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Everything You Need To Know
Construction Canada.com is not only
Canada's Online Construction Directory, providing effective exposure for
contractors, manufacturers, suppliers, decorators, trades people, etc. We are
also here to provide you, the consumer with the knowledge and the know-how
required to select a reliable contractor for the best possible results - results
that you will be happy with.
This section will teach you what to look for when
you're finding a contractor, selecting
a contractor, contractors to be aware of, getting bids,
contract and the contractor, paying for the
work and even how to deal with problems
that may arise.
|Finding A Contractor
Before selecting your contractor, make sure you
know exactly what you want done. Consult with your family and write down a full
description of the work you want. This will best illustrate what you need and it
will also ensure that the contractor knows what the job requires. It will also
ensure that the contractors bidding for the job are all bidding on the
That's right - contractors PLURAL!
Find at least two or three contractors to bid on the work you require. Remember
that "word of mouth" is one of the contractor's best (or worst)
friends. Try to think of a friend, neighbor, or family member that may have had
the same or similar work done in the last few years. A recommendation from a
trusted source is always a good place to start. Try to use other people's
experiences (good & bad) to your advantage.
After using Construction Canada.com, some
other good resources for finding a contractor are local hardware and building
supply stores. Some of the larger stores provide some home contracting services
themselves and offer the same guarantees they apply to their retail sales.
Municipal licensing offices and building
departments right in your own area may also be able to offer you contacts for
reliable contractors. Don't forget - local home building and trade associations.
They can also offer the names of members who do home renovations and remodeling.
For an extensive listing of Home Building & Trade Associations across the
country, Click Here
Try to find businesses that have been operating
in your area for a number of years. If you have the time, drop by their offices
for an introduction or even for a little look-see.
|Selecting A Contractor
Remember that a pleasant manner, an "honest
face" or the way someone talks is no assurance of reliability.
Whether you're using a contractor by
recommendation or by your own choosing, ask for their business license number
and ask them how long they have had it. Check this information with the
local licensing office. Find out if they carry public liability and property
damage insurance. Ask for the name of their insurance carrier and call them
to verify that their policies are in force.
Acquiring references in your area is also a
good idea. Call and check the references, as most people will be glad to
help you. Try to make sure these are not relatives or associates of the
Contractors with nothing to hide will not be
offended with these inquiries.
Contact your local office of the Better Business
Bureau (BBB). They keep records of complaints lodged against contractors in
their sector and can tell you if any have been placed against the firms you
|Be Aware Of Contractors Who:
- Quote prices before seeing the job.
- Knock on the door because they happen to be in
your area doing some other work and can give you a "special
- Offer discounts if they can, "use your
home to advertise with".
- Demand unusually large deposits "to buy
materials". Most reputable contractors maintain charge accounts with
- Will not supply you with a detailed written
contract specifying what they say and what they will do.
- Have an address that is a post office box, a
telephone number, or answering service address.
As we first mentioned, to make sure you're
getting a fair price, get two or three bids on any home renovations projects -
even small ones.
Do not sign or pay anything on the
contractor's first visit.
With simple jobs like painting, the contractor
should be able to provide you with a written quotation on the spot, detailing
what is to be done and the materials to be used. With larger jobs like
remodeling, additions, etc., they should bring samples, literature illustrating
the range of materials and products that can be used and even photos of previous
work they have done.
Once you have settled on your specifics, they
should return with a plan or drawings (when applicable) and a written estimate
detailing the work to be done, pricing, start and finish dates and terms of
payment. Regarding the start date, ensure it's realistic and take into
consideration jobs they already have on hand.
When you compare bids, make sure they cover
the same work and materials, or that you have made allowances for any
The lowest price is not always the best price.
Sometimes the lowest price is indicative of an error the contractor has made or
inexperience with this type of work to properly estimate it. If the contractor
finds out he's going to lose money on the work, he could look for ways to cut
costs, add unjustified extras to the bill or even abandon the job unfinished.
Either way, it's trouble.
|The Contract & The Contractor
A piece of paper describing work to be done and
giving a price for doing it becomes a legal document and binding on both parties
once they have signed it. This piece of paper is usually referred to as, a
"quote", an "offer", a "tender", an
"estimate", a "bid" or a "contract".
The best advice we can give concerning the
contract is, don't sign anything you have not carefully read, understood
and are fully satisfied it describes exactly what you want and it contains
everything you have been promised. If it does not - insist that it be written in
and initialed. The contractor is not bound to assurances that are not in
If the contract details something you are not
sure of, ask for an explanation. If you're still in doubt, take it to a lawyer.
The Contract Should Include:
- Names and addresses of the buyer and seller
(yourself and the contractor). Ensure that the firm you have been dealing
with is the one named in the contract, and that it clearly shows the firm's
full name, address, telephone number and the name of it's official
- A detailed description, (with plans or
drawings when applicable) of the work to be done and the materials to be
used, including all the work that is being subcontracted (e.g. plumbing,
wiring, etc.). Clear and concise job specifications will help avoid problems
and misunderstandings that may arise.
