How to Hire a Contractor

How to Hire a Contractor

I’ve been planning to do some home renovations but, having been down this path before, I know that renovating part of your home (or adding to it!) can be a big task filled with budgets, a surplus of design ideas, and plenty of questions. Often it comes down to choosing the right contractor to complete the work, and giving you peace of mind that your home is in good hands.

To help guide us all through the process of hiring a contractor I spoke to seasoned renovator Stefanie Coleman-Dias; founder of Coleman-Dias³ Construction Inc. in St. Thomas, Ontario, and an executive committee member on the Canadian Home Builder’s Association (CHBA) board of directors.


Group of construction workers with vests and hard hats
Image: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

SCD: Start searching for a contractor by contacting your local Home Builders’ Association (HBA). You will want to choose a professional RenoMark renovator who abides by the National RenoMark Code of Conduct for the profession. RenoMark renovators also provide written contracts for all work to be completed, which is absolutely recommended by the CHBA on the Get It In Writing resource website. Your local HBA may hold Home Shows, which are a great opportunities to meet contractors in-person and to see photos of their work. This is someone who will be completing work in your home, so you want to be comfortable with them and know that they are honest and reputable.


Room under renovation
Image: Brad Noble

SCD: In any renovation, it’s reasonable to get three quotes for the project. Ideally, you want to try to get as close to an apples-to-apples comparison of the estimates. Therefore detailed quotes outlining the scope of work should be included. As a contractor, I’ve quoted on some very large additions where my price was substantially more than another bidder. When I dug deeper with questions to the homeowner, the other estimate only included just the bare bones of the addition and did not include big ticket items like the new kitchen which had been requested. When in doubt, follow up with your contractor to confirm whether specific details have been included.


Man taking a measurement
Image: Kansas City District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

SCD: It is fair to ask the question if the price of a renovation can be negotiated, however, for any reputable contractor, it’s less likely. The quoted price of a renovation is the price required to complete the outlined scope of work. Sometimes, contractors will offer a “cash deal” in order to reduce the price; this should be a red flag to all homeowners. If the contractor is willing to evade taxes; then they may cut corners on the renovation of your home.


Exterior of a home being renovated
Image: Brock Builders

SCD: Making changes or late decisions during construction can add to the cost of the project, causing delays and frustration for everyone. A great renovation project is built on good communication between the contractor and the home owner. Both parties need to be clear about their needs and expectations, respect each other, and maintain open, frequent and effective communications.


Inside of a home being renovated
Image: Jeremy Levine

SCD: Reputable contractors always aim to keep their projects on time and on budget because they know that a happy customer will be a repeat customer and will tell their friends about their experience. Occasionally, especially in older homes, there can be pre-existing problems that were hidden prior to demolition. In some cases, by law, these issues require repair. These problems can add delays and additional costs to the project. Good communication between the contractor and homeowner is crucial in these situations. The contractor should provide an explanation of the problem and written estimate of the cost, and then address them in a change order to the contract.


Image: Dave Dugdale

SCD: Project estimates and the subsequent contract should be detailed enough to eliminate any ambiguity in terms of what is and is not included. Where possible, use the actual product (brand name and model number) in the estimate and contract so everything is clear. If this level of detail is missing from the contract, it can result in a possible misunderstanding, frustration, and additional costs.

As with any major renovation or upgrade to your home, make sure that your insurance policy accounts for the overall investment you are making, and that the number of contractors you have on-site is covered by your personal liability coverage. When in doubt, check with your local agent or broker before starting your project.

While there is some important upfront work to be done, you will soon be enjoying your new oasis!

Lead Image: Flickr/BrockBuilders