The home renovation business is a booming one, and with all the construction that goes on in Vancouver, it can be difficult to know how to navigate the waters of hiring general contractors — whether or not you should hire one and how to know if you are getting a fair deal.
Let’s assume that you have little to no construction know-how. Sure you can do odd jobs around the house but tearing down or putting up walls, or tinkering with plumbing and electrical wiring are a little out of your range of skills. Let’s also assume you want to do some home renovations, like re-doing your kitchen or adding another room off the den.
If you’ve already established that you need help with your home project, a general contractor is not always necessary. A general contractor oversees projects and coordinates all the trades to come in, stay on schedule and on budget. But if your home project only requires the work of one or two trades, like drywalling and electrical, it might be something you can arrange yourself.
However, if the project is large in scope and you know that you will be needing the help of multiple trades, it might be a good idea to move forward with a general contractor. So, how do you know if you are hiring the right one at the right price?
First, ask around. Word of mouth referrals from people you trust are a great way to find a contractor who is reliable and trustworthy and it’s the best way to gather a list of names that might work for you. You can also ask at your local hardware store or put a phone call in to building inspectors to see if they can recommend someone.
Once you’ve gathered a list, start making phone calls. For the project to go forward, the contractor has to be available and has to take on projects of the size you are attempting. It might not always be a match. You can start a dialogue explaining what you hope to achieve while finding out what the contractor can offer.
If you’ve now narrowed it down to a few contractors, you can begin to meet them in person, inviting them in to see the space and talking more in depth about how the plans could soon become a reality.
When this phase is done, you can now start asking for quotes. There are several kinds of ways that contractors want to be paid, and you’ll have to see which is right for you. They might offer you a fixed price contract, in which they will estimate the cost of their work and the work of the subcontractors and it will be up to them to stay within that budget. This works well for smaller projects as fewer problems are likely to arise. With larger projects, however, hiccups can (and will) happen and the contractor might need to come back with one or several “change orders” throughout the course of the project; that extra cost will often (but not always) come out of your pocket.
Or they may offer you a time and materials contract, wherein they set the price for their time and the subcontractors as well, then bill you for that time and the cost of materials. One downfall is that the motivation to get the job done in a timely matter may decrease as everyone is getting paid by the hour. However, there is less of a chance that corners will be cut.
Finally, they might offer a cost plus contract wherein their profit is fixed, so if they are receiving $1,000 profit whether the job costs $10,000 or $20,000, the contractor will be motivated to complete the job efficiently.
Whichever route you decide to take, it’s important that you get the deal down in writing. Remember that it’s not always best to take the least expensive offer in the beginning, it might cost you later on depending on the contract signed and the quality of work the contractor does. It’s important to do your research and learn as much as you can along the way.
If you have any questions about your next project, feel free to contact us!