6 Tips for Finding the Right Contractor
From local reputation to a detailed estimate, a checklist to consider before you take the leap with a new contractor.
Renovating your home can be a stressful time. Have you budgeted enough? Will it turn out the way you’d hoped? And who do I hire?
The more homework you do before you begin, the more likely you’ll be to answer yes to each of those questions, says Caledon contractor John Chiodo of CBG Homes.
We asked John, who has been in the industry for more than 25 years and specializes in major renovations, additions and custom home management, to give us a cheat sheet on what to look for.
1. Ask for referrals
No matter how savvy you are at online research, old-fashioned word-of-mouth remains king. Well before your intended start date, ask friends, family members, work colleagues and neighbours about contractors they recommend. Once you’ve narrowed it down, ask to go see a few contractors’ work in person.
In addition to the quality of materials and workmanship, find out if the work was done on time and on budget. Ask about how attentive the contractor is, and how he or she manages unforeseen repairs or crises.
2. Hire a local contractor
Once you have a short list, think geography. John says a good contractor will commute once a day to every job site to check in with the team, but if a client is close, they can drop in more than once a day or pop in to answer a question.
Another upside: Because you’re knit together by community, a local contractor is more likely to go above and beyond – and throw in some extras. John laughs when he tells the story of a neighbour who hired him after watching John build his own home nearby. “He said, ‘I know you’re not going anywhere and you’re going to do a really good job for me.’”
3. Look for experience
In many ways, gauging a contractor’s level of experience is a numbers game. How long they’ve been in business is one metric. Another is they will have a longer contact list of tradespeople and building suppliers to call on. A long-time contractor will also simply have completed a wider range of projects than most. “In my 25 years, I’ve experienced most of what I’ll do in my lifetime,” John says.
A seasoned pro will also have stickhandled more nasty structural surprises, such as rotted flooring in a bathroom or soil shifting on the site of an addition. “We know how to handle those situations.”
4. Now think reputation
Back in the Stone Age, we used to check references by phone. Now, magazine ad campaigns, online reviews, website galleries and social media offer a low-pressure way to suss out a contractor’s work – and even character. John says high-quality marketing – collecting and sharing images and feedback in the community – is something he checks daily. It can be a “good indication of what type of company or person you’re dealing with.”
Look for interactions in the postings too for a glimpse of a contractor’s relationship with the client after the job is complete. “I develop a good relationship with all my customers,” John says.
5. The estimate
An estimate should include everything from a detailed cost breakdown to how the renovation waste will be handled. John’s estimates can run five to ten pages – and are as detailed as the final contract. “Our estimate is just our contract without the signature page,” he says.
The estimate should outline whether the client is choosing her own bathroom fixtures, for instance, or whether the contractor will provide them. (Contractors enjoy discounts from many suppliers – don’t be shy to ask.) Are the wood floors hardwood or engineered? Is painting included? And what allowance do I get for tiles?
6. Who is my point of contact?
One last insider secret before you sign: Ask who will be your main point of contact during construction.
“You need a direct number to call, not a showroom or an answering service,” says John. In his case clients get his number – the same one he’s had since he was 17. “I joke that I give them one text message a day and anything after 8 p.m. is a premium.” Joking aside, having a project manager or contractor just a phone call away offers clients peace of mind.
“You have to be there for them.”
For more information visit classicbuildinggroup.com
This article was created in partnership with Classic Building Group. In The Hills Studio is a division of In The Hills and provides sponsored content and other services to our advertisers.