What steps to consider when hiring the right contractor?

Before you contact a specific contractor, it is helpful for you to draw up a plan for what you want to do. The plan can be as simple or as complex as you want. If you job is simple, such as ‘fix a refrigerator’, a few words are all you need. If it involves more complex tasks, such as to remodel a kitchen, then more details may be needed. The purpose is to make clear to the contractor exactly what the job is, so that they can inform you of their ability to do what you require.

It’s quite likely that some discussion will be necessary with a contractor once you have made contact.

When you have determined that there is a business or businesses that you would like to contact, you can select them independently from the list. It may require a number of exchanges to get the necessary information that you need.

A face to face meeting can give you a better idea of the contractor you may be dealing with and a chance to discuss your project in detail.

At the end of the contact process you will want to get a quote.

A quote is an estimate of the cost of your job or project. It should be detailed, clear and complete. It indicates the responsibilities of the contractor and a promise of exactly what work and materials are involved. It is the beginning of the contract that may be drawn with the contractor regarding your project.

When you have accepted a quote from a contractor, you may want to draw up a contract. This can include the details of the job to be done as well as time-frames and cost. A potentially important feature of a contract is a ‘Termination Clause‘. This lays out the terms by which a project can be cancelled. Many contractors can provide a standard contract or you can create an original contract, possibly with legal input of advice. It can also contain relevant contingencies, such as budget and pay schedule. There are two essential plans in a contract:

Cost plus flat fee: Cost are set at each stage of the project, with an overall management fee. This structure allows for flexibility, but it can be hard to estimate the final cost.

Bib Basis: With the contractor final cost is determined as well as schedule for fees payable to the contractor.

You should never pay a contractor for their work in advance.

      • A payment schedule that is fair for both you and the contractor should be established. It’s a common practice to pay a contractor half of the fee when the work is halfway completed. A second installment can be paid when the work is three quarters complete, with a final installment paid just prior to the work being done. 

You should never pay a contractor in cash.

      • It is advisable to pay a contractor by cheque or credit card. You can also choose to finance a larger projects if applicable. Because there is no clear method of proof of payment, cash is not a viable option. A contractor could claim that they were not paid or that they were paid a lesser amount. It is necessary to have a form of payment that is traceable.

Quality of material.

      • It is important that you establish the quality of material with the contractor before the work begins. It is necessary that the materials that are used are the materials that have been contracted. The materials that are used may be crucial to the quality of work that has been contracted.

Time of delivery.

      • Firm and reasonable delivery of service and materials should be established before work is begun. The time agreed upon with the contractor must suit both you and the contractor. If the contractor is not firm regarding the time of delivery for the project, unfortunate timing conflicts may arise. You need to know when the job will be done.

Check references.

      • Once you are interested in a business, take some time to check references. These can come from subcontractors they may work with, people you know in the community and the local Better Business Bureau. References can let you know details about a business that could be crucial to know; How reliable are they? Do they pay attention to detail? Are they honest? etc.

Questions you should ask the contractor.

      • There are several questions you will want to ask once you have agreed that the specific contractor can do the job. The answers may be on their website.

How long have they been in business?

      • This is an indication that a business is experienced and reliable. A company that has been in business for an appreciable time has shown both managerial and technical ability. Their workers could be more experienced. They may have a stronger relationship with subcontractors and material providers. By comparison, a newer contractor may have access to more current technology.

Are they properly licensed?

      • For some contractors a license is necessary to perform their work. Be sure that all require licenses are met and up to date for all tradesmen involved in your project. Check with your contractor to ensure that all their worker are properly accredited with relevant unions or governments. This is especially important for insurance purposes. An unlicensed worker can cause legal problems.

Are permits required for your project?

      • Permits, such as building permits required by some forms of government, are essential and must not be overlooked. Your contractor should know what permits are required and be sure to obtain them before work begins. Working performed without a valid permit could lead to fines and issues with insurance companies.

Can they give you a reasonable and detailed quote?

      • Be sure to get a clear and acceptable quote from the contractor you are dealing with. It should include the relevant time frame for the project to begin and end, a list of materials and the estimated cost, a detailed cost for labor and a statement of overall cost. The quote must be in writing so that there is no opportunity to overlook it at any time.

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