Tips for hiring a contractor

July 28, 2015

Tips for hiring a contractor

Work within your comfort zone if you DIY

As a rule, steer clear of any work that feels dangerous or requires skills that you just don't have.

  • For example, if heights make you dizzy or if you're unsteady on your feet, stay off the roof.
  • Don't undertake any job that your local building code says must be done by a licensed professional and requires a permit. If you're caught, you may have to pay significant fines and then have the work redone by pros. Even worse, if your home sustains severe damage, as in a fire, your insurance company won't pay out if you haven't followed codes.

Hiring a pro

For small jobs, you can hire a lone worker, such as an electrician or plumber. For larger jobs, you may need a contractor, who can coordinate various workers.

  • Ask neighbours for references.
  • Get recommendations from lumberyards, electrical supply stores, and other building-trade establishments.
  • Interview at least three contractors and get an itemized estimate from each one.
  • The "best" may not be the cheapest. Opt for quality and durability over a lower-cost, potentially shoddy job, and you'll save money and hassle in the long run.
  • Don't pay more than a quarter of the cost of the job as a down payment, and always hold back as much of the payment as you can until the project is completed to your satisfaction. The more the contractors want up front, the greater likelihood they may have bad intentions.

Get it in writing

Once you've chosen a contractor, work out a written agreement that specifies the work to be done and the materials they'll use. Get the following in writing:

  • A description of what the job entails, including who will acquire and pay for any necessary permits (make sure you have copies of all permits).
  • Materials to be used, including brand names, colours, stock numbers, weights and other details.
  • How long the job will take. Include a monetary penalty if the job is not finished by a certain date (this is generally done only for big jobs).
  • The dates and times that workers will be on the premises, along with the names of any subcontractors who have access to your property.
  • An estimate of the cost (and a maximum price) including an itemization of the work to be done.
  • Titles and terms of the individual's or contractor's insurance policies, including workers' compensation and liability policies.
  • A statement of responsibility for any damage caused to your property.
  • A guarantee of all materials and workmanship.
  • A declaration that your warranties or guarantees are transferable when the house is sold.
  • A guarantee of clean-up and removal of debris daily and after the job is completed.
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