How to Choose your Home Renovation Contractor

We've created this infographic to help you find the renovation contractor that is perfect for your home renovation.

Let’s face it, there’s an abundance of home renovation contractors in Calgary, Airdrie, Okotoks and Cochrane. So why would you choose one over the other? And how do you decipher what you want and need in a general contractor? 

We’re here to help! Keep reading for a narrowed down a list of criteria to keep in mind when you’re picking your renovation company.

Article Overview

Infographic laying out the step by step process for choosing a home renovation contractor

Plan What You Want From Your Renovation  

You’ve spent the time thinking about what you want and scrolling through Pinterest to find inspiration – now it’s time to make your plan for your must-have items. Take a look at what you want and what you need from your renovation. 

As you make a clear plan of what you need from your renovation it will help you narrow down your choices and make your conversations more informed with your potential contractor. 

They’ll be able to provide you with a more accurate estimate when you have outlined some of the details already, saving you from surprises down the line .

Making a Short List of Contractors 

There can be a lot of options when it comes to hiring a contractor for your remodel. Now that you have your list of wants and needs, it’s time to look at companies that match with your values

Certain companies specialize in different types of renovations; for instance, here at Melanson, we work mostly with families. We make their newly purchased home feel like it’s their own or update their existing home to match their evolving needs as they move through different life stages. 

The main focus in our home renovations is: 

  • Making your home kid-friendly
  • Adapting your home as your family grows
  • Making your accessible to multiple generations

Those renovations could include:

No matter who you choose, they’ll be spending a lot of time in your home, so feeling comfortable with your choice is really important. Be as specific as you would be in choosing your hairdresser (if not more) – we know you wouldn’t trust just anyone!

Choosing a Local Company 

Loving local isn’t just about artisanal candles or handmade clothing – it’s about picking businesses within your immediate radius. 

Hiring a company that works within the Calgary area means they are within reach at all times. They are on-site to manage the process and are well-acquainted with the trades working on your home. 

The added benefits of working through them to access their local subcontractors directly affects your bottom line.

  • It saves you on transportation
  • Gets you faster delivery
  • And, most importantly, means your contractor has long-standing relationships that gives them more bargaining power for lower supply costs

It can also increase your chances for a trusted word-of-mouth referral since they’ll be more likely to have worked with someone within your circle.

Compare Companies Online

When you’re considering your short list, do a little digging and find out how they stack up beyond first impressions. 

Considering the size of investment you’ll be making in renovating your home, you should expect that they have a professional online presence. If it’s outdated or doesn’t provide the information you need to contact them up front, chances are they aren’t making investments in their customer experience – that’s a big red flag for how they’ll prioritize your experience throughout the process! 

Once you’ve given their website a good once-over – check out their online reviews. As we said, this is no small investment, and you want to make sure you’re spending it wisely. Check out what their past clients have said. You want to see raving reviews from past clients who are absolutely delighted with their new spaces. 

For an in-depth search of their reviews, contact the Better Business Bureau and ask if there are any complaints against them by previous customers or subcontractors. 

While you’re researching, don’t forget to check out their previous projects. You’re looking for quality here – since design and budget can change from project to project. If you can tell the difference between the before & after photos and are impressed by the results, they should remain on your short list.

Make Contact with Your List  

The research stage is complete and it’s time to make contact with your short list of contractors. You should be down to your top 4-5 options at this point and are ready to find out more about how their services can benefit you. 

Call Your Short List of Contractors 

You’ve done your internet stalking – we mean searching – now it’s time to get to know them beyond your first glance. 

When you’re speaking with your top options, ask them these questions: 

Do you take projects of this size? 

  • This will be your first indicator if you and the company are a good match for each other. Their answer will tell you whether or not to continue on with the rest of your questions. 

Have you worked on similar projects and are you familiar with the scope of work, materials needed and common issues that arise? 

  • You want a contractor that understands the needs of your project up front, rather than figuring it out as they go. 

Do you have examples of previous projects (if you want more than what’s available online) or could I contact previous clients for referrals?

