When you make the decision to do a renovation it's an exciting time and no one would fault you for wanting to jump in with both feet. Before you do hire the first contractor that comes up as result on your Google search though, there are a few important things you should consider.
- Have an onsite estimate.
- There are very few projects that don't require an onsite estimate. Those simple straight forward projects do exist, but they are few and far between. Most contractors will offer a free onsite estimate and this is something you should definitely take advantage of, especially if your renovation project is a large one.
- An onsite estimate is beneficial for all parties involved. For you as the client, an onsite estimate allows you to show the contractor your space and clearly explain your vision. For the contractor, he or she can ask intelligent and relevant follow-up questions and there's little worry that each party is misunderstanding the requests of the other.
- Get it in writing.
- Following an onsite estimate you should expect to receive a detailed written estimate outlining all of the costs and other relevant details for your project. For example, on an electrical estimate you should have the costs for all necessary ESA (Electrical Safety Authority) permits, all material and all labour costs. There should also be a detailed description of each. You should also have any special conditions outlined, (ie - this project can only be done between the hours of 8am and noon Monday to Thursday) and there should be a clear payment schedule outlined. If anything on the estimate is different that what was discussed during the onsite estimate, contact your contractor and outline your concerns. Make sure that you receive a revised estimate that matches your expectations before proceeding.
- (Please note that even the best contractor cannot predict all unforseen circumstances. There are rare occassions where things are discovered during a project that will not have been on your estimate. For example, you have hired an electrical contractor to remove all the second floor knob and tube wiring on a house you just purchased because the seller informed you there was knob and tube there. While installing a new dimmer on the main floor, the electrician discovers more knob and tube. This unforseen circumstance now needs to be fixed. Your contractor will discuss this with you, but ultimately it does need to be fixed and it is outside the original scope of work. A great contractor will be fair when including this on the final invoice and will answer your questions, should you have any.)
- Get multiple estimates.
- It is always a good idea to get at least three estimates from three different contractors for your renovation project. Not all contractors are created equally so you will want to compare and contrast their estimates. One thing to keep in mind when comparing estimates though is that you need to compare "apples to apples". For example, you may have requested 6 pot lights, but one contractor may have priced halogen pot lights, and one contractor may have priced slim LED potlights. The slim LED pot lights are the more expensive option, but they are on trend and very stylish. In this case, the devil is in the details. Don't fall into the trap of automatically assuming the less expensive estimate is the best one.
- Trust your instincts.
- After meeting multiple contractors on site to discuss your project, you certainly have a feel for each of them. This feeling should not be ignored. Your gut will rarely steer you wrong, and if something seemed "off" with a particular contractor, it probably is. Remember, you're inviting this person and their team into your home or business for a potentially extensive period of time. You will want to make sure you trust them and can get along with them. Renovations are expensive and sometimes stressful and you want to make sure you trust the team you've chosen to work through this process together.
Now that you have some great tips to hire a great contractor, you can get back to jumping in with both feet and enjoying the renovation process, but more importantly enjoying your new perfect space!