Hiring the ‘right’ renovator is essential to the success of your renovation. It isn’t complicated, but it does warrant weighing out a number of factors before you make your decision.
The first factor is assessing how much time you have to devote to your project. By that, I don’t just mean whether you have the technical knowledge or skills to perform actual work, but also how much time you have to oversee trades, contracts, scheduling, purchase and supply management, permits etc. Being honest in how much you can reasonably handle yourself, will help you to determine the type of contractor you need.
- Extensive Renovation – For large projects or additions, you may want a professional renovator to serve as your general contractor. In this role, they organize and take responsibility for the total project - design, sourcing and scheduling qualified tradespeople, managing permits and inspections, determining, ordering and scheduling appropriate building products and materials, providing a warranty and ensuring all insurances are in place.
- Specific Room Renovations- For renovating specific areas such as the kitchen or bathroom, you may want a renovator who specializes in these areas; who can provide design services and understands the responsibilities of interconnecting with all the required trades (cabinetry, drywall, electrical, plumbing, painters, flooring, heating etc).
- Installations- Building product retailers often offer installation services for products they sell (roofing, windows, flooring etc.). You deal directly with the retailer for the work and payment – the retailer provides the qualified tradespeople, and warrants their work. Retailers that provide contract installation services should still provide detailed contracts, verified insurance and Workers Compensation coverage to protect you from unnecessary risks – but to be sure, you need to ask about this. You also need to know if they will handle all aspects of the project – example if they are installing windows, if needed will they provide a carpenter to reinstall any interior trim or painting.
- Trades such as electrical, mechanical, heating, plumbing, roofers, masons and carpenters can also be hired directly by you, but you will have to find these people and manage the contracting process yourself.
Face-to-face meetings in your home are next. This gives both parties a good first look and a chance to tour the home and discuss objectives. Interviewing might be challenging at first, but once you feel secure with your contractor choice, it’s much easier to get underway with the project without added stress and worry. Below are a few helpful tips.
Contracts should detail responsibilities, specify products, include time frames, warranties, insurance, a final price and how changes will be handled during the work. Anything less than this, should be a serious red flag.
Is their experience appropriate? Even if the pictures of their work is impressive, if their specialty is basement finishing and you’re looking to create an outdoor cooking oasis, you really should consider using someone different. Twenty years of experience and expertise in one area of remodeling does not necessarily translate to success in another.
As a homeowner, you have the responsibility to perform your own due diligence in checking references; including relationships with suppliers and other contractors, not just previous homeowners. Make sure they are sound and solid before signing a contract.
Lastly, does it feel right? Trust your instincts. Your contractor and their crew could be in your home for weeks or months. If there’s something that doesn’t feel quite right, for any reason, then hire someone else. This includes a fit in communication styles. A contractor should be willing to talk with you when you need information. Having said that, there are also timeframes that you will need to adher to if the agreed-upon completion date is to be met. It is a balance.
Once you have chosen your contractor, then the creative work can begin.
Peder Madsen is the president of the London Home Builders' Association and Vice President of CCR Building and Remodeling in London.