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How to Find a Reliable Contractor for Your Renovations

Published on July 1, 2021

Are you looking to take advantage of the hot housing market by selling your home? Did you just buy a new place that you want to update to your taste? Take the opportunity to renovate and make it even more attractive – if selling, it’ll help you get the best price possible!

Many homeowners run into challenges when searching for a contractor they can trust to ensure that their project runs smoothly.

Whether you’re planning to renovate a bathroom or kitchen, replace windows and doors, or build an addition on your home, here are some key points to consider when choosing the right contractor for your project.


Planning renovations and creating a budget

You have the green light; it’s time to renovate! To successfully embark on this adventure, you must carefully plan the renovations you want to do. Besides listing as many details as possible about the work to be performed, you must also set a budget and stick to it. This will help avoid issues cropping up (that never end!) and manage any surprises (e.g., opening a wall reveals an electrical issue that sparks additional associated costs).

It’s a great idea to include a safety net of 10% to 20% in your total budget to be prepared for the unexpected.

Asking for quotes

The renovation plan should be given to at least three contractors who will assess all the work and material costs and then provide you with a quote.

In addition to a description of the work to be done and the price, a quote should include a work schedule, or at least a start and end date, as well as payment terms. Generally speaking, the more detailed the quote, the higher the likelihood of doing business with a professional company that meets your needs.

Reviewing RBQ licence status, contractor credentials, and past work history

Sure, double checking all the information provided does take time, but covering all your bases now will save you from unpleasant surprises later.

Here’s an overview of the verification process:

  • Determine if the contractor holds a licence from the Régie du bâtiment du Québec (RBQ) by checking the RBQ’s licence holders’ repertory. If they hold a license, then the RBQ has verified their professional qualifications and solvency. Please note that RBQ verification is not always adequate and it’s recommended that you check a contractor’s status through other organizations.
  • Verify that the contractor’s company is registered with the Quebec Entreprise Registry. This registry can be used to determine if you’re doing business with an established company and allows you to check how long it’s been around.
  • Use the Office de la protection du consommateur’s (OPC’s) Business Registry (in French only) to determine if a business has been at odds with the OPC or if it has received any formal customer complaints.

Ensuring a contractor has civil liability insurance

Verify that the contractor and subcontractors (if applicable) possess civil liability insurance. This will cover any damage to the property or a neighbouring property during construction, as well as injuries that could befall workers.

  • Ask to see their insurance certificate(s) and take note of the policy number(s), company name(s), and expiration date(s).
  • Confirm the information with their insurance provider(s) to ensure that their contract(s) are still valid.

Building on a contractor’s experience

Your first meeting with the contractors will give you an opportunity to ask questions and see which contractor clicks with you. Price is an important factor, of course, but trust and good relations are also worth their weight in gold!

Here are some sample questions:

  • How long have you been a contractor?
  • How many times have you done this type of renovation?
  • Do you have your own crew to perform the work or do you outsource some or all of it?
  • Is your work covered by a warranty? If so, what is covered?

Determining if a contractor is reliable and does quality work

The best way to judge a contractor’s skills is to see their work. Some have a portfolio that you can consult. Even better, why not get in touch with a contractor’s previous clients and, if possible, observe the quality of work done for yourself? It’s worthwhile to ask questions. Were there delays? Any conflicts? Recurring problems?

Good to know:

  • It’s better to retain the services of a contractor who has completed similar work in the past. They already know which materials and techniques to use and are aware of inherent problems involved in this type of work and the necessary solutions. This saves valuable time.
  • Ask the contractor where they get their supplies from and how long they’ve been working with their supplier(s). If they have been buying from the same supplier for years, it likely means they settle their accounts on time.

Making a detailed work schedule

It’s important to establish a detailed work schedule and then keep an eye on the progress of the work to spot any delays. Be sure to negotiate penalties in advance with the contractor in case of significant worksite delays. That way, if there’s an issue, they have an incentive to get the situation under control and avoid pushing back the end date.

Don’t forget:

  • Find out who to contact regarding the worksite. It’s always better to speak with one person – there’s less of a risk of information falling between the cracks!
  • Ask about how the work wraps up. For example, is cleaning up construction waste materials included? This allows things to end on the right note, especially if major renovation work was done!

Discussing price and payment terms

Make sure to set a payment calendar and ask the contractor how the price could vary over the course of the work. It’s better to know all this information beforehand! The first payment is the deposit. Depending on the project, budget between 10% and 30% of the total amount. Note that this percentage can increase based on the materials chosen and could jump to 50% for custom woodwork (e.g., kitchen cabinets).

Payments are then made in instalments as the work progresses. Caution: don’t pay the last instalment until the renovations are done to ensure that the work has been properly completed. The last 10% to 15% can be released at that time.

Be aware that a general contractor can call on subcontractors to perform the work. When this happens, you should receive a notice of termination or disclosure of contract. Keep these documents in a safe place as they prove that a contractor designated other parties as suppliers. If the contractor doesn’t pay them, the owner could be on the hook for it.

How to prevent this from happening:

  • Write cheques to the contractor and supplier.
  • Request a release from the supplier that proves they were paid in full by the contractor.

Signing a contract with a contractor

A contract is an insurance policy that can be referred to in the event of a dispute with a contractor.

The contract should include the:

  • contractor’s name and contact information
  • contractor’s licence number from the RBC
  • contractor’s civil liability insurance policy numbers and name of insurance provider
  • precise description of work to be carried out and materials to be used
  • total cost
  • payment terms
  • work schedule (with start and end dates)
  • warranties
  • details about worksite waste cleanup
  • cancellation clause or financial compensation for non-compliance with the contract

Nailing down a reliable contractor

Choosing a trustworthy and competent contractor is a pivotal step in the renovation and construction process. That is why it’s essential to pick the right one so you can increase the odds of getting what you want, both in terms of quality of work and price.

You can call on RenoAssistance if you don’t have the time or want help finding a reliable contractor: their team will be able to recommend contractors who have passed the comprehensive 53-Point Verification Process.

Author : Chantal Tellier

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