Manuel Lochard

by Manuel Lochard Team Lead – Customer Experience | Reno-Assistance

How to choose a contractor for your renovation project

Advice Contractor

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Home renovation projects can be very stressful: your home is a mess, you may have to move out, and you’re constantly paying bills for labour and materials. The most important factor in reducing the stress levels is hiring a qualified renovation contractor that you establish a good working relationship with. There can be many uncertainties that you’ll need to consider when it’s time to choose a contractor, especially if you are unfamiliar with their background and past work.

We’ve all heard the many horror stories out there of shoddy work, majorly delayed or unfinished projects, stolen deposits and the like. You need to be confident the contractor you choose is reputable and trustworthy.

Here are some tips on how to find that person.

Start with 360° Verified Contractors

Reno-Assistance was founded to help homeowners connect with qualified contractors. In order to become a 360° Verified Contractor, Reno-Assistance verifies that the company has all the required business licenses, expertise, warranties, and customer references, as well as checking their credit report and any legal records for potential red flags. We will even provide a Verification Report for each contractor we refer that details our assessment.

Before committing to any project, it’s a good rule of thumb to get estimates from at least two or three different contractors. Not only will this help you get a fair price, but each contractor might present different options for achieving your goals. When asking the contractors to prepare their quotes, make sure each is bidding on the same (or at least very similar) design and materials so that you can fairly compare the price. Reno-Assistance provides homeowners with three PerfectMatch™ quotes from contractors specifically chosen to do the type of work you are looking for. To find the right contractors for your project, you can submit your project online or give us a call on 1-888-670-9742.

Contractor van

Check their references

Even if someone comes highly recommended from a friend or family member, you’ll want to make sure they’ve got all the required licences and insurance. You can check that a contractor is licensed by searching on the Service Ontario website. Most municipalities have online databases of licensed companies, such as the City of Toronto licence database. In Quebec, the equivalent organization is the Regie Du Batiment Quebec (RBQ). You should also check the company’s name on the Better Business Bureau’s website and Consumer Beware List to see if they have any unresolved complaints (again, if you find a contractor through Reno-Assistance, this verification has been taken care of for you).

Ask for referrals from previous clients. Obviously, a contractor isn’t going to give you contact info for their worst clients, but a quick call with a few recent clients can gain you some valuable knowledge about their work habits (do they arrive on time, work late into the night, leave the site clean or messy, and so on). Hearing a reference verbally from the customer can reassure you that the testimonial is genuine and can be elaborated on. It’s also useful to speak to past clients who have had the same sort of work done by the contractor.

phone call client reference

You should also ask your renovation contractor if they are a member of any trade associations. These organizations usually have some minimal criteria for membership and in some cases can help mediate and resolve issues with the work. More importantly, fly-by-night contractors won’t bother joining any organizations as it is a long-term investment in integrity and not an expense this calibre of contractor attribute-value to.

I'm here to help you

- Jonathan / Renovation Advisor at Reno-Assistance

Liens and Legal Disputes

A construction lien is a claim made by a contractor or other professional against a property for which they have rendered services and not received payment. It provides the professional with a legal right to the property in lieu of payment the same way a bank can secure a loan against an individual’s assets. Construction liens are designed to protect contractors from not receiving payment for the work they have done on a property.

A construction lien placed on a property against a general contractor can indicate that the contractor has yet to or has been unable to pay sub-trades on a previous project, potentially due to financial issues. If a lien is placed on a property by the general contractor, it can indicate issues with receiving payments for past work.

legal gavel

Statements of claim are another form of legal action which occur during disputes and can by attributed to many different scenarios. The implications for a contractor with an extensive history of legal action can mean that they aren’t in a good financial position or that the quality of their past work and dealings with stakeholders has been less than satisfactory.

On-top of referencing public record legal databases, Reno-Assistance monitors our contractors for daily updates regarding new registrations of construction liens and statements of claim, both as defendants and plaintiffs. We will even provide these details in the verification report you’ll receive before you meet with them. By diligently monitoring the legal history of these companies and professionals, we aim to provide you with peace of mind as the situation of any contractor can change abruptly.

Get it in writing

A verbal ballpark estimate is fine for getting an initial sense of cost, but if you’re going to work with a contractor you need to a have a formal, written contract. This is separate from a written quote and will stipulate necessary legal notes, as well as requiring a signature from both parties. This document is crucial, for in the event anything goes wrong, this will be the agreement you can fall back on, so read carefully.

Obviously, price is important. But don’t necessarily go for the lowest bid, particularly if it’s significantly lower than the others. That could indicate that the contractor is planning on using cheaper materials (which should be specified in their quotation) or that they anticipate extra costs arising in the course of the job which they are neglecting to mention. If something does seem suspiciously low, ask why. Do your research on the type of materials you want and specify them so they are including accurately in your estimate.

renovation contract signature

Payment Schedules

When you’re negotiating the price, ask what sort of payment schedule the contractor expects? Most contractors will expect a small down payment (say, 10 percent of the total job) to cover the initial material costs and to show that you are serious. If they ask for a larger amount, it could indicate they’re having financial troubles. An in-depth financial reference check is conducted by Reno-Assistance to assess their cash-flow, credit rating and check that their accounts with suppliers are in good standing. Regardless, make sure you’re allowed to hold back a portion of the payment until the end once of the job once all the small details are resolved.

In addition to the agreed-upon price, the contract should include start and completion dates, payment schedule, and specific details about the project and the materials to be used. Any changes to the scope that come up during the work should also be written down so there are no surprises when it comes time to pay the final bill.

confused bill

Let Reno-Assistance take out the guesswork

For more information, visit our Contractor page or speak to an advisor on 1-888-670-9742 who will work to understand the requirements for your project and can refer up to three 360° Verified contractors in your local area to quote on your project. All our contractors have had to meet our strict 360° Verification criteria including impeccable client and supplier references, proven financial stability, valid licences and insurance, satisfactory legal history, government and HST registration, etc. We aim to provide quotes from three contractors to ensure there is adequate competition for your project and you get the right price.

Give us a call now or fill out our contact form and an advisor will give you a call at your convenience.

Happy renovations start here!

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