This is the most important step of all. If you hire the right contractor to lead your home renovation, all should go relatively smoothly … and vice-versa!
When meeting prospective contractors it can be challenging to differentiate the best from the rest, so we’ve condensed a list of the top 10 questions to help you make an informed hiring decision.
- How long have you done business in the area? This will help you determine their knowledge of local subcontractors and suppliers necessary for the job. They may also have knowledge of local by-laws, which can vary by municipality.
- Do you have professional designations or associations? A contractor who is a licensed professional and/or belongs to a professional organization will usually have better references and higher integrity. The Canadian Homebuilders Association offers helpful tips and an interview worksheet.
- Do you have contractor insurance? Contractors should have three types of insurance: personal liability, property damage coverage and worker’s compensation. Ask for copies of insurance certificates, and make sure they’re current, or you could be held liable for any injuries and damages that occur during the project.
- How will you communicate with me? Make sure you understand how you will receive information that fits both your preferences, be it text messages, phone calls, daily email updates, or possibly cloud-based schedules. Scheduling a weekly meeting is an effective way to get your questions answered in person.
- How can I reach you after hours? Knowing how to reach each other in an emergency is key. Exchange all your numbers: work, cell and landline.
- Will you be using subcontractors on this project? If so, get their names and contact information and make sure they also have current insurance coverage and licenses, too, if required.
- Does this work require a permit? Why or why not? Most provinces and localities require permits for building projects, even for simple jobs like decks. A competent contractor will get all the necessary permits before starting work on your project. You should choose a contractor familiar with the permitting process in your county, city, or town.
- Can you provide me with itemized pricing for this project that breaks out labour and material expenses? This will make it easier to compare your quotes.
- Can you provide three recent customer references and may I visit a worksite? A contractor should be able to give you names, addresses, and phone numbers of at least three clients with projects like yours. Ask each client the same questions: When was the project started and was it completed on time? Were you satisfied? Were there any unexpected costs or problems? Did workers show up on time and clean up after finishing the job? Finally, visiting a current worksite will give you a behind-the-scenes look at the quality of their work and how they manage the ongoing cleaning and upkeep of the work site.
- Last but not least, ask this zinger: What part of my project concerns you? Your prospective contractor probably has concerns or questions, even about a smaller job, but they may not want to ask you the tough questions upfront for fear of losing the job. Yet they need these answers before they can submit a realistic bid. A good contractor will candidly discuss potential blocks or unforeseen delays. Looking at worst-case scenarios or possibly doing some selective demolition upfront to get more information could actually save time and money.
About our Survival Guide
Home renovations, whether upgrades, repairs or new construction, are a reality most homeowners face at some point in their lives. While there often seems to be an endless supply of independent contractors or companies available to do the work, finding the best one for the job can often pose a challenge. Although online resources exist for homeowners, there has yet to one that addresses the entire process from start to finish. So the experts at HomeStars have developed a comprehensive guide to help homeowners along every step of the way.
Read our first instalment: Getting Started on Your Renovation