- Verbal assurances (as mentioned) are
unacceptable - get it in writing.
- All required building permits will be obtained
by the contractor and that all work will be done according to local building
- The contractor will be responsible for
removing all debris as soon as construction is completed.
- A statement of all warranties, explaining
exactly what is covered and for how long.
- A statement of the contractor's public
liability and property damage insurance.
- Firm starting and completion dates.
- Price and terms of payment.
Although there are printed contract forms, there
is no such thing as a "standard contract". Each is an individual
document covering a specific situation. Any blank spaces should be filled in
with N/A (not applicable) or NIL (nothing). Strike out anything you don't agree
with or ask that the contract be rewritten.
In the case of a contingency clause allowing an
additional charge in case of unexpected problems, such as running into solid
rock when excavating a basement, be advised that this is perfectly legitimate
and a better alternative to having them quote a higher price in order to cover
themselves for such possibilities.
Small jobs, such as painting don't require a
"contract" as detailed above. However, no job should be initiated
without at least a written statement of the work to be done, the materials to be
used, the warranties given, the cost and the start and the finish dates.
Occasionally, due to materials no longer being
available or the homeowner wanting something different, etc. there are changes.
For the protection of both parties, changes should never be made without the
written approval of the homeowner and a signed statement from the contractor
giving the extra charges (or rebate).
In the event renovations are being financed by a
loan, check to see if the loan authority must approve the change. Be sure you
know where the extra money is coming from and how it will be paid.
|Paying For The Work & Holdbacks
Down payments are seldom required on routine home
improvements and repairs; even major projects are often initiated without a cash
advance. If a down payment is required, it should not exceed 10% of the contract
price unless special appliances, materials or custom cabinetwork must be ordered
by the contractor. In this case it may be advisable to make your cheques payable
jointly to the contractor and supplier.
Remember that cheques are safer than carrying
cash and also provide a record of payment. If you are paying cash, get a
signed receipt from the contractor upon payment.
Most jobs only take a few days to complete, so
usually a one-time payment is sufficient. With larger jobs however, interim
payments are common - but only for the work completed and never for the full
amount. Some money should always be held in reserve to ensure the job's
completion to your satisfaction. Avoid "progression" clauses that
require payments at a specific time, regardless of the amount of work that has
Another reason for withholding some of the money
on all payments is to protect yourself against liens that can be placed on your
property by suppliers or workers who were not paid by the contractor. A lien
holds your property as security for the contractor's debts, even if you
paid them in full.
All provinces except Quebec have lien laws that
limit your liability to a certain percentage of the contract price. The proper
procedure is to withhold this amount from all payments for the time allowed to
creditors to register a lien on your property (usually between 30 and 60 days
after the contract work is completed).
Before paying the holdback, (when the time period
has elapsed) to ensure no liens have been placed on your property, you or your
lawyer can check with the land registry or land titles office directly. In the
case of a lien being applied, make no more payments until you receive notice
that it has been discharged.
As the liens legislation differs from province to
province in Canada, you should contact your lawyer to verify the rules and
conditions of liens in your jurisdiction.
Do not forward the final payment or sign a
certificate of completion or any other document that releases the contractor
from further responsibility until everything you were promised has been done. Do
not accept an assurance they will be back, "in a few days to finish
everything off". Instead tell them their cheque will be ready then too.
|How To Deal With Problems
If a disagreement arises between you and your
contractor, rule number one is, "be reasonable". Both parties should
go over the contract calmly and listen to what the other has to say. If you are
still dissatisfied, seek another opinion from a knowledgeable friend, etc. and
if serious enough - your lawyer.
Poor workmanship, delays and misunderstandings
about the scope of the work are the most common problems. Some contractors try
to keep several jobs on the go at the same time, going back and forth between
them, with days and even weeks between visits. A registered letter threatening
to cancel the contract and obtain a refund of the down payment (permitted by law
in some provinces) may get some action, particularly if it mentions sending a
copy of the note to the consumer protection department of your local government,
or to the contractor's bonding company.
To Avoid Problems:
- Take care in selecting a contractor.
Most people will go to 6 different shoe stores for a new pair of shoes, but
will often hire the first contractor to do thousands of dollars of work on
their home because of the way the contractor looked or spoke.
- Ensure the contractor is properly licensed and
carries the proper (active) insurance.
- Ensure your contract contains the elements
detailed in the section The Contract & The
Poor workmanship and poor business practices can
be reported to the government department from which the contractor obtained
their business license. This office will take action as deemed necessary.
If you think some of the work may not be up to
local or CMHC standards, report it in writing to the appropriate
inspection department. If it does not meet the code requirements, the contractor
will have to make the corrections at their own expense.