In any custom home build or a large-scale renovation, there are several important decisions you’ll make related to budget, timeline, location, size, scope, functionality, and design, to name a few. But out of all of the weighty decisions you’ll make, there’s one that you want to be sure you get right: the contractor.
Questions to Ask Contractors
The contractor influences everything in the project, from the ability to inform and execute your vision to the quality of the craftsmanship and your experience of the project itself. So how do you find the contractor that’s right for you? While some considerations are certainly personal, there are also objective standards you should look for when hiring a Toronto contractor. Start by asking your contractor these five questions.
1. Is your Contractor credible within Toronto's construction industry?
The first step to establishing your prospective contractor’s credibility is to ask which associations they belong to. A few associations you should specifically ask about include:
- BILD: established in 1921, BILD represents about 1,300 member companies working in home building, professional renovations, and land development in the greater Toronto area.
- RenoMark: Established by BILD in 2001, RenoMark identifies contractors who are committed to a renovation-specific code of conduct to provide a superior level of service.
- Professional Engineers Ontario: the Association of Professional Engineers of Ontario is a licensing and regulatory body for the province’s professional engineers. If your contractor is licensed through PEO, you can rest assured that they have the requisite skills to meet rigorous standards and are committed to act in the public’s best interest.
- Toronto Society of Architects: The Toronto Society of Architects has existed since 1887, and it now has approximately 1,900 members. TSA is a society of the Ontario Association of Architects, which is the licensing and regulatory body for the province’s architecture.
- Registered Builder Tarion Warranty Corporation: Another highly practical registration you should look for is Tarion, which provides new home warranty protection for over two million homes in Toronto.
If your project requirements are more complex and specific, there are additional associations you should look for. These include:
- Passive House Canada: This is Canada’s national organization dedicated to advocating for International Passive House standards of affordability, comfort, and energy efficiency.
- Green Renovation Certified: Finally, Built Green Canada certifies residential builders (and more) for various green building certifications and rating systems in Canada.
2. How long has your Contractor been building in Toronto?
Another useful question to ask your prospective contractor is how long they’ve been in business. While time certainly isn’t everything, it does leave a record of the contractor’s local reputation. A contractor who has been in business for a significant period of time and earned primarily positive reviews will be easier to trust than a contractor who hasn’t had time to establish references.
3. What do your Contractor’s clients and reviews say?
Like any employer interviewing a job candidate, you’ll want to check your contractor’s references. An easy way to start is reading website testimonials, checking Facebook reviews, and searching Google ratings. Keep in mind, however, that it’s generally a smart practice to go beyond online references. While these references are usually genuine, be aware that they are likely to select samplings curated by the business owners.
A great way to go beyond online reviews is to ask your contractor whether they have past clients who would be willing to speak to you about the build process. While these references will again be presented by the contractor, you’ll have the opportunity to ask specific questions and hear genuine answers in real-time, getting a flavour of what both the end result and the working collaboration were like for the client.
4. Has your Contractor received any home building awards?
The next question to ask is how your prospective contractor is perceived within the wider industry. Once you’ve established positive feedback from individual clients, it’s time to discover whether your contractor is recognized by area magazines and/or has won area awards. Again, hiring a contractor with extensive mentions in the press isn’t necessary, but it is a fast and trustworthy way to establish their credibility and expertise.
In Toronto, look for awards and mentions from Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, TorontoLife.com, The Hamilton Spectator, National Post, Designlines Magazine, Azure Magazine, and more.
5. Are you inspired by your Contractor’s portfolio?
Last but not least, you need to decide whether you like your prospective contractor’s work on a personal level. Every homeowner has a unique style, and you’ll want to make sure that your vision aligns with your contractor’s experience. The easiest way to check for style alignment is to view their project portfolio and ask yourself if you like what you see.
On a similar note, remember that you and your contractor will be working together closely for a significant amount of time. Because of this, it’s important to make sure that you have a personality fit as well as an aesthetic overlap.
With these five questions answered, you can feel confident in onboarding your contractor and getting started on your project!