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contractor with tape measureFor many people, fall means home improvement. The summer has drifted away for the year and, now that the kids are back in school, homeowners find themselves with the time and energy to renovate. However, working with the wrong contractor or installer can be a costly mistake – a number of things can go wrong, from troubles with quotes and payment processes, to bad working conditions and, worst of all, a terrible end product.

How do you know you’re hiring the right pro?

So how do you know the contractor you’re hiring is the right one? Asking the five questions below will go a long way to ensuring that the professional you hire will be reliable and efficient – and do a great job in your home. 

1. “Could you give me detailed information about your qualifications?”

Ask for details of the contractor’s license, insurance, bond, training or certification. Contractors’ legal obligations vary from state to state, but generally anyone undertaking a renovation job that costs more than $500 must have a license.

Make sure you know who will actually be doing the work e.g. will the contractor hire a sub-contractor for less money than he is earning to do the job for him? Ask for online and offline references, including examples of previous work, and even if the first contractor seems perfect, meet with two more just to be sure.

2. “How will you address potential challenges with the project?”

Ask the contractor to outline potential challenges with the installation, and include these in the quote to eliminate surprise costs. It’s a lot easier to lay a floor than work with intricate designs around a fireplace, for example.

Make sure your contractor is thorough and is aware of the job at hand. Also, ensure you have a clear approval process for changes and additional expenses. You don’t want a shock when it comes time for payment. Make sure you’re on the same page as the professional.

contractor and customer

3. “How will you structure the quote and contract process?”

Ask for a quote in writing within two days of meeting. If they can’t do that, can they complete the project on time? You want to be sure they’re on top of things.

What is the payment process? Decide the milestones for payment, and a good rule of thumb is to agree on a tail-end payment so the contractor is incentivized to do a good job until it is complete. The last thing you want is to complete a payment a couple of weeks before the job is finished, and the job is finished in a shoddy manner.

4. “What will your working hours and conditions be?”

Determine how many people will be in the house at any one time, and set out some ground rules for working conditions, such as daily clean-ups and smoking permissions. Having strangers in the house can be trying, but it’s many times worse if there is always a mess left after them. Also, make sure you know what time work will start and end – you do not want renovations going on at awkward times.

5. “Will you provide post-project support?”

How will the contractor handle warranty issues, and repair or maintenance requirements? This is a crucial element that must be dealt with. If it is felt there are issues with the installation, ask how the contractor manages this, including timeframe, and if there is a cost for extra work. Again, make sure there are no surprises and if there are tweaks, know how much, if anything, you will have to pay.

Building your own confidence

These questions will build your own confidence in your ability to manage a home renovation and, crucially, earn you the contractor’s respect. If you ask these questions, the chances of an unsuccessful renovation will be tiny. So put on that game face!

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Julian Fleming

Julian is originally from Dublin, Ireland, now settled in Vancouver BC. His background is in journalism, and is a part of the BuildDirect’s communications team."