Renovating your home can bring a rollercoaster of emotions. It’s a time-consuming, exciting, nerve-racking experience, but the reward of a more functional and beautiful space is truly worth the investment. And behind every awe-inspiring home transformation is a team of quality general contractors. For this reason, we asked Kenny Brain, co-host of Making It Home, to share his advice on hiring a general contractor.
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What to Ask a General Contractor Before Hiring Them
Getting started on home renovations is exciting, but it’s important not to rush the process of vetting your contractors. “One of the biggest mistakes I continuously see is not verifying that the contractor is licensed and insured,” Kenny explains. “Renovations can be stressful in the best of situations, so your contractor should carry general liability insurance at the very minimum.”
How to Find a General Contractor Near Me
When it comes to finding reputable contractors in your area, nothing beats a word-of-mouth referral. “Ask your friends, family, co-workers, neighbours, and the second cousin twice removed. Ask everyone,” Kenny says. “They will know the good, bad, and ugly, and they won’t be afraid to tell you the truth. They say bad reviews travel twice as fast as good, so if the ones closest to you have something good to say, listen!”
Looking for a General Contractor Online
If you don’t have a network of people happy with their home renovation process, turn to social media to find someone in your area who might be a good fit. “Most reputable and established contractors will have some presence online, which will also allow you to see photos and videos of past work,” Kenny explains. Additionally, a simple online search will give you multiple platforms where you can input your postal code and find a list of qualified, registered contractors for any size renovations in your area, Kenny adds.
Checking References for a General Contractor
Kenny explains that one of the biggest mistakes you can make when hiring a general contractor is not checking references. “I have personally been hired multiple times to fix shoddy work, and I always ask what their previous contactors’ references had said for them to be hired. More often than not, they hadn’t followed up and assumed because they provided references, it was enough! Spoiler alert: it isn’t.” Be sure to call references and ask them what it was like to work with the contractor you’re thinking about hiring.
Questions to Ask a General Contractor’s References
When it comes to checking out a potential contractor’s references, Kenny recommends starting with these questions. “Would you hire this contractor again? Did you stay within your budget? If not, why? What was their communication like? Were they easy to get a hold of? How does the contractor treat his sub-trades? Are you happy with the results?” Ultimately, these questions will say a lot about a person’s experience with their contractor.
General Contractor Red Flag: They Ask You to Pay Upfront
It’s a red flag if a general contractor asks you to pay in total upfront. “Payment should be tied to project milestones,” Kenny explains. You should never have to pay more than a deposit of approximately 10 to 15 percent to book a good contractor’s time. If you find that your budget isn’t going as far as you hope, check out these renovations that will have the biggest impact on the value of your home.
General Contractor Red Flag: Poor Communication
Poor communication through lengthy response times or vague answers is a surefire way to damage any working relationship. “Your contractor doesn’t have to be a poet or a savant with the written word – but timely responses go a long way,” Kenny says. Be very open and honest with how you would like to be communicated with and how often. Phone, text, email – whatever avenue you are most comfortable with. Set the expectation early of what you would be happy with so your contractor knows how to update you on the ongoing project.
General Contractor Red Flag: Pricing and Payment is Off
“Frankly, you should throw out your lowest bid,” Kenny explains. As much as we all love to save money and strive to get the best bang for our buck, it’s best not to cut corners on home renovations. “If the price seems too good to be true – it’s precisely that,” he says. “If drastically lower than your other comparisons, the lowest bid is probably just as low as the quality you will receive.”
General Contractor Red Flag: They Can Work Immediately
According to Kenny, it’s almost impossible to find a contractor who does good solid works, truly cares about their projects and the clients, and who is also available immediately. “If a contractor can start the next day – ask yourself why? “There is a slight chance of cancellations or scheduled shifts, but they could also be desperate for work,” Kenny says. “In a booming construction economy, that is never a good sign.”
Is My Contractor Ripping Me Off?
Of course, there’s always a chance that you might not be happy with your contractor’s work. Kenny says you know your contractor is ripping you off if they cut corners on how they complete the job and are way off on how long the project will take. Another red flag? If your contractor is buying cheaper materials or cutting labour costs, the price difference goes directly into their pocket. Adding specific details of the materials you want to use in your project’s contract is a helpful way to avoid this problem.
Finally Hiring a General Contractor
When it’s time to hire a contractor, you have already done your research. You know what kind of work these contractors can do and the size scope they can handle. You’re familiar with their team of permanent and their subcontractors. You spoke with their references and met the contractor in person. Your future contractor has physically visited the job site and can give you an accurate price estimate within your range. If you’re debating between a few contractors and have already thoroughly vetted a few, Kenny says to trust your gut. “You will be spending a lot of time with your contractor, so you must be comfortable. That you have a good rapport, can communicate well and that they understand your vision.”