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Home renovations you get what you pay for

October 31, 2011

Home renovations you get what you pay for

When you’re hiring a general contractor, the lowest estimate may not be your best bet. That “fantastic” deal might end up costing you much more—in headaches, as well as money—than realistic pricing from a trustworthy contractor who’s going to do the job properly.

Ask yourself why the lowest bid is so much cheaper. Is there a lack of experience in the type of job to be done? Will low-quality materials be used? Or unqualified workers? Will the crew disappear to do other jobs? What corners may be cut, leaving you with unsatisfactory results?

Here are some warning signs of an unscrupulous or unreliable contractor:

  • Offers to work for cash, to save on taxes. (There’s no protection for you if something goes wrong. Pay by cheque and get receipts.)
  • Pressures you to hire immediately.
  • No license. (A contractor should have a business license; check that it’s up to date.)
  • No contract. (A written contract protects you. It should detail all aspects of the project, from the work to be done to types of materials, schedule and payment intervals.)
  • Has scheduling issues. (Even if he’s working on other projects, your job should get done on time.)
  • Requests a large percentage of the project’s cost before the work is done, or a deposit to buy materials. (An established contractor should have available credit to buy materials.)
  • Can’t provide references. (Ideally, you should visit a few houses where he did a similar type of work, to check the quality and ask about the schedule and work habits—would they hire him again?)
  • No proof of insurance. (The contractor and any subcontractors should be fully covered.)
  • Claims building permits aren’t needed. (A contractor should get any necessary permits and schedule required inspections by municipal authorities.)
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