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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 tips on what to look for can be a big help.
Here are the top 7 questions to ask when hiring someone for your next renovation:
1. Do you have insurance?
If the company has employees, they need to legally be paying into WSIB. Additionally, the contractor should have liability and possibly even errors & omissions insurance. If a worker is injured at your home or business, or if there’s an issue with the workmanship, you want to ensure that the company will be able to cover these costs - not you!
2. Will you be pulling a permit for us?
Permits are actually the legal responsibility of the home owner. 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 are not expensive and you can be confident knowing you will have a second set of eyes inspecting your renovation and ensuring everything is done to code. Please see the City of Ottawa FAQ for more info.
3. Who is doing the work?
Ask if the contractor and their employees will be doing the work or if they are subcontracting out your project. If a general contractor is using another company, you will want to know who is liable for the work being done.
4. Are you using licenced sub-trades?
Oh, the amount 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 can not only pass inspection (see permits), but sleep soundly at night knowing your job was done right. If you want to sell your home, you should have a copy of these certificates if requested.
5. Will we sign a contract or sales agreement?
For a large project, a detailed contract not only protects the company – but this can be used to protect you and ensure you are getting the services/products you agreed upon. The contract should also include an agreed upon payment schedule.
6. How will extra/unforeseen costs be addressed?
It’s never fun when a wall comes down and there are dangerous surprises revealed (e.g. mold, old wiring). Every company does this differently; however, we believe no additional work should be done without the homeowner’s explicit permission or without an additionally signed agreement to address these issues.
7. We have pets – how will we ensure their safety?
A renovation with loud noises and strangers can be a very scary experience for our furry loved ones. Ask if your contractor has a policy around pets. For example, our team ensures doors are kept closed and the site is cleaned daily so nothing can harm sensitive paws. Often, you’ll get a feeling for how contractors react to your pets at the first visit.
I know, I know...not the most scientific process, but you should really feel COMFORTABLE having your contractor in your home. Can you get in touch with your contractor? Do they answer your questions or call back in a timely manner? Do you feel they really care about your project?
Lastly, if you just pick the cheapest or quickest contractor, without considering any of the above... you'll be looking for someone again very soon. Take your time and ... always go with your gut!