It’s rewarding to do a job yourself, but some projects may require special skills that you don’t have. Other projects might be too large for you to undertake on your own. In situations like this you’ll want to a hire a renovation contractor that you trust and can get along with.
Begin by listing, in detail, what you want. Prioritize the list, highlighting things that are ‘must haves. If you find it difficult to visualize what you want, consult with an interior designer, who will help you sort through your ideas and come up with a realistic budget.
Resist the urge to hire the first contractor you meet. Interview three or four contractors. Find out how long they’ve been in business under the same name in your town, whether they have a trade certification, possess a business license, have a GST number and are a member of a business or trade association. Ask for client names and phone numbers, and call them. Check out the contractor with the Better Business Bureau. And listen to your intuition – did the person show up on time? Were they personable, polite and organized? Did they seem knowledgeable?
Ensure they carry both liability insurance and property damage insurance. Ask to see a copy of the insurance certificate. Otherwise, you may be liable if an accident occurs on your property.
Find out whether the contractor will do all the work, use employees, or subcontract all or part of the work. Get the name of all subcontractors and enquire about their background and experience. Find out how often the contractor will be on-site, how many days per week he will be working on your project, and how many other jobs he has on the go.
A vague start date is as good as no start date. Make sure you get a firm start date and an expected completion date. You’ll also want to know what time will they will begin work each morning, when they’ll quit for the day, and whether they’ll be working every day on your project.
Each prospective contractor should provide you with an itemized list of all the work they will do, materials that will be used, and provide a fixed price rather than an estimate for the job. The bid should include a time schedule for each component of the job, and list all permits that are required. Ensure you know who will apply for the permits – you or the contractor.
Ask if the contractor provides a warranty, what it covers, and for how long. Ensure the warranty is written into the bid.
Most contractors will have a preferred payment schedule – generally some percentage up front, with subsequent payments as the work progresses. Ensure the payment schedule makes sense to you, and that payments are related to actual deliverables. You should also insist on a hold-back that will be paid upon successful completion of the project. And always make payments by cheque so you have a record of disbursements.
Once you select the contractor, make sure you have a signed agreement. The bid, if not signed, isn’t a contract.
Messes and delays are common, particularly on large projects. Discuss with the contractor what you need to do before the project begins, what they will do to minimize any mess, and specifically what they will do to clean up the work area after the project is completed. Once the work starts, get out of the way, and let the contractor do the job.
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