How to choose the right Contractor.



Owning a home or building is one of your biggest investment you will do financially in your lifetime. When renovating your home or building in Ottawa you want to make sure you choose the right construction company for the job. Hiring the right contractor can make a difference between your project being a success or a total nightmare. 

Here are a few steps to follow to ensure you find yourself the right contractor:

How long have you been in business for?

This is a very basic question to ask. Believe or not, not everyone will ask their contractor. Don’t be shy asking them how long they’ve been in the renovation industry and how long they’ve run their company for. The last thing you want is a contractor who uses your home as a training ground. Whether it be using a new product or new to the job. 

Are you licensed and/or insured?

Have you gotten work done in the pass from an unlicensed and/or uninsured contractor because you thought they were nice and trusting person? Just because you are licensed contractor does not mean you are insured. It is important that your contractor be fully insured and capable of covering any accidents or mishaps that may or may not happen while working on your project. Protect yourself and protect your home. Don’t let anyone work on your home when they don’t have neither one of these. Let me explain. 

Getting a room painted? Found a painter online for an amazing price? GREAT! (wrong…) Here’s why. Johnny (the painter) comes in to your home, starts setting up. You think to yourself you have a legitimate worker working for you. And then the unexpected happens. Johnny drops 1 Gallon of paint on your new floors and ruins them. Before you get home from your work day and/or errands you’re excited to see the final product. You walk in to find a mess of half mopped up paint on your newly installed floors and the painter you hired is gone! No where to be seen. What do you do? You try calling him or her and no answer because they have a pay as you go plan. Believe it or not. This happens to a lot of people. Unfortunately, that is the risk of hiring a worker online. General liability insurance protects your home from damage or negligence of the general contractor, his employees and any sub-contractors brought onto your property. Remember being licensed does not mean you are insured. You, as a home owner want to hire someone who is licensed and insured. You may be a very trusting person but resist the temptation to take their word for it. For your protection, your biggest life investment, make them prove it with a copy of their insurance certificate and check the expiration dates. You can also call the issuing authority and verify the insurance is in force. 

Do you carry workers compensation insurance?

Did you know a general contractor or handyman, as soon as you have more then one employee working onsite or for you needs to have workers compensation insurance? Workers compensation insurance protects you from liability in the event a worker is injured while working on your property. Make sure you hire a fully insured general contractor. 

Will you be using sub-contractors for this project?

Are you worried or scared to let people in your home to work on your project and you have no idea who they are or what they’re there for? Ask your contractor if they will be using sub-contractors, electricians, plumbers, drywallers, floor installers etc. Most contractors will use trade contractors to some degree. It is important for you to know who they are and what they will be doing. Don’t be shy to ask your contractor if their will be a supervisor on site to supervise and overlook the work of the sub-trades. After-all, this is your home/building, you want to protect it and everything inside as well.


Is a building permit required?

One question that is asked a lot is “will a building permit be required?”. Some general contractors may not be familiar with your area and the specific codes related to homes in that specific area. For example, if you live in an area that is surrounded with heritage homes, the requirements are and will be different then your usual home. 

Who will be taking care of the work permit?

In order to getting a work permit, there is some cost and additional time required for obtaining a building permit. In a perfect world, you would have your contractor do this. But some clients would like to take care of this to ensure it gets done. Getting a work permit means your project will be done according to code and work will be inspected by a building inspector. 

Do you have referrals of past clients?

What are referrals? Referrals are a list of past clients to which you did some work for. A general contractor should have no problem providing multiple references. You, as a home/building owner should take the time to contact those past clients and ask the work they got done, the type of quality and the level of service they’ve received. This will give you a good idea of what to expect from the general contractor you are trying to hire.

Who purchases the materials?

Most contractors get discounts on materials and often they will pass some of those savings on to the homeowner. Ask your contractor where and what type of discounts they receive and IF they receive any. Some homeowners like to shop on their own and pick up the materials them selves. To ensure it is exactly what they want. Others let designers help them pick out. But who purchases what? For example, you’re remodeling your bathroom and you’re ready to choose your tiles. Does your contractor purchase them or do you? All of this should be documented as best as possible. Is this part of the original quote or not? This will make things clear who is paying for what. Usually this will be documented in the contract.

What happens if you find something unexpected?

It is quite common to find something you didn’t plan for in the course of a renovation project. For example, walls can hide a lot of problems and regardless of how good or accurate a contractor is, he or she is not a magician and cannot see through walls. Usually the contractor will stop the work and take the appropriate measures for the task in hand. Such as, calling the owner, letting them know what they found. If engineers or architects need to be involved etc. 

To what extant will you be cleaning before, during and after the project?

This is a great question! A sloppy job site makes for sloppy workmanship. As a client you should be asking your general contractor this question. Because a contractor may have a very loose definition when compared with a home owner. Will your contractor temporarily seal off vents and cover doorways to limit the dust from other areas of your home? 

For example, if cutting wood indoors, sanding drywall, or any type of demolition, there is no getting around the fact that there is going to be a great deal of dust created. Question is, are they going to be prepping the site properly so that dust does not blow throughout your entire house. Make sure there is an understanding about dirty work that must go on during the job.

Payment Schedule

Usually this will be documented in the work contracts . This varies from company to company, you should never pay the entire amount up front. A good standard deposit can be anywhere around from 10 to 30% deposit. This ensure reserving the date, any materials that need to be purchased and cover a portion of the labor. 

Do you offer warranty on your workmanship? 

This varies from company to company. Some offer a ‘tailgate’ warranty. As soon as you see the tailgate at the end of your street that’s it. Others can offer up to 25 years warranty. On avg. a good workmanship warranty is 5 years. 

End of Job Walk-through.

In a perfect world. There would be no deficiency’s. Its not because the contractor does not know what they are doing. Sometimes they can overlook something, so a pair of fresh eyes can really help out in the long run. After the project is completed, the contractor should walk around with the client and make a list of deficiencies for the contractor to fix. Make sure some kind of process is in place for resolving any items you feel are not up to standards. 


You want to be able to communicate with your contractor. Good communication skills is a must. Also, being able to listen. A contractor who listens and communicates with you will make things run smoother in the long run. You want to know that he or she is updating you about the process of your renovation. Be clear if you prefer texts, phone calls or emails. 

How detailed is your contract?

You want to be able to read a contract and understand every task on their to make sure that “yes that is exactly the work I want done”. A true professional always work with a proper, written contract. This protects both of you and is just common sense. A contract should detail a clear project plan and identify what you and your contractor have agreed to.

A written contract should include the following:

· A full description of the work, including the materials and products to be used.

· Dates when the work will start and be completed.

· A clear payment schedule that lays out when and how much you will be charged.

· What lien holdbacks are required.

· The contractor’s warranty detailing what is covered and the duration.

· Confirmation that the contractor has business liability coverage for your project, and that required Workers’ Compensation coverage is in place.

You’ve now read up on 'steps to finding the right contractor.' Ask your contractor these simple and effective questions and sit back and listen closely to their answers. These questions and answers should clarify your decision making on hiring a contractor.