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10 Questions To Ask When Hiring A Contractor

October 24, 2011

At some time, most homeowners will hire someone for repairs or renovations. Even a homeowner experienced in home repairs may have to hire a contractor because of the size or level of difficulty of the job.

Once you have decided to renovate and know, or at least have a good idea of, what you want, choosing a contractor is a crucial decision. It’s not something you should rush into.

The renovator you hire should have the technical, business and interpersonal skills, the tools and the experience needed to do the job you want done. Hire a contractor who has experience with projects similar to yours. This contractor will know what materials and techniques are needed for your work. And even better, about problems with similar work – and how to solve them.

One of the questions posted in response to my recent survey was:

How do you know who to trust in the trades?

Start by looking for several suitable contractors. A good source of referrals may be a family member, friend, or neighbour who has had similar work completed. They can tell you about the dependability, the quality of the work and their overall experience with that company. Other sources are your local homebuilder and renovator associations and local building supply stores.

10 Questions to Ask when Hiring a Trustworthy Contractor

  1. How long has the contractor been in business and can he/she provide references from previous clients?
  2. What work is the contractor, or their subcontractors, licensed to do, e.g., electrical, plumbing?
  3. Does the contractor provide written estimates on company letterhead?
  4. What kind of warranty does the contractor offer and what exactly does it cover? Ask for written guarantees.
  5. Does the contractor insist on payment in cash? Find someone else!
  6. Are the contractor’s licences and registrations valid?
  7. Will the contractor take out all required permits e.g. building, plumbing, electrical?
  8. Does the contractor carry worker’s compensation and liability insurance?
  9. Are the contractor and any related trades persons bonded?
  10. Is the contractor registered with the Better Business Bureau and a member of the Home Builders Association?

You won’t offend a reputable contractor when you ask questions. You want to make sure you hire the right company for your project. Chances are the contractor you are about to hire will spend considerable time in your home, perhaps with you and your loved ones around.


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. This type of underground economy transaction involves many risks and pitfalls that offset any savings to the homeowner.

For example, contractors who insist on cash may be unlicensed and uninsured; and without a written contract your cash advances are unprotected. They could neglect to get the required permits or inspections. Product warranties my not be valid if a recognized contractor does not install the items.

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 insurance 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 isn’t satisfactory, or if the contractor walks off the job without finishing it. In fact, it makes it difficult for you to prove the contractor was ever there. And after you have paid the contractor, you may find that materials haven’t been paid for or workers haven’t been paid – and you are responsible for the bills. For your own protection and peace of mind, it’s best to deal in a legal and responsible way – always 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

The Contract should contain

  • Correct and complete address of the property where the work will be done.
  • Your name and address.
  • Contractor’s name, address, telephone and GST numbers.
  • Detailed description of the work, plans (or sketches) and a detailed specification of the materials (type, quality, model) to be used.
  • The right to obtain a lien holdback as specified in provincial law.
  • A clause stating that work will conform to the requirements of all applicable codes, such as building, safety and fire codes.
  • Start and completion dates.
  • The price and payment schedule (keep in mind the lien and seasonal holdbacks).
  • Agreement on who (homeowner or contractor) is responsible for all necessary permits, licenses, inspections and certificates.

Of course you need to let your contractor know about the security system in your home. Make sure he and his crew have their own security code and know their responsibility on properly disarming/arming the system when entering or leaving your home when no one else is in the home. Keep in mind that you will be able to tell by the security code entered into your keypad who did what to your security system and at what time. You will have a record on who has been coming in and leaving your home at what time. You will be able to tell who disarmed/armed your security system.

If you do not know how to program separate security codes for your contractor and his or her team, perhaps because you have never been taught how to do so, make sure to contact your security provider to get detailed instructions before you let any stranger into your home! 

If you don’t have a security system, if your current system is not monitored or if you are not happy with your current security provider, call me for a free, no-obligation consultation. You will be glad you did!
Ulli Robson, Security Specialist, (780) 288-2986

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