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Hire a contractor

Hire a contractor who has experience with projects similar to yours. For large renovation projects, you may hire an architect or architectural technologist or a designer to prepare your project’s plans for permit application and then invite contractors or renovators to submit a quotation based on these plans. These professionals may also provide their services to oversee your project, which may include obtaining all necessary permits, hiring a contractor(s) and the supervision of the work.

Finding and Choosing a Contractor

A good source of referrals may be a family member, friend, or neighbour who has had similar work completed. Or look on the web for general contractors.

Discuss your project with a few potential contractors to get their advice and suggestions on how they would do the work. Some may give you a rough estimate of costs. The first meeting is usually more to get to know the contractor.

You want to find out as much as you can, so ask a lot of questions, such as:

  • How long have you been in business?
  • What work are you, or your subcontractors, licensed to do?
  • Have you done a similar job before?
  • What kind of warranty do you offer and what does it cover?
  • Do you carry workers’ compensation and liability insurance?
  • Will you take out all required permits?

Other points:

  • * You won’t offend reputable firms with questions.
  • * If the contractor plans to do the whole job alone, make sure he or she has all the necessary skills and qualifications.
  • * Most importantly, be sure you can get along with the contractor. If you cannot communicate effectively with the contractor, things can get very tense in a lengthy project.
  • * The best proof of quality is how satisfied customers were handled. Would they hire the contractor again or recommend the company to friends or family?
  • * If the previous clients are willing, visit them to see the finished job. Their willingness itself is usualy a sign that they were satisfied.

Getting Estimates/Quotes

As a general rule, with the proper drawings and sepcifications, three estimates will usually provide sufficient information for you to make a decision.

Even with a small project, a set of written specifications is needed.

For a large project, ask the contractor to submit it in person so you can discuss the estimate with them. Compare the estimate carefully and make sure that everything you ask for is in the estimate. It should include everything that the contractor will have to do to complete the job. As well, make sure the contractor provides you with a construction schedule.

Remember, renovation may uncover hidden problems, so make sure you include a contingency budget to cover unforseen costs. Get a written estimate for all extras before it gets done. Remember the #1 rule is to have no extras.

Get it in Writing

Do not be tempted by a contractor who doesn’t have an address, doesn’t want a written contract and offers a discount if you pay cash.

For example, contractors who insist on cash may be unlicensed and uninsured; and without a written contract your cash advances are unprotected. As well, an underground contractor may do poor work and create health and safety problems. If one of the contractor’s crew is improperly trained, is injured on the job or damages your property or a neighbour’s property, your homeowner’s inisurance policy might not cover you and you could be liable.

A cash deal may leave you with no legal recourse if something goes wrong or the work insn’t satisfactory. For your own protection and peace of mind, it’s best to deal in a legal and responsible way – alsways get it in writing.

The Contract

A detailed written contract between you and the contractor you hire is essential to any renovation or home repair project, no matter its size. Even the smallest job should be put in writing. Sample contracts are available.

Completion Certificate

When the job is finished, the contractor may ask you to sign a certificate of completion. Don’t sign it until you have thoroughly inspected the work and the City Bylaw inspections are completed. Professional contractors offer a warranty on their work and will come back if something goes wrong.