willing, visit them to see the finished job. You can also check with your local Better Business Bureau for any complaints filed against contractors in your community.
Estimates and contracts
With the proper drawings and specifications, three estimates will usually provide you with sufficient information to select a contractor. Look for a fair price, but don't automatically choose the contractor who gives the lowest estimate. Factor in any differences in what the contractors are offering and the skills they bring to the job. Then add the intangibles, such as reputation, willingness to make suggestions and offer advice, the likelihood of standing behind the work. Choose the contractor you feel will give you the best overall value for your money.
Once you decide on a particular contractor, be sure you get a written contract that spells out clearly every aspect of the project, including costs and schedules. Do not be tempted by a contractor who doesn't want a written contract and offers a discount if you pay cash. This type of underground economy transaction involves many risks and pitfalls that offset any savings to the homeowner.
Ultimately, youíll want to choose a contractor who can work with you effectively and fairly, who communicates well and will help ensure your renovation project runs smoothly.
For more, downlownd Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation's (CMHC) free About Your House fact sheet called Hiring a Contractor.
Mark Salerno is district manager for the Greater Toronto Area at Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.