Before hiring a contractor make sure you know exactly what you want done and how much you want to spend. Make an itemized list and be clear about your budget. Remember that changing plans in the middle of a project will cost money and may cause headaches for you as well the contractor.
If it’s a major project, you might need an architect or engineer to draw up plans and provide guidance on the how to approach the renovation. You will also likely have to get a building permit. Always check with your city or town hall how much permits will cost, and what you will need to do to get them, before you sign a home renovation contract.
Here are some things to keep in mind when hiring a contractor:
Ask for recommendations from friends and neighbours and consider dealing with a local firm. Working with a company that is close by may make it easier to obtain and check references, enforce a warranty or arrange for any follow-up work.
Obtain written estimates from three contractors that include a description of the work to be done, an itemized list of products and services and their prices. Never accept an estimate over the phone or without the contractor inspecting the area. And don’t go for a deal that sounds too good to be true
Obtain references and check them, even if someone you know has recommended the contractor to you. Get references from people who had work done that is similar to the project you have in mind. Also, make sure each reference is from someone who has dealt with the contractor personally
Obtain references both from the recent past and further back in time. Sometimes, problems do not surface for a while. For example, most roofing and paving problems appear about a year or more after a project is completed
Remember that good contractors ask a lot of questions in order to understand the work that needs to be done. For example, in driveway paving, they should ask if any heavy vehicles will be parked on the driveway
Check our Consumer Beware List to see if there are any complaints on file against the contractor. Better Business Bureaus, Chambers of Commerce, local licensing commissions and municipal building inspectors also keep records on contractors. Check with all of these organizations
Get a written contract before any work begins and make sure it includes the name and address of the contractor as well as all the key details about the work to be done and the warranty. Make sure that any changes to the contract are agreed to in writing by both you and your contractor. Be prepared to pay for any extra materials or any work that are not in the contract
Keep down-payments to a minimum (we recommend no more than 10 per cent). Never pay the full amount of the contract before the work is completed. This helps to ensure that the contractor will finish the job and protects you from financial loss if the company goes out of business or declares bankruptcy before completing the work
Talk to your contractor about how you will deal with any disagreements or disputes that may arise. Ideally, this should be addressed in your contract.