12 Ways to Steer Clear of a Bad Contractor

While one bad apple does not spoil the whole barrel—most builders are professional and ethical and adhere to best practices—the bad-apple contractor WILL definitely spoil your day.

12 Ways to Avoid a Bad Contractor

I recently got a call for new business from a lady in a panic. She had hired a contractor and her job was well underway, walls had been torn down and her home was exposed to the elements. All seemed normal until the building inspector showed up and shut down the work being done on her home leaving her property a mess and her home exposed; the contractor had failed to get the necessary building permits for the project. Suffice to say she fired him and called me.

Your first thought should be, What kind of building contractor purposely proceeds to do work without getting the necessary building permits? Followed by, What does this suggest about other corners the builder may cut in terms of construction quality, meeting building code requirements, building materials, etc.

Might this have been the case of choosing the contractor that was the lowest bidder? I didn’t ask her but it brings up an interesting point. If I had one piece of advice for people considering a major renovation or building project on their home it would be this:


Especially if the bid is considerably less than the others.

All contractors are faced with pretty much the same costs and overheads. If one bid is considerably lower you have to wonder, What is being sacrificed for them to be able to deliver the same project for such a low price?

In this customer’s situation, the job is not only going to cost her more, her property and safety has been put at risk and she has been left in a stressful situation. And, if the “professional builder” deems that what has been built so far is of inferior quality, is built with inferior materials, or does not meet building code, she may be faced with taking out what has been built so far and getting it redone from scratch. Needless to say this will add cost and time to the project, not to mention the stress and frustration she would have to go through.

Let’s imagine for a moment that the building inspector didn’t show up. 

Would she have been out of the woods? Maybe not. If the job was built with inferior quality construction practices and inferior materials you can imagine some of the problems that might happen—anything from premature rotting and deterioration to the risk of collapse. Search “deck collapse” in Google Images and you will quickly see that we’re not being alarmist; the risk is real.

Bad contractors give our entire industry a bad name. Professional associations work to protect the public and weed out these bad contractors.  There are also a number of things that you can do to make sure that you do not fall prey to one of them.

  1. Choose a contractor that has been referred to you by someone you know and who has used them. At the very least get references.
  2. Ensure that your contractor gets the necessary building permits
  3. Search online for [“contractor’s name” problems] to see what comes up
  4. Check how long they have been in business
  5. Check to see that they have an actual business address
  6. Ask them if they are certified or have a license when appropriate
  7. Ascertain that they have the necessary Insurance
  8. Ask for pictures of past projects that are similar to yours
  9. Check out their website—Is it current? Does it look professional?
  10. Beware the lowest bidder
  11. Follow your gut—if something is not sitting right, keep looking
  12. Check out online resources. I have listed a couple below.

The online resources listed below will give you further strategies to make sure that you hire a professional and reputable building contractor. (You can copy and paste the addresses into your browser’s address bar.)

  1. “Your rights when starting home renovations or repairs  
    Help protect yourself and your home by knowing your rights before starting a home renovation. Learn how to hire a reliable contractor and see what you need to include in your contract with them.” source: http://www.ontario.ca/consumers/your-rights-when-starting-home-renovations-or-repairs
  2. “Hiring a Contractor
    Hiring an experienced and knowledgeable renovator is key to a successful renovation project. You are placing what may be the largest asset you own – your home – in someone else’s hands, along with your dreams. You are also inviting someone into your life for days, weeks, sometimes even longer. So you need to find a renovator you can trust and work with.” source: http://www.chba.ca/renovating/hiring-contractor.aspx

Benchmark Building Services Inc. has one reason for being: to provide our customers with a worry-free building experience and to deliver superior craftsmanship and value that will improve their lives by increasing the value, enjoyment, and utility they get from their homes.

That’s all for now. Until next time, we’ll keep Building It Right.™

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