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7 essential questions to ask your contractor before signing any renovation project

Updated: Apr 17

This was one of our most viewed videos! Over 7.5k views and we thought we'd share it here as well.

Picking the right contractor can be a challenge, especially if you don’t know the right questions to ask. Not all contractors are created equal, or ethical for that matter, so having a few ideas of what to look for will come in handy.

Here are the 7 must-ask questions when hiring someone for your next renovation:

1. Do you have insurance?

If the company has employees (and is located in Ontario), they need to legally be paying into the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB). Additionally, the contractor should have liability and possibly even errors and omissions insurance, also called E&O. If a worker is injured at your home or business, or if there’s an issue with the workmanship, you’ll want to ensure the contractor can cover these costs—not you!

2. Will you be pulling a permit for us?

Permits are actually the legal responsibility of the homeowner. However, your contractor can and often will arrange for necessary permits on your behalf. Although not every job or type of work requires one, no work should ever begin until the permit has been obtained. They aren’t expensive and you’ll be confident knowing you have a second set of eyes inspecting your renovation, ensuring everything is done to code. Please see the City of Ottawa FAQ for more info on building codes and permits.

3. Who is doing the work?

Ask if the contractor and their employees will be doing the work or if they’re subcontracting out your project. If a general contractor is using services from another company, you need to know which business they’ve partnered with and who is liable for the work being done.

4. Are you using licenced sub-trades?

Oh, the number of times we’ve seen DIY electrical or plumbing jobs! Is it really worth saving the extra money when your pipes and wires are on the line? Having licenced sub-trades ensures proper certificates are obtained so you not only pass inspection but sleep soundly at night knowing your project was done right. If you also plan to sell your home, you should have a copy of these certificates for interested buyers.

5. Will we sign a contract or sales agreement?

For a large construction project, a detailed contract protects both you and the contractor company. It ensures you receive the services and products you agreed upon so no one can negotiate the project details after signing. The contract should also include a payment schedule that both parties accept.

6. How will extra or unforeseen costs be addressed?

It’s never fun when a wall comes down and there are dangerous surprises revealed, such as mould or old wiring that must be fixed. Every company handles unexpected costs differently; however, we believe no additional work should be done without the homeowner’s explicit permission or an additionally signed agreement to address these issues.

7. How will we ensure the safety of our pets?

A renovation with loud noises and strangers can be a scary experience for our furry loved ones. When meeting with your potential contractor, ask if they have a policy around pets or how they’ve handled animals on past projects. For example, our team ensures doors are kept closed and the site is cleaned daily so nothing can harm sensitive paws. You’ll often get a feeling for how contractors react to your pets at the first visit.

And lastly… trust your gut feeling.

Although it’s not the most scientific process, you should always feel comfortable having your contractor in your home. Before settling on one, ask yourself: Can I get in touch with my contractor? Do they answer my questions or call back in a timely manner? Do I feel they really care about my project? You’ll likely be working with them for a few weeks or months, so take your time making the decision.

Don’t just pick the cheapest or quickest contractor without considering any of the above questions, and always trust your gut!


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