You can plan your home improvement project down to the last detail. You can set aside enough money to take care of everything, including emergencies. You can select all the materials yourself, take a leave of absence from work to oversee things and arrange a safe, convenient and comfortable place for grandma to stay during construction. But if you choose the wrong general contractor none of that will matter.
The list of do’s and dont’s is long when it comes to selecting the right general contractor for a home improvement project. That’s because the stakes are high and the landscape is littered with unscrupulous types who prey on the unsuspecting or uninformed.
The National Center for the Prevention of Home Improvement Fraud (NCPHIF) has their own list of things to watch out for and it doesn’t waste time getting down to brass tacks:
Questionable contractors usually don’t like written contracts. They say things like “we don’t need a contract; we understand each other.” They want to avoid permits and building inspections (“they’re just a money grab by the government”), don’t like explaining how they plan to do aspects of the job, and aren’t keen on showing you proof of liability insurance.
That last point is an important one because if you fall for the “we don’t need liability insurance” line and then someone gets hurt on the job site, you, not the contractor, will be responsible. Contrast the above behavior to that of a reputable contractor:
Good contractors like to use written contracts, recognize the need for building permits and proper inspections, are willing to answer questions, and will show you proof of their liability insurance coverage.
But even if you’re talking to someone who comes recommended and you feel comfortable with them personally, you might want to pull the plug in the spirit of “better safe than sorry” if you hear either of these questions:
- Do you live alone? – While it’s possible their inquiry is harmless any professional tradesperson should know how creepy that question sounds and never let it leave their lips.
- Can you show me the other bids you’ve received? – If the contractor is asking to see other bids they either don’t know what they’re doing or they’re trying to cheat the process. Either way it doesn’t speak well of their character.
Shady contractors expose themselves in other ways too such as insisting on cash, asking for full payment up front and offering an unbelievable price.
Questions To Ask a General Contractor
Hopefully you now know a few of the signs that indicate a general contractor may not be what they say they are. But sometimes potential trouble can really only be unearthed by asking the right questions such as:
- Are you fully licensed and insured? – If they’re not, take a pass
- Have you done projects like this before? – If the answer is “yes” ask for references from that earlier project.
- Who will be in charge? – Sometimes the pleasant, knowledgeable person you make the deal with is not the person who shows up to run the job site.
In addition, if the general contractor was late to the meeting, showed up unprepared, borrowed things like pen and paper and/or kept taking calls while you were trying to discuss your project you probably want to give them a pass.
No Need to Keep Searching: Just Call Karen Homes Instead
Karen Homes is the GTA’s premier custom home building and renovation service. We’ve been proudly serving the residents of Toronto for more than 15 years and in that time we’ve built a reputation for quality work and the best customer service in the industry. All dealings with our customers are fully transparent and we encourage you to get involved by asking questions and checking us out.
We’ll work closely with you from the start of the process to ensure the final product will match or exceed your expectations. We’ll always be available to answer questions and address concerns and when we finish you’ll have the kitchen, bathroom, basement, deck or custom addition you always wanted. Give us a call today on 416-661-6006 and discover the Karen Homes difference.