November 22, 2012
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Old tools on a wooden table

How to choose a contractor

We’ve all heard that if a contractor pulls up in an old VW Bug with a step ladder strapped to the top of it with a frayed rope, we should probably not hire them to do our home renovation. So, what should you be looking for in a contractor? You can find a lot of general advice about choosing a contractor on the net, but let’s get into some specifics and some ideas that you may not have thought about.

Licensing

It goes without saying that the contractor you use should be licensed. Here in Edmonton, you should be looking for a contractor that is licensed as a business in the city of Edmonton. The contractor should also be licensed as a prepaid contractor through the Government of Alberta. These licenses need to be renewed regularly, so you should make sure the contractor’s license hasn’t expired. Ask for some documentation and you contractor should be able to provide it.

As well, your contractor should have his or her own certificate that shows they are qualified to perform the work they’re going to do on your home. Also, certifications are needed in their respective areas for specific work, such as plumbing or electrical. Usually a general contractor will sub contract this specific work to a subtrade. You should check to make sure a contractor is using licensed subtrades.

Appearance

I’m not going to suggest that appearance of your contractor has anything to do with the quality of work they can do or the overall experience you’ll receive if you hire them. What I am going to suggest is that you feel comfortable with your contractor. After all, depending on the scope of your project, you may be seeing them regularly for the next several months. If their appearance makes you feel uncomfortable, maybe look elsewhere. Do keep in mind though, that contractors do get dirty from some of the work that they do, and I’ve certainly been known to look like a coal miner coming out of the mines after a day of demolishing tile or drywall. On a first visit though, contractors should be neat and presentable.

Language

Obviously, coarse language shouldn’t be used by the contractor, but that’s not the language that I’m talking about. Your contractor should use construction terms that you understand. Because of the nature of construction, there are a lot of technical words and jargon used that people who aren’t in the industry might not understand. If your contractor is not willing to clarify something that may be confusing to you, you should look elsewhere.

As well, during the first meet and greet, your contractor should probably ask you a lot of questions to help narrow down what exactly it is that you’re looking for. “I want my bathroom remodelled,” doesn’t really provide a clear picture of what exactly you want. “I want new flooring, a new vanity, a new tub, a new sink, and new fixtures,” is still very vague. What kind of flooring do you want? What size and style of vanity are you thinking of? Do you want a tub with an acrylic surround, or tile? If you’re not sure, the contractor should be able to give you information to help you make a decision that you’re comfortable with.

Insurance

Liability Insurance is something that all contractors should carry, just in case of an accident. The Canadian Home Builders’ Association recommends that a contractor carry at least $2 million in liability insurance. Ask your contractor if they carry liability insurance and ask them how much. If they aren’t insured, chances are you don’t want them working on your home.

Quotes and Contracts

This is also pretty straight forward. The work proposed to be done on your home should be writing. It should be detailed and should include how much the work is going to cost. If you are unsure of anything or if the writing is vague, you should ask for it to be clarified. As well, a payment schedule based on work completion should be included.

Don’t forget to read through the terms and conditions of the contract and make sure you understand them.

A lot of places on the internet will tell you to get quotes from three different contractors. Although I agree that it is important to get a few quotes, don’t fall into the trap of price shopping. Getting three quotes and choosing the contractor who has the lowest price is not always the best choice. Instead, you should ask yourself who you’d like to have working in your home. Eventually, you’ll forget that you paid a little extra for your renovation, but a bad experience will stay with you for a very long time.

If you’re in the Greater Edmonton area and are looking for a contractor for you renovation project, visit our website at www.nordalta.com/contact.php to find information on how to contact us. We’d be happy to speak to you about what we can do to get the ball rolling on your next home or office project. You can also leave comments with us at info@nordalta.com.

Robert Breault is the president and owner of Nord Alta Construction. You can find the company website at www.nordalta.com. You can also find Robert and Nord Alta Construction on facebook at www.facebook.com/NordAltaContruction and on LinkedIn.

Michael Breault is a project coordinator for Nord Alta Construction. You can find the company website at www.nordalta.com. You can also find Michael and Nord Atla Construction on facebook at www.facebook.com/NordAltaConstruction, on twitter at www.twitter.com/Nordalta, and on LinkedIn.