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How to Hire a Credible Contractor

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Planning for your spring and summer home improvement projects. Some projects you will be able to tackle on your own, and some you will be looking to hire a contractor to help.

We are all spending more time in our homes, and it’s more important than ever before that we trust the people we invite into them. Not only do we want to make sure the job is done well, but we want to make sure anyone entering our special spaces is safe and compliant with current regulations.

And let’s face it; we have all heard horror stories of renovation and home improvement projects gone wrong because of a less than credible contractor. However, there are many great contractors out there, so the biggest question is…how do you find and hire a credible contractor?

There are a few key things you need to do when hiring a contractor to ensure your project goes as smoothly as possible while staying within your budget.

Do a background check 

You want an experienced contractor, and you want proof of experience. Find out if they have any formal training or relevant education as part of their experience. Ask your contractor how many years he or she has been in business, and ask to see examples of other projects in their portfolio. Most importantly, ask to see three recent projects – don’t let them show you three of their best projects over the last 25 years. You want to know about, and see what they’ve done recently.

You will also want to look up reviews about their company and ask friends and family if they know anyone who has worked with that company. Get first-hand feedback from others if you can. Great places to look for reviews are online—Google, Facebook, Trusted Pros or the Better Business Bureau should have some information on who you’re considering hiring.

Another great resource would be your local municipal office. If a contractor has done projects in your area, then they would have had to go in to get permits. Ask your contractor to go visit some of their previous projects and speak with the owners about their experiences. You may have to do this virtually, but there are always options.

Process & Protocol

A good contractor has a process. So, find out what it is and ask them what they do to ensure they stay on budget. It’s also important to ask them what contingencies they have in place in the likely scenario they will come across some surprises. You want to know if there are additional charges if you want to change your flooring or some other selection in the middle of the renovation. It is very common for homeowners to change their mind halfway through a renovation, and you want to have the freedom to do that, or at least be prepared for additional charges, if there are any.

It is also important to discuss when payment is expected, and to not be shy to discuss the topic of money. This is your money and you want to make sure it is going to good use. You also want to ensure they get permits when required and are following municipal bylaws when it is applicable. Some jobs do not require permits, but you want to ensure that your contractor is knowledgeable on this subject, or else when you go to sell your home, there may be some issues if a permit was required and the contractor did not go through the process to get one.

Personal Connection

Having a personal connection with your contractor might sound strange, but I believe this to be one of the most critical considerations when hiring a contractor. Once you know your contractor follows the local bylaws and is reputable, the next thing you want to know is, can you work with them? You want someone you can relate to and trust because this person will be in your home daily; either demolishing something or building something, and if you can’t get along with them then it’s not going to be an ideal situation for you.

There are so many ways to evaluate contractors, but these are fundamentally where you want to start. And don’t be afraid to put some of your time and effort into seeking out your contractor. If you invest in the time up front, you will likely save yourself a lot of grief down the road, and ultimately increase your chances of having a better construction experience. 

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