4 Questions to Ask a Contractor

With summer around the corner, it’s the time of year when home and condo buyers alike can shift their focus from winter survival mode to home improvements. From smaller tasks such as a fresh coat of paint all the way up to redoing your kitchen or that home addition that you have always wanted, renovations of any scale can make a big difference for home buying, selling, or overall home equity. And with spring in the air, now is the time to move forward with these projects.

As housing prices in the GTA continue to increase, it becomes more and more attractive to renovate your existing property, rather than to purchase something new1. One trend we are seeing is that people are buying and living in homes for longer than before. As a result, adding more space as your family grows, or repurposing your existing space to adapt to new needs is becoming the norm. Whereas in decades past you may have just found something new – with the limited supply of housing available in a lot of desirable areas, moving onto the next home is not always an option.

Before embarking on larger renovations, it is important to get an objective assessment on how these upgrades will impact the value of your home. If you are going to drop a significant dollar value into renovations, you will want to know where those dollars are best spent and that the return will be worth the cost, time, and overall inconvenience. Not all renovations are equal – you can spend thousands on items such as landscaping, swimming pools, or carpeting, and not increase the value of your home proportional to the investment that you are making2.

Contact your Realtor to have them provide an assessment on your home. Realtor’s can also often give you advice on the best type of renovations that are suitable for your home, based on the neighbourhood that you are living in, and the current state of your house. It is important to know your neighbourhood and what prospective homebuyers are looking for in your area. Sometimes that new addition may not be appropriate for your location, while in other cases it could really pay dividends.

Once you know what renovations you are looking to tackle, be sure to hire the right contractor for the job. A CHBA professional is often your safest bet as they are generally well established and by joining the association show that they are committed to long term success. You should bring in several contractors to bid on the work you are looking to have completed and have each of them provide a bid. Price should not be the only factor in deciding which contractor to select. Other important considerations include recommendations from friends, or previous customers, and the level of trust and confidence that you will get what you want.

Questions that you should ask potential contractors before starting your project:


  1. Who will be onsite each day during the renovation?

    Often times with larger companies, the person that you deal with for the bid will not be onsite during the actual renovation. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but something to be aware of going into the project.
    It is important for you to know who you should call with any day-to-day questions, and who is responsible for day-to-day work on site.

  2. What it the project schedule?

    Before signing off on any project, it is important to get a schedule from the contractor. The schedule should outline the start and end dates, as well as key milestones throughout the project. This will allow you to keep an eye on how the project is pacing and if things are falling behind schedule.

    With projects involving multiple trades, the schedule is crucial since certain elements will need to be completed before others can be started.

  3. How will you communicate with me?

    It is good to know how the contractor plans to communicate with you once the project has started. Whether it’s a decision that they need you to make, or a timing update, you will want to receive the communication straight away and without delay.

  4. Do any parts of the project concern you?

    With larger projects, there may be a component that the contractor is concerned about and that could result in a change order. Knowing this ahead of time is beneficial so that any surprises are minimized. For example, if part of the job entails tearing down an old wall, the contractor may not be certain what is behind there until it has actually come down. If they can flag this with you right from the get-go, you are prepared for this conversation once the wall has come down.


Whether you just purchased a new home, are selling or are looking to improve your existing home, renovations can be an exciting endeavour. Make sure to do your due diligence and get started this summer!


Reference Material

  1. http://creastats.crea.ca/natl/index.html

  2. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/real-estate/mortgages-and-rates/six-renovations-that-dont-add-value-to-your-home/article11914824/

  3. http://www.chba.ca/CHBA/Renovating/Deciding_Who_to_Hire.aspx

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