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Choosing A Contractor

While the quote is clearly a major factor in choosing who will do your project if it’s the only factor you consider you may be in for more than you bargained for.

Choosing the right contractor is obviously an important decision, time and again I speak to customers who tell me stories of nightmare renovations and terrible ordeals getting projects finished. Often times the problem starts with selecting a contractor solely based on the price tag. While the quote is clearly a major factor in choosing who will do your project if it’s the only factor you consider you may be in for more than you bargained for. What other factors should you include when selecting a contractor? What should you look for when getting quotes from a contractor?

What other factors should you include when selecting a contractor?

Factors to consider when selecting a contractor include more than the lowest price:

  • Scope of work
  • Timeline
  • Added value
  • Professionalism

Price is definitely at the top of the list and a savvy consumer is going to get more than one quote in fact you should obtain at least 3 quotes. Once you have these quotes the real work begins obviously some prices way out of the ballpark are unlikely to get your business but it can be an even bigger mistake to choose the cheapest price as well. 2 things to understand are what the quotes offer and also what you need from your contractor.
Rarely are any 2 quotes created equal and this is where lots of questions from you can save a lot of headaches later. Beware of ambiguity. Many customers enter into contracts that really don’t include much detail and Therein lies the devil. While most contractors will not break down a job into line by line costs the scope of work should be very clear including who will supply materials what materials will be used and should be fairly detailed. If you have specific questions or concerns upfront make sure they are reflected in your contract before the deal is struck don’t leave it up to verbal agreements.
A second factor often neglected by customers is the time a project will take to complete. Often the most inconvenient thing customers complain about is how long the project takes. Many companies are so busy that they start jobs only to leave them sit while they work elsewhere. This situation is frustrating especially if the work will affect your quality of life. Asking the contractor to include a timeline in the quote is a reasonable request and shouldn’t be a problem for your contractor to provide in writing.
Third is what you expect from the contractor. So many times I see customers take the cheapest price only to see they are getting what they have paid for. Often this cheap price translates into cheap materials and services. Make sure it’s clear what the materials will be that your paying for a good contractor should be able to give you options and explain pros and cons of these options. Scope of work is big too. Are you expected to have materials or is the contractor. Will he be organizing the job or you? Who is responsible for delivery?
Consider what you want from your contractor. Be clear about what you want: a clean site at the end of each day, Quality of materials, and timeline. More than that though are you looking for a contractor who will also design and choose Decor will he need to pull permits will he use qualified sub trades or do it himself. All of these details can have a big impact on a price and its best if these are outlined at the outset. A very big factor is if you will be acting as the general contractor or not. If you are managing the trades in a larger project remember you handle the headaches and organization as well. While this approach can save you money it’s not free and can cost more in the end. If you want a smooth job where you don’t worry about organizing the project you can expect the contractor to charge a markup but on the other hand you don’t have to deal with the issues either.


  • Request references and contact them check background including BBB ratings
  • Ask for proof of liability insurance, WCB number, and Business license
  • Get it in writing make sure it’s in the contract
  • Enquire who will do the work and their qualifications.


  • Pay money upfront unless the contractor is licensed to do so
  • Assume what’s included in the contract- know what your getting for your money
  • Accept verbal contracts or contracts that lack detail
  • Get less than two quotes

What should you look for when getting quotes from a contractor?

Know what type of contractor your working with. Is this a handyman does he have certification what areas of work does the contractor focus in. Do they work out of a truck, home office, storefront, or large warehouse. Prices change dramatically depending on what overhead the contractor carries but also what services can be offered. For example if your renovating a kitchen you can go to a one stop shop they may have a designer do in house blueprints arrange for all permits make cabinets in their own shop and provide all surrounding materials like lighting, countertops, etc. With this type of operation you can expect to pay a premium but you have a lot of value added. Alternatively you could choose a contractor to install a kitchen after you have designed and purchased it this could save you substantial funds but also involves more work on your part.
Extremely important is that the contractor have a business license, proof of insurance and liability, and workers compensation in the case of injury. Some other things to look for are if they are members of the better business bureau and ask for references and actually call them. Lastly make sure work is going to be completed by those certified to do it especially in areas where permits are required.
Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions a good contractor should be able to answer your questions with ease. If they don’t know or seem unsure of themselves be careful. The contractor you choose can make a big difference so know what your paying for and what your getting.