Working with Contractors

By Scott McGillivray

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Probably the number one email request I get from fans tends to go a little something like this: “Scott! Can you please come fix my basement/re-do my kitchen/reno my bathroom? If not, do you know any contractors in [my town] that you can recommend?” The reality is, I can’t come and reno everyone’s house (as much as I’d love to!) and I don’t have a laundry list of contractors in every province and state. What I do have is some recommendations and advice for how to work with contractors as effectively as possible and manage a successful renovation.

  1. Do Your Homework: There’s nothing more important than research when it comes to choosing a contractor. Talk to friends, family and co-workers who have had recent renos and ask about their experiences. Get multiple quotes. Also check out online sites where people can rate and leave feedback about local companies.
  2. Ask Questions: You’re trusting your contractor with your biggest investment, so don’t shy away from asking a million questions before you hire them. Important questions to ask are: Are they licensed? Do they have insurance? How long have they been in business and what’s their area of expertise? How much money do they require as a down payment? How long do they expect the project to take? Do they guarantee their work?
  3. Get References: Any reputable contractor will provide references when asked. You should also ask for photos of recent work. More importantly, follow up with the references! Ask the clients about their experience and if the work met the expectations outline in the contract.
  4. Shop Around: Get bids from several different companies and compare the quotes. Remember that cheaper isn’t always better. If one quote comes in drastically lower than the others, that should be a red flag. When you finally make a decision, get all the details in writing and review the contract carefully. If something in the contract is unclear or doesn’t make sense – ask!
  5. Money Matters: Make sure you understand exactly how your quote breaks down. Is it fixed-cost or cost-plus? How much have you set aside for contingency? Anything less than 10% contingency is irresponsible.  Most importantly, never pay the full amount until the job is completed and you’re satisfied with the work.
  6. Manage the Renovation Trifecta: There are three main areas that need careful management during a renovation. If you can keep your reno’s time, cost, and quality on track, your reno will be successful.

Renovation Trifecta:

First, when it comes to time, preparation is everything. The planning of your reno is what makes it as efficient as possible. Hiccups will occur, but your timeline should take that into consideration.

Second, stay within your budget! Be strict with yourself and your contractor about where your money is being spent. There are plenty of affordable products, so make conscious decisions about where you need to save and where you want to splurge.

Lastly, quality: don’t compromise on it! Make sure everything you can see (and especially what you can’t see) are up to code and completed properly. Ensure you have all inspections necessary and remember that the quality of your renovation is usually a result of good planning and budgeting.

Topics: Income Property, Scott McGillivray, Renos & DIY, Contractor, Renovating, Reno, Renovations, Makeovers, Maintenance, Shows, Hosts

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