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How to Choose a Home Renovation Contractor

Planning on doing some home renovations soon? Not sure what you should be looking for when it comes to hiring a reputable and trustworthy contractor though? Our home renovation company in Calgary has you covered with the tips you need to know before signing any contracts.

If you don’t have the time or skill to carry out your own home renovations, then hiring a home renovation contractor is obviously the best way to go. Whether you have a big project or small remodel on your hands, the below tips will help you select the right home renovation contractor for the job. 

It can be tough wading through potential home renovation contractors. After all, how are you supposed to know who is good when you don’t have the background or expertise to properly judge them? That’s why research and organization are key when it comes to finding the right home renovation contractor for your home remodelling project. Let’s take a look at what you need to do to make sure you hire the right person for the job.

Obtain recommendations

The first thing you’ll want to do is create a list of potential contractors for your home renovation project. Depending on the scope of it, you may need multiple contractors and multiple lists. One for plumbers, one for carpenters, and so on. Or you might be able to find a home renovation company that has all these types of tradespeople on staff. Either way, you need to create a starter list of the candidates you’re interested in working with.

To compile your starter list, you should:

  • Ask your friends or family who have recently had home renovations done for recommendations
  • Search online for companies who do the types of renovations you’re interested in
  • Read the online reviews of the companies you’ve looked up
  • Ask your friends or followers on social media who they would recommend

Ideally, you want to have around 10-12 local contractors who specialize in the specific home renovation you want done on your list when you’re finished. You should be wary of any contractors who don’t have a strong online presence, as this could be a warning sign that they aren’t very trustworthy. If you have trouble contacting them before the project begins, imagine how tough it will be if things end up going sideways. 

Look at their portfolios

Good home renovation contractors should be eager to show you the work they’ve done in the past in order to secure your business. Like any craft, home renovation contractors who possess exceptional skill confidently display their previous work in a bid to showcase their creativity, capability, and trustworthiness. You should be able to ask the contractors on your list for a portfolio of their work and they should either have a hard copy one they can show you, or be able to direct you to a website with their previous work on there. You’ll want to make sure some of the work they’re highlighting has happened in the past year or so, as sometimes renovation companies will lose highly skilled employees and can’t replicate previous work without their services. 

If possible, try to get a portfolio that shows the space that was renovated before the work began, as it was being completed, and after everything was finished. Be aware of home renovation contractors who can’t provide a portfolio of their work, have low-quality photos, or don’t have any pictures of the space before the remodel was completed. They either haven’t been in business that long, don’t do good work, or are likely using stock imagery.

Make sure they’re licensed or certified

At this stage, you should have about 4-5 names left on your list. Now you want to make sure that the remaining contractor candidates are properly licensed, certified, and insured. They should all be willing to provide you with this information well before you get to the contract stage, and the required licenses or certifications will depend on the type of home renovation project you plan on completing. Here in Calgary, contractors are required to hold a valid City of Calgary business licence. You can check if the contractor you’re considering has one here.

You’ll also want to make sure that the contractor has liability insurance should anything get damaged during the home renovation, or should anyone get injured. Just make sure your contract stipulates that they produce their certificate of insurance before any work begins.

Check their references

You should have your list narrowed down to about 3-4 contractors now. At this point in the process, it’s time to ask your candidates for their references. Every home renovation contractor should be expecting this request and should have a list with at least 10 past customers on it with their phone numbers, address, and the date their project was completed.

Now you need to get on the horn and call these folks. If the reference list is quite long, take a sampling of the newer and older projects to get a good idea of how consistent the home renovation contractor is. Have your notepad ready and be sure to ask tons of questions.

Some good questions you can ask include:

  • How satisfied are you with the work the contractor did?
  • Was the contractor able to stay on schedule?
  • Did the contractor keep the job site clean? 
  • Did they address and resolve any problems promptly?
  • Did the contractor show up when they said they would for appointments and days they were working?
  • Has their work held up nicely and passed the test of time?
  • Do you think the cost was fair, reasonable, and communicated clearly?

Once you’ve asked your questions, don’t be afraid to ask the reference if you can come and visit their home to see the work that was done. Since they’ve agreed to be a reference for the home renovation contractor, they shouldn’t be surprised by this request. 

As you speak with the references, you’ll also want to make note of their overall tone and willingness to share. Those who have had good experiences should be very upbeat and open with their information. Conversely, those who did not have the best experience may be less forthcoming with how they feel the experience went in an effort to not say something critical or unkind about the contractor.

Receive bids and hire your contractor!

By now you should have narrowed down your search to the final two or three contractors. You may want to keep one or two more on there if their references were good, as you’re about to see how much your home renovation project can be expected to cost from the different contractors. You’ve gotten rid of all the suspect or subpar contractors thanks to your previous research, so this part of the process should be relatively straightforward. 

Given the type of home renovation you’re planning on having done, the contractors should have put together a proposal for you following your in-depth consultation. This proposal should include the general timeline for your project, the materials they and you plan on using for the remodel, and an estimated total cost. But be sure you aren’t just picking a contractor based on the lowest price. As they say, you get what you pay for. Be honest with yourself about what your goals for your home renovation are and try to pick the contractor whose work and price best reflect them. 

After you’ve made your decision and accepted a bid, they should put together a draft proposal that will feature more details about your home renovation project. After reviewing and signing the document, the contractor will most likely ask for a deposit cheque. Congratulations, your home renovation project is officially started.

Wrapping up

In the end, it’s completely up to you to do the research and legwork that is required to find a reputable and trustworthy home renovation contractor who has the skills needed to execute your project the way you envision it. Which is how it should be. After all, you wouldn’t really trust some random person to make such a huge decision for you, right? While the above steps will certainly take some time and investigating, it’ll all be worth it once you finally have your dream kitchen, basement, bedroom, bathroom, and home.