Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Construction Manager (Contractor)

It’s the contractor that can make (or break) your remodelling project. We have put together a list of essential questions you should be asking potential contractors before the deal is signed! Are they properly certified to be working in your space? Not only is it essential for you to know the answers to this question, but your landlord will likely also ask for copies of your documents. Collecting them early will save you time and hassle!

Licensing

  • Do they have a business licence in the municipality where your project will be built?  Ask for a copy. If they don’t it could cause delays in permit applications and inspections.

  • Do they have a pre-paid license? (this is required to protect any deposits you pay and is a required license in Alberta) Ask for a copy. This is part of the fair trade agreement.  It requires contractors to provide a bond to the province to protect any violations including violations pertaining to your deposit

Insurance

  • Do they have valid WCB? Ask for a copy. If they do not have valid WCB and someone gets hurt in your space you will be liable and both you and the contractor could be fined and sued.

  • Do they have liability insurance?  How much? Ask for a copy. If they do not have sufficient coverage and there is damages you will be liable.  The minimum is usually 2million and upwards.

  • Do you require special bonding or performance guarantees (usually for much larger projects)?  These add costs to the project but for large projects you should confirm your contractor has or is able to obtain these prior to spending much time discussing the project.

Experience

  • References!!! Written references are great, but talk to their past clients – ideally someone who has had a similar sized or type of project as what you are doing. Ask questions about if they were on budget? On time? Did they have a long deficiency list at turnover? Did they complete the deficiencies quickly? Were they easy to work with? Were there issues between the contractor and the designer? Have their been warranty issues? If so how did the contractor deal with them? Has the follow up service been good? Did they provide a maintenance manual and schedule?

  • Pictures of past projects

  • What size of projects do they have experience with?  Are they in a similar industry?

  • Physically go and look at some of their completed work – look at the seams and joints on millwork, look at paint finishes, look at corners of countertops for crisp finishing.  Look at how particular they are in finishing their work. Those are the details you can’t always see in a picture.

Contract Terms

  • What parts of the work will their own staff do?  What is the rate for this (unless it is a complete fixed price contract)?  What portions of work will be subcontracted out? How will they ensure the capabilities of those subcontracts?  

  • What contract will they be using?  Ideally get your lawyer to review this.

  • What are the payment term expectations?  

  • Will they provide a statutory declaration at project completion?  This is a sworn legal document where they attest to paying all expenses to do with your project.  If they do not pay their bills or subcontractors liens can be placed on your premise. This document protects you from this.  If contractors or suppliers put on liens it can often be a breach to your lease agreement or if you own your premises can affect financing or property sales.

  • Do they have a safety program?  Are they COR or SECOR certified?  (safety certifications for construction companies in Alberta)

  • Are you able to view the site during construction?  Having some site visit access is great – it’s exciting for you to see progress, and also to ensure everything is coming together as you envision.  However, unlimited access is unrealistic and not safe.

Finances

  • If you are getting a tenant improvement allowance from your landlord you will need to clarify with them when they will issue those funds – often it isn’t until the project is 100% complete and until your contractor provides a statutory declaration.  Your contractor typically will not provide this until they are paid in full. You may need interim financing for this amount.

  • If you are getting draws from your financing institution you should provide the requirements for each draw to your contractor and ensure they are ok with the payment schedule and terms.

Make sure you know the answers to these questions before hiring a contractor. It is important that you are comfortable with them, that you trust them in your home, and that you have confidence they will complete the project as they promised!