Hiring a Contractor
It can be exciting to undertake renovations, provided you’re working with the right people! It’s essential to plan everything out and find a reliable contractor who can guide you through the process and help keep the project from going awry.
Please note that these are general tips, and they could differ according to your place of residence. Make sure you communicate with your city to get all the legal information you need.
1. Make a plan and a budget
The first step is to make a list of the work you want done and write a description of each item on the list. The Canadian Homebuilders’ Association suggests making two lists: a wish list and a list of essential items. Give both lists to your prospective contractors to get estimates you can compare using the same work specs.
2. Obtain the necessary permits and licences
Check with your municipal building department to see if any by-laws apply to the work you are planning and if you need a building permit. Every province has its own procedures and it’s important to find out what the rules are where you live. For example, if you live in Ontario, ask whether your contractor has to be certified for the type of work in question, since such rules are established by the municipalities. If you live in Quebec, check with La Régie du bâtiment du Québec.
3, Get a few estimates
As with any major project, it’s best to explore a few options to increase the likelihood of getting the most satisfactory result. It’s definitely worth taking the time to find the right contractor for you.
Start by asking friends and neighbours who have had similar work done. There’s nothing like word of mouth and experience when it comes to choosing a contractor. You can also try local hardware stores, municipal licensing offices and building departments. And check out online directories that list construction services by location.
Some ressources include the Alberta government, which offers tips for finding a qualified contractor. In Quebec, the Association des professionnels de la construction et de l’habitation du Québec provides an online directory.
Invite at least three contractors to visit your home and bid on the job based on the description you prepared. Do not sign or pay anything on their first visit. Instead, ask for references from recent jobs, and older ones. A good contractor won’t mind and will ask a lot of questions about the job you want done.
For simple jobs like painting, an estimate can be written on the spot. It should detail what is to be done and the materials to be used. For bigger jobs, contractors should come back with samples, documentation on possible materials and products to be used, and maybe even photos of similar work they’ve done.
4. Choose an accredited and reliable contractor
When you find a contractor who suits your needs, make sure their credentials are in order. If you hire workers who are not insured or who don’t have safety certification, you could be held responsible if they are injured on your property. Call you insurer provider for any questions on your home insurance.
According to the governments of Ontario and Alberta, you need to ask the contractor to show you proof of their public liability and property damage insurance, and their business licence number. Make a note of the information and verify it with the local licensing office or Chamber of Commerce and the insurer. Various construction trades may have to carry additional insurance. Check with recognized professional associations and government bodies.
According to the government of Quebec, you should make sure the contractor has a licence issued by the Régie du bâtiment du Québec. Note the number, class, subclass, and expiry date and check the information with the RBQ’s online Licence holders’ repertory.
5. Select the best estimate
It may be tempting to go for the best price, but if one of the estimates is significantly lower than the others, beware. The contractor could be unfamiliar with the work, might use cheaper materials, or may be inclined to cut corners.
The estimate is used to draw up the contract, which is a legal document that binds both parties once they’ve signed it. It is also your best protection against fraud when you know what it needs to include.
The Government of Ontario indicates a number of points that should be covered. Make sure the contract contains the following:
- The contractor’s name, address and contact information
- A detailed description of the work and materials
- A clear description of all warranties
- The price and terms of payment
- A work schedule including clear starting and completion dates
- A payment schedule including the amount of the deposit
- A clear understanding of who is responsible for cleaning up once the work is completed
- A list of all the subcontractors who the contractor will call upon as well as a clear understanding of who is responsible for paying them.
6. Only pay for the work that is done — and done right
Good contractors have a floating bill with material suppliers and won’t ask for a down payment. However, major renovations or those that call for special equipment, materials or custom work may warrant one, but it’s not advisable to exceed 10 per cent of the final cost.
For small jobs that take only a few days, a one-time payment is fine, but for larger jobs you may have to pay in instalments.
Under the Construction Lien Act, all provinces except Quebec provide some protection against liens that may be placed on your home by suppliers or workers who were not paid by the contractor. Check with a lawyer, but the standard is to retain 10% of the contract price for 45 days after the project is done. That also gives you a chance to make sure you’re satisfied with the quality of the work that has been done.
7. Take the current COVID-19 situation into account.
Certain measures have been put in place to ensure the sanitary safety at sites in several Canadian provinces. Get informed, so you can enjoy peace of mind and focus on your renovation project. Here is some helpful advice from the governments of Alberta and Quebec.
Patience and good planning are the secret to success!
As you can see, planning a home renovation project involves much more than choosing a wall paper pattern and a wood stain.
Workers invading your home, a cacophony of noisy equipment, dust and debris… renovating can be trying for even the most patient person. But by following these steps from the beginning of your project you can make your life easier and you’ll be able to relax and enjoy the improvements to your home!