Before you call your General Contractor

What to do before you contact a renovation contractor?

A daily dose of Houzz or HGTV can get anyone giddy about renovating a home. The decision to renovate is a big one, no matter if you are redesigning a bathroom, or stripping your home to the studs.


Before you pick up the phone and make your way through a list of contractor phone numbers, ask yourself the following questions:

What is my budget?
What are the qualities of the people I want to work with?

Consider taking the following steps before you call a contractor.


Step 1: Know your Budget


There is an overwhelming amount of information to be had on home decor and remodeling websites, DIY renovation television shows, and in home design magazines.


And a lot of misinformation when it comes to price tag.


According to PayScale, a Canadian Salary Research Job Index, the average hourly wage for an Electrician in Edmonton, Alberta is $31.41; the national average is $28.91. A Carpenter’s average wage in Edmonton is $28.76, where the national average is $24.22.


These wage differences are consistent in all trades, and vary from province to province, meaning the cost of your bathroom renovation in Halifax is different than the same job in Ottawa, different than the same job in Winnipeg, and so on.


In Alberta, prepare to pay at least 18K for a bathroom renovation with materials, labour, and interior design, all in. Depending on square footage, a well-done kitchen renovation average price point is 50K and above.


The cost of materials also varies significantly between provinces. RSMeans, a 70-year old construction cost data company, monitors construction costs in 318 cities across the US and Canada. In a 2014 analysis of construction material costs and labour costs across Canada, it was revealed that Edmonton and Calgary were the most expensive cities in Canada.



Step 2: Research your Contractor Options


Your next step is to examine the renovation general contractor market-place to get a sense of varying levels of skill and scope and professionalism that can be found in your area. What are the qualities of the people you want to work with?


Save yourself some time by starting with the following research:


 a. Visit Contractor Websites


First of all, do they have a website? Does it work well? Is it easy to navigate?  


What is the initial feeling you get? Are you intrigued? Curious? Want to know more?

Are completed projects displayed with pride in a portfolio?

Do they have Frequently Asked Questions? Read them! It may answer some questions you have.

Do they have a Testimonials page? Read it! Then call and ask for referrals.

What does team culture look like? Do they have an in-house team of trades, or do they rely solely on sub-contractors?

How do they talk about their talent on the team page?

Would you want their team members working in your home?

How are they involved in their community?

How do they answer the phone when you call?


b. Call for Referrals           

Interviewing past clients will give you a great idea of what to expect when working with a contractor, and what different scopes of work they are capable of completing.

Questions for past clients might include:

Was the original scope of your project finished on budget?

How did the contractor handle add-ons/changes in scope?

Were there any surprises during the project? How were they managed?  

Was the billing process straight forward?

How did the contractor deal with roadblocks? 

Did you like the people who were working in your home?

Do you love your home?


When you interview your chosen contractors for the job in person, don’t be afraid to ask, “What is important to you?” and remember, the cheapest contractor is not necessarily your best bet.