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Getting The Best Contractor – Top 10 Rules

The Reno King takes pride in all aspects of the renovation process and wants to ensure you know what to look for when hiring the right company no matter how small or large your project may be.

#1. Trust your Gut!

We know it, you know it, everyone knows it. But how often did the hindsight 20/20 become the topic of conversation after your reno project faltered in whatever which way? There are plenty of good contractors out there that are honest, reliable, skilled & reasonably priced, so don’t hire someone if your gut isn’t sitting right; simply pick up the phone book, check craigslist or ask around for some recommendations and find the right company before your job turns into a nightmare.

#2. Check References!

I have many customers that I volunteered references to but instead of doing the extra work they just hired us as #1 rule was in place. Now of course they made the right decision, but no one can know how everything is going to go just by a gut feeling, and you need to assure that positive gut feeling through some imperative questions to their existing customers before you make your decision.

When you call the references you need to ask a few questions:
1) Were they clean & respectful?
2) Did they finish on time and on budget? If not, why?
3) Are you pleased with the quality of work?
4) Is there anything that you feel they could have done better?
5) Would you recommend them to your closest friends & family?

These answers will tell you what to expect. Some companies are just not good at estimating, but it doesn’t mean they are bad contractors. If you are doing major renovations, then in the end you should always expect to pay more than the initial estimate as there are always surprises & unexpected tasks to get the job done right.

#3. A Detailed Estimate

There are a lot of companies out there that will give free estimates, but some are done in 10 minutes on a napkin. This is not a joke and will save you many headaches if you treat this seriously. A detailed estimate is crucial as it lays all the cards on the table. You want to know every possible thing that is included especially if it’s a fixed cost. If you signed a detailed estimate and a surprise comes up (which happens more than often) that wasn’t accounted for on the estimate, then it’s easy for your contractor to approach you, list the extra tasks, estimate the extra charges, fix it and move forward. But if you were simply given a verbal price and now he is bringing up extra costs associated with “extra work” who is to say he had accounted for surprises or not? So now you either pay him or you don’t. If you do, and he is dishonest, then he gets away with extra money. If you don’t, and he is truthful about the extras, then you have a ticked off contractor who is now looking for short cuts to make up for the lossed time, or will put your job further down the priority list.

#4. Price

Let’s be honest. Everyone wants to save money and no one wants to pay more than they should. But if Rule #3 is satisfied, then the companies satisfying it will usually be priced in the middle or high, and the reason being they have taken every possible task (minus surprises) into account. They have spent the hours it takes to think through the job & draw up a proper estimate, where as the guy that throws a price out off a napkin in 10 minutes has missed many of the tasks and material it will take to complete the job, therefore is priced lower. If you hire the lower priced contractor on a fixed price and he has underestimated your job, then you are taking the risk of being low on the priority list, or short cuts being taken to make up for the loss. If you hire him by the hour, then I guarantee his cost will end up being the same as the mid to high guys, unless of course you got a skilled trade at a bargain rate, which doesn’t happen often. My advice is to always revert back to Rule #3 and select a price from those guys.

#5. Licensed & Insurance

This is an easy one. Just make sure you request copies of the contractors business license & insurance verification. Although liability insurance is not required, it is a bonus, and do ensure the contractor has up to date WCB/Work Safe coverage as this is required.

#6. Company Image

Look at large companies; they spend a fortune on an image that they care about… and you can rest assure that they will be in business tomorrow. Look at your potential contractors. Do they have business cards, a logo, flyers, a website? Just by verifying at least a couple of these things you eliminate the fly by night companies who will never invest the time or money it takes to build some sort of image. A quality image also tells you that the company cares about doing things right. They took the time to map out their values and try to portray those values through their website, business card, brochures etc.

#7. Deposit

Are they asking for a deposit? How large is the deposit? Do you feel uncomfortable giving the deposit? Here’s our opinion: The Reno King doesn’t believe in deposits for most residential projects. If the company you are hiring does not have money to purchase material and pay their trades for 1 or 2 weeks, then you should hire another company. If they are asking for a deposit then tell them you will gladly change the contract to pay them every week for materials purchased and work completed, but no deposits. This way you stay in a position of leverage in case you hired the wrong company.

Just search online about contractors ripping people off. The only 2 times it happens is when a deposit is given, or when more money is paid than work completed. If you are building a home or your project requires thousands of dollars in materials in order to move to the next step then those can be exceptions, other than that, do not give a deposit and choose another contractor.

#8. The Client’s Job – Appreciation

Ok, so you have hired a company now as they have passed the first 7 rules… now it’s your turn. Don’t think for one second that because you have awarded your fruitful renovation project to this blessed and fortunate company that you can sit back, crack whips and await the end result you envisioned without doing anything. The title of this article is “Getting The Best Contractor,” and you have an influence on “The Best.

Your job is soooo important and so simple that it cannot be overlooked. As small of a gesture it is, you must, and I mean MUST, show your appreciation to the trades on site! You want those trades LOVING every moment working on your job site, so bring them donuts, cookies, drinks and even a Friday afternoon beer! I can’t tell you how far it goes when you treat the workers like gold! They will do extra things for extra quality and sometimes not even bill you for it because they love working for you. You will get the most effort out of every person on that job if they see that you appreciate their time to help you.

#9. The Client’s Job – Communication

Getting all the finishing materials picked out immediately is so important to avoid errors and extra work in the rough in stages of the job. Getting that list and picking everything out ensures you have done your part of the job. The other thing is to inform your contractor if something is bugging you. I remember doing a job where we were using the customer’s garage to store tools and every night when he got home he had to move our tools over 1 foot to get his vehicle in the garage. Then we would arrive in the morning and he was gone, so we never saw the vehicle in the garage for 3 weeks and because he literally budged over our tools, we didn’t notice they were moved. So now the customer is very annoyed and expressed his 3 weeks of frustration when his discomfort could have been avoided if he told us the first or second time it happened, so please communicate!

We hope this help in your contractor search. If you have any more questions or would like a free estimate, then please click here or contact us at 604-349-5464.

Davyn Arscott

President