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Renovator research

What any homeowner should ask before hiring a contractor

It doesn’t take much asking around to find people with horror stories about renovations gone wrong, and many of those stories stem from negative experiences with contractors. Finding the right contractor(s) for your specific needs and budget is a crucial part of making your renovation dream into a reality, so it pays to do your homework.

The following is a list of questions from the Canadian Home Builders’ Association (CHBA) to ask any contractor before you hire them:

What is the history of your company?
Often, an experienced contractor is a reliable contractor. CHBA recommends finding out how and when the contractor got into the business, and how long the company has been around. It also recommends asking about the contractor’s background and education to ensure they have the technical and business skills required to run a solid company. The size of the company is also good to know, as some have their own staff for construction work while others rely on subcontractors.

What services do you offer?
It’s crucial to have a clear understanding of what services the contractor provides and how those services relate to your project.

Have you done renovations like ours before?
According to CHBA, it is important to know that a contractor has experience with projects similar to yours – ask how many they have completed recently.

Can we talk to some off your past clients?
CHBA recommends requesting a list of past customers you can contact as references. Professional contractors are proud of their work and should be happy to oblige. Do not hire any contractor who is not willing to provide references.

Can we visit one of your current projects?
According to CHBA, visiting a work site is a great way to learn how a contractor operates. Take note of important details, such as whether the site is well organized and clean.

Do you carry Workers’ Compensation and business liability insurance?
Hiring a contractor who is not properly insured could put you at considerable risk, both legally and financially. The contractor should provide you with proof of business liability insurance and Workers’ Compensation coverage.

Will we get a written contract?
According to CHBA, always get it in writing – no written contract, no deal. The contract details the agreement between you and the renovator, including the description of the work, the materials that will be used, the price you will pay, and the responsibilities of both the client and the contractor. Without a written contract, there is no proof that you and the contractor have actually agreed to the same terms.

What warranty do you offer on your work?
According to CHBA, a solid contractor will provide you with a written warranty that spells out what is covered and for how long. They should also follow-up promptly if there are problems or defects in their work. While contacting references, ask past clients about the contractor’s warranty service performance.

How would you deal with our project?
CHBA recommends asking the renovator to explain in concrete terms how they would approach your project. This should include answers to the following questions: Will design and working drawings be required before they can give you a firm price? Will they help you choose products? Will they look after any necessary permits? How long will the work take? When can they start? What will the project schedule look like? How much will the work disrupt your household? Will they clean up? How will you pay and when?

At the same time, a good contractor should be trying to learn as much as they can about you and the proposed project. At the end of the discussion, you should feel confident they understand what you are looking for and can help you accomplish it.

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