Checklist: Hiring a Contractor

What to Do First

Write a description of the work you want done, with as much detail as possible. Check with your municipal building department to ensure that the work can be done and if zoning approval or any special permits are required.

Find a Contractor

Ask friends and neighbors for recommendations. Get names from your family members, friends, local home-builder and renovator associations, building supply outlets, and, in some municipalities, your local building department. Ask contractors for their business licence number and check with the local licensing office and the firm’s insurance company for public liability, property damage insurance, and workers’ compensation. Ask for references from past customers. Check with the Better Business Bureau for complaints against the contractor.


Establishing the Cost: Getting Estimates or Proposals

You should have:

  • At least three estimates or proposals.
  • A complete description of the work to be done by the selected contractor.
  • Samples and literature showing different products that could be used.
  • Depending on the size of the project, plans or sketches and specifications of the work to be completed.

What Should Be in the Contract

  • Correct and complete address of the property where the work will be done.
  • Your name and address.
  • Contractor’s name, address, telephone, and HST numbers.
  • Detailed description of the work, plans (or sketches), and a detailed specification of the materials (type, quality, and model) to be used.
  • The right to retain a lien holdback as specified in provincial law.
  • A clause stating that work will conform to the requirements of all applicable codes, such as building, safety, and fire codes.
  • Start and completion dates.
  • The price and payment schedule (keep in mind the lien and seasonal holdbacks).
  • Agreement on who (homeowner or contractor) is responsible for all necessary permits, licenses, inspections, and certificates.

Contractor’s Responsibilities

Any reputable contractor should take on the following responsibilities:

  • Public liability insurance.
  • Property damage insurance.
  • Identifying any necessary permits and ensuring all legal requirements are satisfied.
  • Workers’ compensation for all employees of the contractor or subcontractors.
  • All work carried out under the contractor, including work done by subcontractors.
  • Removal of construction debris when the job is finished.
  • Warranties on all contractor-supplied work and materials (in addition to manufacturer’s warranties) for a period of at least one year.

Your Responsibilities as a Homeowner

Just as contractors have inherent responsibilities, homeowners also have a part in ensuring a safe, productive environment. Your responsibilities as a homeowner include:

  • Ensuring all contracted work conforms to zoning bylaws.
  • Ensuring workers have adequate working space, freedom of movement, and use of utilities.
  • Ensuring prompt payment according to the requirements of the law and the holdback and payment schedule.
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