  • They should be willing to share testimonials with you or put you in contact with previous clients. 

How long has your company been in the business? 

  • Look for someone reputable who has strong connections within the industry.

What would your expected timelines be to complete my project? 

  • You don’t want someone who is available straight away, they should have a stack of clients they’re currently working for, so make sure you’re realistic with your timelines. At the same time, make sure they’re a match for your timeline for project completion. 

Lastly, if all of their answers satisfy, book an in-person meeting with them. 

Meet Your Team in Person  

Your home reno contractor will be spending a lot of time in your home, so make sure they’re a good fit. When you meet them in person, they should come to your home/project site and get a good feel for what you’re looking for first-hand. 

After you’ve narrowed down your choices, they should also bring their trades people through your space to help them bid more accurately on the cost of your renovation.

The Bidding Process

By this point you should be down to your top 3 companies. You’ve gotten a feel for whether your values match and if you feel comfortable moving forward, ask them for a quote. 

Ask for a Quote 

To narrow down your quote they should have seen your space already and depending on how they organize their process may have brought their team through to do individual assessments of the work and cost.  

Before they prep your quote, they’ll need the following from you: 

  • Your blueprints and design files (if you have an external designer)
  • Your budget, they’ll quote your finishings based on what you want to spend overall
  • What you want out of the project – they should already have a good idea of this from meeting with you previously, but be sure to remind them of any of those needs and wants.

Compare at Least 3 bids 

Comparing 3 bids will give you the best idea of how much your project will cost. Here’s how to pick the best one from there: 

  • Throw out the lowest bid right away if they are drastically lower than the other two  – they’re likely cutting corners or aren’t using skilled labourers 
  • Look for any red flags or hidden costs, sometimes the most expensive bid is the most expensive because they’ve fully disclosed all of their costs. They may seem more expensive but once you add up the hidden costs of the competitors you could be way out of budget
  • Weigh your needs and wants against the bid – if the best contractor is a little over your budget for what you’ve asked for, there might be some wants you can compromise to ensure you get the best quality work

Make a Payment Schedule 

Your chosen contractor should be willing to work with you on a payment schedule. Beware of contractors that ask for 50-100% up front, this can be a red flag for financial issues or they may fear that you won’t like the work when it’s complete.

  • Expect to pay approx. 10-20% up front unless substantial material costs are required right away 
  • Expect an additional 5-15% for additional interior selection upgrades. For the freestanding tub that you just have to have! 

Agree on the Contract

The contractor should supply you with a contract – make sure it is clear and comprehensive – and ask for anything you feel is missing or needs clarifying. 

  • This should outline the payment schedule, start date and expected completion date
  • Have an understanding of the hours they’ll be working on the project, for your own peace of mind and to notify your neighbours
  • Find out who will be responsible for securing the permits 
  • Ensure it includes proof of insurance, WCB coverage and that you’re waived from any liens a subcontractor could take out against the company 
  • Find out what the final approval walk-through looks like and if there’s any warranty on the work
  • Clarify who is responsible for cleaning up after the job is complete 

Here at Melanson, we meet with you in person to review the contract. We go over all of the details and explain our 2-year comprehensive warranty on the work and products you’ve chosen for your home. 

Changes to the Contract

As the job progresses, there may be amendments to the contract. For example, you may encounter unexpected costs when walls are opened up or floors are removed that require immediate attention to move forward with the project. 

Make sure you have a full understanding of how these issues will be dealt with and what the approval process is. It’s also handy to have that buffer fund we previously mentioned built into the budget for such occasions. 

Review the Steps and Get Started on Your Renovation

Throughout the process of choosing your home renovation contractor you’ve:

  • Planned what you want from your renovation 
  • Selected a list of local contractors to research 
  • Contacted your top 4-5 choices and met with them in person 
  • Asked for bids from your top 3 choices 
  • Reviewed the bids and compared between the 3 companies 
  • Made a payment schedule 
  • Reviewed the contract 
  • And signed the contract 

With the selection process underway, you’re ready to start contacting your top contractor choices.