Now that the weather is playing somewhat nicer, chances are you have projects around the home you want to tackle, the kind of projects for which you’re going to need contractor quotes.
Yes, you’re looking for the best price, but there’s a lot more to it, and naturally you don’t want to get burned.
Ron McMyn and Chuck Johnson, two local contractors who have been in the game a long time, have some tips for ensuring the quotes you get measure up.
To start, both agree that getting a good quote is a two-way effort – if you want the best possible quotes, you have to be an active participant in the process.
Johnson, the owner of Maple Ridge-based Springridge Construction, says the first thing that has to happen is the homeowner has to do some homework.
“What do you really want?” That’s a big question, he says. One of the worst things you can do is phone up a contractor with only a vague idea of what it is you want, because that just leads to confusion.
“You really should have a good idea because it’s your money and you should know. It cuts down on false expectations and miscommunication.”
Johnson says your homework should also include preliminary estimate work. In other words, find out what the ballpark costs of the major components for your particular job will be. That way, you’ll have a pretty good idea about how much the materials will cost before you get your quotes.
McMyn, whose company, Big Valley Heating, has been serving the area for more than 30 years, says you’ll want to ensure anyone you’re considering is properly licenced, bonded and insured. You also want to know that the people doing the work are properly licenced. A reputable company will have most of that information right on the quote.
When the contractor comes to look over the job, McMyn says you’ll be able to tell a lot about the quality of work the person is likely to provide by the kinds of questions asked, and the amount of time spent looking things over.
“Depending on the job, be very wary of a contractor who comes to your home, does a casual inspection, and then sends you a quote,” he says. “If they’re not taking measurements, getting details about what you want, and inspecting the work area for potential problems, then they’re not being thorough. Is that the kind of work you want done?”
When you get the actual quote, check it out thoroughly, says Johnson. It should be detailed; it should include a list of all major components, the project timeline, labour costs, material costs, what work is actually to be done, and anything else germane to the project.
It’s important to remember that a quote that is accepted is a legal contract, so you want to make sure everything is spelled out clearly.
“A single line is not enough,” he says. “If it just says ‘install new bathroom,’ you don’t have enough information.”
Both contractors assert that the lowest price is not necessarily the best price. Get three estimates and compare them for the details. If they’re prepared by skilled professionals, they’re going to be similarly priced anyway, so it’s the detail that will determine who gets the job.
Other tips? Ask for references and actually check them, says Johnson. Ask whether the project was started and finished on time, and whether the person was happy with the work. Also, ask whether the quoted price and the end price were the same, and whether the employees were professional and pleasant.
McMyn suggests you inquire whether permits need to be pulled. If yes, who’s going to do that? Also, does the contractor come across as professional? Are they an established business? Do they have an office? Are their vehicles clean and well maintained? Do they have a website? These are all telltale signs about whom it is you’re dealing with.
Finally, says Johnson, trust your gut.
“If it doesn’t sound right, it probably isn’t. The person should be able to answer all of your questions, and they should know what they’re talking about.”