Your renovation will only be as good as the team you hire.
How to Hire a Contractor
- Asking friends, family and colleagues is great, but the best place to get contractor referrals is from your neighbours. Contractors who have worked on your neighbours’ homes will be familiar with the types of homes in the area and they will have worked with local inspectors.
- Consider paying a visit to your local home improvement store or lumberyard and asking the staff for referrals. They will have a good idea of which contractors purchase quality materials and are good to work with.
Contact Several Companies
- Reach out to no less than 10 companies (if possible in your area). Chances are good you’ll only hear back from half of them, and of that half you’ll likely only get estimates from a few.
Consider the Estimates
- The estimates you get may vary quite a bit from contractor to contractor, but don’t just assume that the lowest one is the best. Speak to the contractors to make sure you understand how each estimate is structured, and make sure the quotes accurately reflect the types of upgrades you want. Also remember that the estimate is only a ballpark number and a lot can change between the estimate and the final scope of work.
- Before hiring anyone make sure to conduct a thorough interview. Keep asking questions until you’re satisfied. For a list of suggested questions download my Contractor Interview Questions.
- Always ask for references from other homeowners the contractor has worked with. Ask to see some of their previous work that is similar in scope to your planned project. Contact those homeowners and ask them about their experience. Find out if they’re happy with the work itself and how it was working with that person.
How to Hire an Interior Designer
- Ask friends, family, neighbours or co-workers whose homes you like for referrals.
- Pay a visit to your favourite home décor store and ask the staff which designers shop there regularly.
- Check sites like Houzz to find designers in your area and then have a look at their online portfolios.
- Check national, provincial or state interior designer associations such as ASID (American Society of Interior Designers) or IDC (Interior Designers of Canada).
Interview Several Designers
- Interview several designers to see how they’ll approach your project. Find out how they like to work, how much involvement you will have, time requirements, etc.
- Make sure you mesh well. Having someone design and decorate your home is very personal and you need to be comfortable with them and with the process.
- Keep in mind that there is no set fee structure for designers. Rates are usually broken down by the hour and can vary wildly based on experience, field of expertise and location. Current market rates vary anywhere from $75-$200 an hour, while a one-time consultation can be as much as $300-$600 an hour. Keep in mind these fees DO NOT include the purchase of furniture, paint, lighting, accessories, etc.
The Rest of the Team…
If you’re starting from scratch or doing a significant rebuild you may want to hire an architect to handle the design. Architects draw up the plans including things like building specs, insulation, electrical outlets, wall assemblies, etc. If you choose to go this route you can continue to work with the architect throughout the entire process and they can help hire the right contractor and ensure that he/she is following the plans and specifications as required.
If you plan on making any changes to the structure, such as removing walls, enlarging windows, creating a separate entrance, or adding an addition, you will need to work with a structural engineer. It’s the engineer’s job to ensure the stability of the building, so you don’t want to skip this step. In fact, in most cases you will need the engineer to draw up plans so that you can obtain the proper permits for the job. Similarly, if you’re altering the layout of the home in such a way that requires moving heat vents you’ll need to have a mechanical engineer prepare the drawings so that you can get a permit. In many cases your general contractor will have someone they work with regularly, but if you want to hire your own go about it in much the same way as you would in hiring a contractor. Make sure they’re licensed, ask to see some of their previous work, and check references.
The best source for finding and hiring sub-trades (electrician, plumber, etc.) will be your general contractor. He or she will have people they work with regularly and will handle all the scheduling. However if you choose to hire sub-trades directly the most important thing to make sure of is that they are licensed. This is hugely important for safety, but it also protects you in case the work does not pass inspection. Licensed trades can also pull individual permits on your behalf, meaning you have one less thing to worry about.