Professionalist, First Impressions & “Vibes”

On time. This is the very first form of impression you will get from a contracting company. If they are prompt and courteous on your first meeting it shows that they are taking you and your project seriously. Things like illnesses or unforeseen scheduling complication do happen, however, you can tell a lot about someone based on how they handle these occurrences. An advanced notice and explanation goes a long way. If a contractor cancels last minute or is late without any prior communication that is a warning sign that it may happen often during your renovation or build.

Professionalism is key when choosing your contractor. If they are slightly rude or impolite during your first meeting, odds are their behaviour will only get worse throughout a project. You want to have a contractor that can communicate calmly, efficiently and clearly so when issues do arise, as they always do on construction sites, that you have confidence they will be handled in a composed manner.
A lot can be said about first impressions and “vibes” that people give off when you first meet them. You want to always listen to your gut.

If you have a bad feeling or something said in the first introduction throws you off, read into that. It could just be that the contractor is nervous or not what some may call a “people person”, but also it could be the first warning signs of a bad contractor. A test of your gut feeling is as easy as a yes or no question: would you feel comfortable being in your home with them alone? If the answer is no, then move onto another company. If the answer is yes, then it could just be initial hesitation that is making you feel that way.

Work History, References & Relevance

Portfolios are a window inside the quality of work a contractor delivers. Every established contractor will have one and it is important that you ask to see past projects. First off, if they don’t have a portfolio, that is a huge red flag and we recommend you move on from that company. However, if they do have a portfolio of projects, you will be able to see the scale of jobs they normally construct as well as the quality of work their projects are completed with. If a contractor has a portfolio filled with minor renovations and you are looking for a complete home renovation, they may not be the right fit for you. On the other side of things, if you are looking for an inexpensive small renovation and a contractor has a portfolio filled with million dollar homes and massive renovations, they might be out of your budget range.

References are crucial to finding out how your project will (most likely) play out. You must make these calls in order to speak with past clients about how their project went and what experiences they had with the contractor. If a contractor is not willing to give you at least two or three references from past work, that is a serious red flag. If they are a trustworthy and skilled contractor they will have a long list of references they can use that would sing their praises.

Asking the past customers the right questions is also an important part of the process. It all really depends on what you are looking for in a contractor. Things to consider inquiring about are: project deadline and timeliness, how issues were dealt with, if they stayed within their budget, if the work was up to their standards, how the deficiency work went. You must understand that with home renovations and full builds unexpected issues do come up that could affect the timeline and budget, but it’s important to ask how these situations were dealt with.

Relevance is a big factor to consider when looking for a contractor. As mentioned before, if you are looking for a company to do minor changes in a renovation, then choose a contractor that usually works with these types of projects. If you are looking to build new or complete a large renovation, it’s important to choose a contractor that has this type of construction experience. In addition to past work they’ve completed, they must also have the appropriate tools, equipment and machines that you will require during your project. Even if they don’t have these types of tools themselves, they should at least have a trusted trade base that they can subcontract the specific work to. If a contractor does not have this trade base or the equipment, then they are not well-appointed for your project.

Payment Arrangements

The phrase “Cash is King” does not apply when dealing with contractors. This is a huge red flag when it comes to large renovations and full builds. If a contractor is proposing a cash deal or under the table payment method we highly recommend you move onto another company. If they are offering lower rates for cash this is a telltale sign that they are hiding money from the government, which constitutes as fraud. Your main concern should be protecting you and your family’s project and money, which cash deals do not offer.

If a contractor is demanding a large sum of money upfront, look into it. Do not accept strange payment arrangements, no matter how persuasive the contractor is being. Look into regular payment methods for projects of your scale and consult other companies to see what they offer. This is where your gut feeling will come into play. If you are weary of agreeing to certain payment terms do your homework and take time to think it over.

Insurance, Warranty & Liability

Ensure that the contractor you are looking to hire has proper insurance and credentials. Each province is different and it can even vary from city to city, but be sure to ask for all of their licences, insurance and certificates before starting a project.
Liability and workers compensation is one of the credentials that you should definitely make sure they have. This will not only protect the contractor and the company, but also ensure that your project is financially protected.

By law, contractors must have Workers’ Compensation coverage in order to protect workers that get injured on the job. If you hire someone who do not have this, or is working under the table and not as a registered contactor, you could be held responsible for the injury. Which in turn, makes you financially responsible for any therapy or rehabilitation that the person may need.

Another way to protect your job financially is to choose a contractor that has a good warranty program. If a contractor doesn’t have any form of warranty, this is a huge red flag and you should move onto another company. Some contractors vary with the types of warranties they offer, so be sure to ask around to different companies and do your homework. Just remember, if they aren’t confident in the work they provide, why should you be?