Hiring a Contractor? Here's What You Need to Know!

August 20, 2018

1. Know What You Want

It’s a really good idea to live in your home for a while before determining what renovations are desirable. Even if you make the decision to renovate before you move into a new house, don’t rush into making changes. You are going to be spending a lot of money, and you will want to ensure that that money is going to be spent in an optimal manner to give you the home of your dreams! Spend some time in the space and get a feel for what needs to be done. Pore over home design magazines and sites such as Pinterest and put together a wish list and images that you will be able to present to potential contractors. Otherwise, you may find yourself getting talked into projects that you don’t really want or need.

2. Shop Around

There are a lot of contractors out there, so you will have no trouble finding several to look over your place and put together a bid for your renovation job.

The standard is to get bids from three different contractors, but there’s nothing wrong with getting more so you have plenty of choice. Insist on an itemized bid which breaks down costs so that you can better compare proposals. Don’t automatically go with the lowest bid- that may be a sign that the contractor is willing to cut corners on materials or labour.

3. References Matter

You are trusting your contractor with your home- you will want to know that the final product is going to be worth the money. Ask to see previous projects that they have done. If clients have been satisfied with their work, they should be happy to tell you! Go beyond previous clients, however- make sure that your contractor is licensed and insured. Homestars, The Better Business Bureau and Consumer Beware List are also valuable resources. Search under both the contractor’s business name and personal name to see if they have any complaints, charges or convictions.

4. Get it in Writing!

A contract is absolutely essential. In fact, under Ontario law, any project that costs more than $50 must be in writing! You should go with the expert advice of a lawyer for this important document. They can ensure that it includes the following:

    • name, address and contact information for the contractor
    • detailed description of work and materials
    • warranties
    • total cost and payment schedule, including deposit
    • start and finish dates
    • subcontractors and how they will be paid
    • building permits and who will obtain them

5. Stay Involved

Even if you are not living in your home while the renovation work is underway, it’s necessary to keep on top of the project. While it may seem like the ideal opportunity to get away for a vacation while your home is filled with noise, dust, and strangers, it is still your home. While you may have an extremely detailed contract, and you think that every eventuality has been considered, the only guarantee in renovation is that there are no guarantees! We’ve all seen the HGTV shows where a wall gets opened up to reveal an unpleasant surprise like black mold, which leads to additional costs that need to be approved quickly. As well, you may simply walk in and find that the contractor is using the wrong material or installing something in the wrong place! There’s no substitute for your personal, ongoing supervision of your renovation job.

You have the right under Ontario law to withhold the final 10% of the contract payment for 45 days after work has been completed. This gives you an opportunity to live with the results and ensure that the work is satisfactory. You should also know by then if the contractor has fulfilled their obligations to pay sub-contractors and suppliers- otherwise, you may find yourself having to take care of that as well!

Renovating can be a huge hassle, up-ending your family’s normal life for months on end. However, when done right, it will enhance your life for years to come!

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