Hiring a Contractor
By: Guest Contributor, Mike Holmes
A few years ago I heard a news story about a contractor getting arrested for taking homeowners’ money and not completing the job they were hired to do. I have also read many emails from homeowners who were scammed out of thousands of dollars by contractors who left their work unfinished or took advantage of the homeowner’s lack of knowledge. I’ve seen drywall screwed to ductwork, vapour barrier slashed across walls, nails driven through electrical wires – all on the same job. And so-called professionals do this.
I always say, do it right the first time. Hire the right pro so you don’t have to spend money on repairs down the road. Here are some things you should look out for when hiring a contractor:
#1 Ask the Right Questions
You want to understand your contractor’s limits, in terms of their expertise and skills, by asking the right questions. For example, how long have they been in the business for? Do they know an HVAC guy? Do they work with licensed electricians? The more questions you ask, the better.
Also do a background check. That includes making sure the contractor has a valid license. It is your legal right, as a homeowner, to request to see a valid license from anyone working on your property. A license doesn’t guarantee a good job, but a good contractor will carry a valid license.
#2 Get it in Writing
The days of handshake contracts are over. Nowadays a contractor isn’t a contractor without a proper contract. You should expect a detailed contract, so you know exactly what to expect.
It’s the contractor’s responsibility to provide you with a contract that contains every detail about the job, including materials, products and subcontractors they’ll be using. It should also include a detailed payment schedule that’s tied to construction milestones—so twenty percent of the job gets done, twenty percent of the budget gets paid.
#3 Do Your Research
You should do a corporate check through the Better Business Bureau, and make sure the contractor has valid insurance, including full liability and Worker’s Compensation insurance. It is your legal right, as a homeowner, to request to see a valid license from anyone working on your property. A license doesn’t guarantee a good job, but a good contractor will carry a valid license.
#4 Ask for References
Most homeowners think they don’t have the time to check references. But believe me, you will be saving yourself a world of trouble, time and money by doing your homework, calling past clients and checking out the contractor’s work if possible.
A good contractor will have a portfolio with before and after photos, and letters of recommendation from past clients. The letters should include a contact number, so you can call them up and ask about the contractor’s work. And ask plenty of questions.
#5 Take Your Time
Finding the right contractor takes time. In fact, it should take just as long, or even longer than it takes to do the actual job. A lot of homeowners want to rush this step. But remember, a bad contractor doesn’t have to live with a bad renovation. You do.