Tips for Hiring a Contractor For Home Improvements

Posted by Justin Havre on Tuesday, May 14th, 2019 at 8:30am.

What to Know When Hiring a ContractorMany home owners will want to get some small, major renovation or repair jobs done on their home at some point. Some are skilled enough to do the job on their own while others either don’t have the necessary skills or simply don’t have the time. This latter group will likely hire a contractor to perform the work. Everyone has probably heard horror stories about someone who had encountered problems with a contractor and for a variety of reasons.

Using a contractor in Calgary is not all that different from any other business arrangement. If you want to avoid problems then you have to do it right. Here are a few tips to help you have a productive and successful arrangement with a contractor.

For informational purposes only. Always consult with a financial advisor before proceeding with any real estate transaction.

Determining What Type of Contractor You Need

You need more than just one person on your team for renovations. It starts with an architect to help with the interior design of the actual space. They can also act as a general contractor, as well. Your architect should be licensed through the Alberta Association of Architects.

Another person you will need on your team is an interior designer or decorator. This person will help to create the space you desire and put the function into it. They can also help with the colour, planning, fabrics and lighting of the space. They may not be licensed, but you do want to find somebody that is a member a professional association.

If your architect won't be handling the general contractor's role, you will need a general contractor. They will take care of the planning, control, evaluation and organizing of the project. Your contractor should be licensed through the City of Calgary.

You will also need people in specific trades, such as plumbing, gas fitting, tile setting, cabinetmaking and electrical.

Finding and Selecting a Contractor

The contractor you want to select is someone who has the proper skills and training to do the job. Just because they call themselves contractors doesn’t necessarily mean they have the right certifications and skill level to perform the work. Ask about their qualifications and if they are licensed as some trades require they be licensed by the province such as electricians.

Ask friends, family and neighbours about contractors they have used. Check the local home building associations as most reputable contractors will belong to these professional associations. Call and chat with a few contractors over the phone and ask questions.

How can you Hire the Right Person for Renovation?

Renovating your hoe is a bit of a hassle. Even when things are going well, it can be stressful. However, when you hire the right company to handle your renovations, it can be less stressful. Here are some of the things to know about hiring somebody for your renovations.

Questions to Ask a Contractor

Some of the key questions you should ask include:

  • How long have you been in business?
  • Have you done similar projects like this one before?
  • Will you be using sub-contractors?
  • Do you carry liability insurance and Workers Compensation coverage? (It’s a good idea to verify this coverage)
  • Will there be a written contact?
  • What will the work schedule be and the completion date?
  • Will they be obtaining all the required permits?
  • Do they offer a warranty for their work and what will it cover?
  • Do they have any references?

A contractor should be willing and happy to share information and communicate about costs, materials and a budget with you. If they appear evasive or not very forthcoming, you should be very cautious and maybe look elsewhere. Good communications with the contractor is vital before, during and at the completion of the job.

Evaluating a Contractor

As you go through the process of interviewing the person, you need to be careful about who you choose. Make sure you get everything in writing and don't let them talk you into doing the project without a contract. You should also make sure everything is clearly worded, they have the right licenses, insurance and certificates for the job.

Research First

Understanding who your potential contractor is and a bit about his/her business will make a big difference. Some of the questions you need to answer first include:

  • What types of jobs do you handle on a regular basis?
  • Do you have any specialty licenses, such as plumbing or electrical?
  • How long have you been in business as a contractor?
  • Do you have your own crew or do you subcontract to other workers?

These questions are very important and can help you weed out any contractors that are not worth your time.

Get Estimates and Proposals

As a general rule, most people get at least 3 estimates for a job. It is also vital you have a clear idea or vision about what you want such as the style or types of materials you want. If you repeatedly change your mind, be prepared to absorb the extra expense because that’s on you, not the contractor.

Get Everything in Writing

No matter what type of work you're getting done, you need to get everything in writing. If you pay cash for anything, get a written receipt. If the contractor verbalizes a quote, ask for it in writing. This will ensure you are protected and a contract is necessary, as well.

Use these tips to help find the right contractor for your home improvement jobs. It's also wise to ask friends and family for recommendations of contractors they've used in the past. Whenever you're in doubt, check the BBB for customer complaints and search online for reviews before you sign anything.

Types of Contracts For Home Renovation

There are 2 basic contracts you will encounter so it is vital you know the difference. They include:

 Fixed Price Quote – This includes single price for all the materials, labour, equipment, fees and profit margin. A variance might be allowed if the type of materials to be used is undecided.

  • Cost Plus Contract – These leave costs open-ended. There are times when some projects may encounter unexpected problems that require unforeseen costs which the contractor should not have to absorb. These are the types of projects where you should also factor in a contingency budget to ensure you can afford costs for unforeseen problems.

Contracts and Completion Certificates

Be leery of cash deals only as you are only asking for problems as they may be unlicensed or uninsured. Get it in writing and preferably in contractual form.

 If the contractor asks you to sign a completion certificate, do not sign it until you have thoroughly inspected the work and are satisfied.

For informational purposes only. Always consult with a financial advisor before proceeding with any real estate transaction.

Justin Havre is the top producing REALTOR® with RE/MAX First, Canada's very first RE/MAX brokerage. Calgary real estate is his passion; Justin specializes in Southwest & Northwest Calgary homes for sale. He can be reached at 403.217.0003 or contacted through this site.

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