What to Know When Hiring a Contractor

With real estate markets across North America seeing a shortage of inventory, many homeowners are considering adding on to or renovating their current homes to fulfill their property needs. When hiring a contractor for your home project, you want to ensure you're asking the right questions and getting enough information before you make a final decision. If you're considering a home renovation project, read on for tips and important questions to ask before you hire a contractor or home renovation company.

1. Determine the Size of the Project
Before you begin your contractor search, you will need to determine the size of your project. Some contractors and companies will only work with projects of certain sizes, budgets, or specific areas of a home (think kitchen or bathroom only), so knowing what you need done before you begin your search will help determine the contractor or company you look for.

2. Start Your Search
Once you've determined what you want to do, it's time to start researching companies and/or contractors. There are different contractors for different projects, some of which are:

Specialty contractor: someone who specializes in building or installing specific things, like windows, cabinets, etc. If you're looking to upgrade your kitchen cabinets or want to remodel your master bathroom, you'll want a specialist.
General contractor: someone who manages every aspect of a home project and will utilize subcontractors for the actual work. If you're looking to renovate, remodel, or add on to your home, finding a general contractor will be important.
Design-build contractor: this is generally a company that has an in-house team of professionals (architect, designers, construction workers, etc.) who will cover every step of the project. If you want to remodel your entire home, going with a design-build contractor can make the entire process easier and less stressful.

3. Compare Professionals
Once you know your project type, start looking for professionals. Ask family, friends, and coworkers for referrals; use the Internet and search for contractors in your area; read online company reviews from actual customers; and use websites like Yelp, Angie's List, or Houzz to find additional reviews, information and pictures to help you find professionals you can trust. Ratings and reviews are important, as are completed work portfolios - find as much information as you can, and when reading reviews, read all of them (the good and the bad).

4. Check Licenses, Certifications, and Insurance
As you do your research into different contractors, it's important to remember to check for licenses, certifications and insurances. Licensed contractors have spent a considerable amount of time studying, training with professionals, and building upon their skills and experience in order to pass a licensing exam with their local licensing board. Essentially, they've put in the time and work to be able to do the job correctly.

Licensed contractors and companies are also likely to carry insurance. When researching potential contractors, ask about general liability insurance and workers' compensation coverage, both of which will protect you and your property during the project.

Certifications show that the contractor has spent additional time taking courses or extending his/her education when it comes to their specific work. Some of the top contractor certifications are (and this list is by no means complete):

OSHA Safety Certificate
Certified Construction Manager (CCM)
Certified Professional Contactor (CPC)
Associate Constructor (AC)
Certified Graduate Remodeler (CGR)
When researching contractor options, look for licensure, insurance, and certifications to help gauge who to go with and who to avoid.

5. Check References
When you've narrowed down your search for possible contractors, don't hesitate to ask for references from past customers. Ask the contractor or company for past customers you can contact - it's best to contact both new and old customers, so you can get a feeling for past and recent service. Ask questions:

How did the project go? Was it on schedule and done correctly?
Did the project go over budget? Was it expected?
Were the contractor and subcontractors on time?
Were there any issues? How were they handled and communicated to you?
Was the jobsite safe? Was it kept clean?
Has the work stood up to time? Are you satisfied with the final product?

6. Review Bids and Proposals
After checking references, narrow down your search to three or four contractors and ask for bids and proposals. The contractor or a project manager will generally ask you about the project and what you're looking to have done. You'll then get a proposal (this will generally include the project description, timeline, and materials) with a cost bid. From this you can determine which choice is the best for you and your project.

Choosing a contractor is a process, and home construction projects can be daunting. Doing your research can make the process less stressful and ensure you get exactly what you want with the added benefit of knowing your home is in good hands. Feel free to contact me