In just a few years as a small business owner, I have had the pleasure of working with dozens of excellent contractors. But no one will deny there are bad contractors out there, and they generate the stories you remember.
Renovations are painful enough without adding an unqualified or unprepared contractor to the mix. Here are a few simple steps to finding the right people.
If you have a solid relationship with someone in a subtrade – an electrician, plumber, flooring installer, etc – ask them to give you a referral to a General Contractor. They will generally know someone with a proven track record of delivering a good product. Then the General Contractor will know who to hire in the subtrades to get the job done right.
The subtrades will work harder to deliver a good product as they are hoping for more business from the General Contractor in the future.
That being said, there are definitely some shady General Contractors out there. Make sure to take the remaining steps to investigate them in the same manner as any other Contractor.
2. Get Your Documentation in Order
Any good Contractor should be able to provide you with their trade credentials, business license, insurance information, and WCB Clearance Letter. This should be the absolute minimum that you demand before someone comes to work on your property. A Contractor who cannot provide this paperwork is likely unqualified to perform the work.
3. Don’t Take the Cheapest Quote
We are all looking for a deal! But if one quote is considerably cheaper than the rest, it is a good indication that the Contractor does not understand what is required, or does not intend to do the job properly. For the best possible outcome, we would recommend getting four quotations and picking the second cheapest one. This will give you the highest value for your dollar.
4. Look at Their Previous Work
Most companies will provide pictures of their previous work online, but even if they don’t, you can generally ask to take a look at one of their previous or ongoing projects. This will help you ensure that the style of their work suits you, and that it is being conducted in a professional manner.
5. Take Online Reviews with a Grain of Salt
In 2014, we had the misfortune to work for a poor General Contractor. We would be sent to customer sites, only to have the customers plead with us to get in touch with the General for them. But somehow they had hundreds of glowing online reviews.
Among them was an angry 1 star post where the customer claimed that her renovation photos had been used without her consent in a 5 star review. The mystery was solved!