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3 IMPORTANT Must-do’s when hiring a Contractor : A Homeowner's Guide

Updated: Feb 22, 2020

A friend told me last week how his nephew is dealing with a kitchen remodeling horror story. The nephew had agreed to pay $26,000 for a 200 sq. ft. kitchen renovation; nothing fancy, just the usual works: new cabinet installation, tiling and re-work on the floor; solely aesthetics, nothing structural.

The contractor had promised him two weeks to finish the job and currently, they are at week #5 with crooked and unleveled floors and tiles. The sad part is, they had to take out the money from their home equity just to have a more livable kitchen. Oh and might I add that the “contractor” had asked for the full payment upfront to “guarantee” their spot.

So where did you think the homeowner go wrong?

Home renovations, may it be a big or small project requires the homeowner’s due diligence when choosing a contractor. At the bare minimum, here are the 3 most important must-do’s for the homeowners:

1. Know the current service market price.

Estimates are usually free so it doesn’t hurt to invite at least 3 contractors to come up with a price for your project. By doing so, you will have a better idea as to how much the current service market price is. If the price is too good to be true, it usually is. Choose quality, keeping in mind that the highest bid might not be always the best.

$26,000 for a 200 sq.ft basic kitchen remodeling is way above the service market price.

2. Do a background check.

Now that you have an idea of the fair market price, it is important to check the legitimacy of the company. Check the website and social media presence. Do they exist?

Don’t be afraid to ask for references. If the company is quite new, the chances are, they will not have a social media presence built as of yet, so prior clients' references are also acceptable. BONUS points if you have met them through a neighbour, so you can actually see their prior work in person.

You have to make sure that they are licensed, bonded and insured. This means that the business is properly registered and the insurance or surety company will be responsible for covering unforeseen financial losses.

3. Review the job contract.

For minor home renovations such as a bathroom or kitchen remodeling, a simple work order or estimate might be enough. This should include the homeowner and contractors information as well the description of work and the cost and when the payment is due.

If you are not comfortable withe the payment structure, do say so.

It is common for the contractors to ask for a downpayment (30-50%) of the total bid for the materials prior to the start of the job, but I would encourage you NOT to pay all the service costs upfront.

For larger and substantial projects, the contract can become lengthy but should include additional details on the materials to be used, including the brand and specifications; full plans as well the contractor’s warranty.

If the project is of high value, do not hesitate to ask a third party professional, such as a lawyer to draft the contract.

A successful home renovation project puts money in your pocket and it is what every homeowner dreams of. Be patient and do your homework. Never at any point should you decide in haste for something that you have been working hard for.
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