When hiring a construction contractor, there are many things to consider. Your first step is to make sure you have a clear end goal in mind for your project. Beyond that, hiring a contractor is not too different from performing a job interview: you’ll want to vet the contractor’s experience, qualifications, references, and more.
While we can’t cover everything in one blog post, here are nine questions you should ask your construction contractor!
1. Are you licensed and insured?
This is a big one! There are specific licensing requirements for many contractors in Alberta (such as prepaid contractor licensing). Licenses vary depending on the scope and nature of the work you’re looking to get done. As well, different provinces and territories in Canada have different requirements.
Contractors should have insurance for worker injury and general liability. Double check with them about their liability insurance and WCB coverage.
Many construction companies also have certifications or memberships through construction or safety associations. Gateway Builders is a proud member of the Alberta Construction Safety Association (ACSA) and Edmonton Construction Association (ECA). We also have a Workplace Safety Certificate of Recognition (COR) through the ACSA.
2. Can I see some of your past projects and references?
Like in math class, it’s important to show your work. Your contractor should have examples of similar projects they have done in the past. This could include pictures, testimonials, or other non-confidential information on the subject.
References matter, too! If you can speak to a past client of your prospective contractor, you will get a better understanding of who they are. Contractor references should also give you a feel for the way they work, and the style of communication to expect. While this isn’t always a viable option due to customer privacy or non-disclosure agreements, it never hurts to ask.
You can see a handful of our own construction projects on our projects page.
3. What’s the estimated cost and timeframe for this project?
Like any other kind of work, you should know what the work will cost and how long it’s estimated to take before getting started. A lot of effort goes into project management! Any contractor worth their salt will have estimated these things out for you.
4. Who will be at the site and who will be supervising?
Larger construction projects often have a site office and superintendent for the project. Smaller jobs might not! It’s important to know who will be on site to perform the work and if there is a foreman or supervisor.
5. How do you prefer to communicate with your clients?
Email, phone, fax, carrier pigeons…? It’s important to know how, where, and when to expect communication from your construction contractor. Additionally, make sure it’s clear how often you need updates.
Likewise, you should make it clear how you plan to communicate with the contractor as well!
6. What’s the process for changes?
Let’s say the contractor begins their work, only to find buried treasure as they excavate the site – okay, weird example, but still – it’s important to relay changes that may affect the timeline or performance of the construction work!
Clear communication helps. Agreeing on the process and channels for formal changes is an excellent way for both parties to coordinate the project process. Whether a construction job is big or small, changes can pop up at any time. Make sure everyone is in agreement on how to communicate and/or seek approval for modifications to the project.
7. What guarantees do you offer?
Many contractors offer guarantees on the work that they do. At Gateway Builders, we take great pride in our work and guarantee the quality of our concrete construction projects.
Ask your contractor what they’re willing to commit to should any future problems arise with the construction work you hired them to do.
8. Do you expect any challenges on this project?
An experienced contractor will assess most of the challenges in advance with a thorough estimation process.
With that said, there are always unforeseen circumstances that can arise on a construction project – even if both parties have provided all the information anyone may have needed. Communication is paramount!
9. Can you provide me with a written contract?
Everything is best in writing for the legal protection of all involved parties. A written contract should outline what we’ve covered here. It should also provide guidance for disagreements or non-performance of specific contractor duties. Lastly, it should cover what you, as the customer, are expected to do (provide information or direction, pay invoices, etc.).
Transcribe or summarize discussions to avoid any future misunderstandings. If conversations are not documented, both the client and contractor could end up in a legal grey area.
Even for smaller residential projects, a written contract removes any guesswork and outlines expectations for both contractor and contractee.