Picking the right contractor

Picking the right contractor

Red Flags


Sometimes it can be hard to tell if you’re hiring the right contractor or not. There are many smooth-talking, silver-tongued devils who are gifted sales people, but not so great at delivering a quality product. Don’t be a victim. Here’s a list of red flags to watch out for.

  • the contractor shows up in a rusty, beat-up old truck (indicative of the condition of his equipment, if he has any)
  • he is vague about what can be done or how he’ll do it (shows lack of experience and is counting on your lack of knowledge to score the job)
  • most of the emphasis is placed on a low price (desperate for money now, will jack the bill up)
  • does not provide a detailed, in-depth, written quote (no computer or computer skills, possibly just lazy)
  • can’t speak English very well (misunderstandings can occur, may not be up to speed on code and/or regulations)
  • seems very young (again, shows inexperience and possibly lack of equipment and/or work ethic)
  • cannot provide proof of insurance, WCB coverage, or bond (he can’t afford this you can't afford him)
  • has no references (is either new to the business, has no experience, or does crummy work)
  • just started in the construction business (do you want to pay to be a guinea pig?)
  • has to rent most of his equipment (has no operational capital, and your final bill may skyrocket due to rental fees)
  • has no staff (it’s difficult to do any job with only one person, especially large jobs)
  • wants a deposit months in advance to “secure” your place in line (again, desperate for money)
  • tries to talk you out of something you want (so it’s easier for him, doesn’t have your best interests at heart)
  • tries to talk you out of getting a needed permit (wants to skip this step because he’s not licensed, doesn’t know the code, or is afraid his work won't stand up to a City Inspection)
  • does not offer a warranty of any kind (shows no confidence in his work)
  • you have a “bad” feeling (listen to your instincts!)


So what should you do? 

  • ask a lot of questions (when can you start, duration of job, how many crew members, type of equipment, own or rent, construction process, etc.)
  • ask for a list of insurances, bonds, WCB, references etc. complete with names and phone numbers to call
  • always get at least three quotes. 
  • call the references provided. 
  • check with the City to see if they’re licensed. 
  • call their insurance company and WCB. 
  • check with the Better Business Bureau
  • ask if they carry a warranty
  • don’t base your decision on the lowest cost, they can always raise it later
  • read the Terms and Conditions 


Buyer’s Remorse


With thirteen years under our belt working the office at A Better Landscaper, I can recount many horror stories of construction jobs gone wrong! I’m at the receiving end of phone calls with frustrated people pouring their hearts out to me after the fact, but by then it’s too late. It almost always starts out the same, - they’re trying to save money by hiring the cheapest contractor they can find, or they think they’re safer if they choose the second cheapest. 


Often times it’s someone’s son/friend/acquaintance, or a friend of a friend. This seeming “connection” gives them a false sense of security, so they never bother to check up on the contractor’s credentials. After all, how hard can it be to put up a fence or retaining wall, right? Wrong! 


This story is a very common one. Someone gets a detailed, written quote from us, decides to shop around, and hires someone else who promises them the job will be done to perfection at a lower cost, - plus they can start sooner. Win, win, right? Not quite. Soon after I will get the call, -not only did their contractor botch the job, but they ended up charging much more than we would have. Can I send a crew out immediately to repair the job? Unfortunately some jobs just can’t be “repaired", they have to be torn down and redone from scratch. So they end up paying twice for the same job. Talk about buyer’s remorse!


Many times we get hired by one client to build a fence, but their neighbour will hire someone cheaper. Afterwards that neighbour gets to spend every day looking out the window at our strong, solid fence and comparing it to their crooked,wobbly fence. Our fence is described as a “10”, while their fence comes in at a “3”. Their posts weren’t dug deep enough and are now pushing upward with the winter frost heave, the fence is leaning, etc. etc. Sad part is they ended up paying more than what they were quoted and got a sub-standard job.


In another case I remember, “J” hired us to build a retaining wall along the back alley. We were booking two months out which was fine by her. Her next door neighbour “K” also needed a retaining wall along the back alley. He liked our quote but was not willing to wait the two months, so he hired someone else who could start immediately. By the time we got there, “K”’s newly built wall was already pulling apart and had crept six inches into the alley! When he saw our finished product he was livid. He tried calling his contractor back but to no avail. The sad part is, he paid just as much for his wall as “J” did for hers. Two months isn’t a long time to wait for a retaining wall will last many decades, as he found out.


In another instance, a gentleman had a very hard time deciding between us and another contractor for a retaining wall. The other contractor won because their quote was $2000 less than ours. But in the end, he was charged way more and the retaining wall was in his words “a pile of junk”. Unfortunately he could not afford to do the wall again, but he told all his friends and neighbours to hire us! He held his job up as an example of what not to do. He must have been very convincing because we ended up doing jobs for two of his neighbours!


Although we always seem to be booking two or three months out, it's because our services are in high demand. If another contractor claims he can do it right away, you need to ask yourself why he’s not busy. Also, don’t be fooled by a low quote! They can always jack it up at the end, and almost always do! If it sounds too good to be true, it is! 


Spending a few minutes checking out the contractor before signing on the dotted line might save you a ton of money and grief! Check to see if they’re licensed, bonded, insured etc. After all, it’s your hard-earned money at stake!  


Save yourself the trouble and get the job done right the first time! We have been around since 2006 with a stellar reputation. Our prices are a little higher but that’s because we hire the best qualified staff and buy the best materials in order to put out the highest quality product possible. Plus, we back that up with a limited two year warranty! 


Doing it right the first time means you can get on with life! 


Doing a little homework now means no buyer’s remorse later. Peace of mind is priceless!

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