10 Questions to Ask a Potential Contractor

Your home is one of your largest financial assets, but unlike the stock market, you have a lot of control over the growth, or decline, of this asset’s value. Routine maintenance, updating and renovating play a vital role in retaining, and increasing the home’s value.

It is equally important to make sure your house is worked on by a qualified contractor with a solid reputation. In these days of the “side hustle” and “gig economy,” where anybody can create a professional looking website, buy followers on Instagram and proclaim to be at the top of their field, it’s easy to be misled and wind up with a tradesperson whose qualifications fall short.

Spare yourself the time, hassle and worry buy asking your contractor these 10 questions to ensure they are the best fit for you, and your home’s needs.

1.       What are Your Qualifications? Expect to see certifications from major learning institutions, such as the Northern or Southern Institutes of Technology, in Construction Management, Home Renovation, or a Construction Engineering Technology. Ask the lead contractor if they ensure that the sub-trades working under their name are professionally qualified as well.


2.       What do Your Third-Party Reviews Say? A contractor that has a bad reputation is going to have bad reviews on sites like Google, Yelp and Houzz. That being said, reviews are not always fair. If the company has been in business for a while, promptly returns your calls, is qualified and professional but has one negative review, it may be the work of one disgruntled client. Look at the reviews across several sites and take an average of their independent ratings.


3.       Do you have a Contingency in the Budget? There are always surprises when renovating a house. It could the discovery of mould in a wall or a crack in the foundation. A great contractor builds a contingency into the budget to account for the unforeseen.


4.       Do you have Insurance? WCB and liability insurance for the contractor and his or her sub trades are a must. If anyone is injured on your property due to the job (not the homeowner’s negligence, such as not restraining an aggressive dog) the financial onus should be on the contractor, not your homeowner’s insurance policy.


5.       How do you Accept Payment? If your contractor only deals in cash, run away. Fast. Cash-only contractors are likely dealing in a form of tax evasion, and you don’t want any part of that.


6.       What Paperwork Should I Expect? A qualified contractor should present you with the project’s budget, a contract, and a copy of their insurance certificates. All invoices and receipts should have their company name, a document number and a GST number.


7.       Is a Complaint Resolution Process in Place? Your contractor should have a protocol in place for a fair resolution of any major disputes, such as a right to independent arbitration or mediation. The contractor should indicate willingness to participate in conflict resolution.


8.       Are there Extra Charges for Holiday Hours? If your project will carry over any major long weekends or statutory holidays, will the team take those days off or work through them for an extra charge? Be reasonable in your expectations (don’t demand that the crew lay tile on Christmas day) and have a mutual understanding of the working hours before the project begins.


9.       What Happens if the Project runs Late? A good contractor will have a protocol for projects that run over their expected completion date, but remember – it’s not always their fault. If you decided on imported tile that is travelling from overseas in unpredictable weather, your job may be delayed.


10.   Do you have a Referral Program? Naturally, by falling these 10 steps, you’ve found the perfect contractor for your high-end renovation. The project came in on time and on budget. You couldn’t be more pleased with the results! Now it’s time to share the good news. Ask your contractor how they prefer you to talk about their services. A good review on Facebook? A Google review? A referral program? Each contractor has their preferred way of word-of-mouth advertising and will appreciate this question.