Canadian Woodworking

Top 10 considerations when hiring a contractor

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.

1. Be Clear About What You Want

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.

2. Be Clear About Who They Are

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?

3. Make Sure They’re Covered

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.

4. Know Who Will Do the Work

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.

5. Know When the Work Will be Done

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.

6. Get an Itemized Bid

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.

7. Check for a Warranty

Ask if the contractor provides a warranty, what it covers, and for how long. Ensure the warranty is written into the bid.

8. Review The Payment Schedule

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.

9. Get It In Writing

Once you select the contractor, make sure you have a signed agreement. The bid, if not signed, isn’t a contract.

10. Prepare for the Mess

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.

Rob Brown - [email protected]

Rob is a studio furniture maker and the editor at Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement. Instagram at @RobBrownTeaches

Any thoughts, tips or questions you can share?

Leave a comment in the section below.


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  2. My grandmother used to live in the Blue Mountains but moved to the city, so I was thinking of getting her residence there remodeled soon since I plan to move in by next year. It’s good that you advised us to be clear about what we want when working with a contractor for our home project while also making sure we come up with a realistic budget for our vision. I’ll take note of this while I look for licensed builders in the Blue Mountains to hire for this remodeling project.

  3. My wife and I want to remodel our kitchen and backyard to ensure we’re ready to host summer outdoor parties for our friends. We’ll use your tips to find a remodeling contractor for our project this month. We appreciate your intake in checking if a contractor offers a warranty in their bids.

  4. Hi there. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this topic. A decent contractor also does not only guarantee quality results, but they must strive to save you any extra time and costs. A good advert is not proof enough that a contractor is one of good quality. You must also consider other things when considering who to hire.

  5. We love that you elaborated on making sure a contractor’s insured before hiring one. Last week, our patio got damaged during our swimming pool’s installation, so we need to find an expert to help us. My wife and I want to make the best out of this situation and renovate our patio, so we’ll use your tips to find a contractor for it. Thanks for the advice on how to know if a contractor has insurance coverage in case of an accident.

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