Hiring a Home Renovation Contractor

You’ve finally done it. After years of humming and hawing over renovating your kitchen, bathroom, basement, bedroom, living room, addition or backyard, etc. you have decided to actually get the job done. Congrats! That brings you to this blog and your current, burning question: how do I go about hiring a home renovation contractor?

Well, most people think they’re looking for a home renovation contractor but what they are actually looking for is a design build company. What you really need to understand is what the difference is between a home renovation contractor and a design build company.

Differences between a design build company and a renovations contractor.

What is a home renovation contractor? One who may do all or only parts of the project, and will be responsible for fluctuating measures of the overall planning and management of the project. Many of the responsibilities that would be taken on by the design build company may instead fall upon you, the home owner. The leadership and accountability of the project will be on your shoulders or perhaps will be jointly shared with your home renovation contractor, with varying degrees of success.

What is a design build company? One that will walk you through the entire renovation process, step by step, in the easiest and most timely way possible.

When you hire a design build company if something goes wrong they cannot blame the designer because they ARE the designer. This results in much less passing of the buck. You will also have much better knowledge transfer because you are dealing with just one company. If you are dealing with a home renovation contractor and you have a question about the design of your kitchen, he or she will have to contact the designer to find the information you’re after. A design build company on the other hand, in this instance, will have those answers for you because they are designing and building your kitchen. Due to the fact they are designing and building your project from start to finish, they will better understand your vision, needs and desires. That will translate into saved time and saved money.


The first thing to determine when choosing a design build company or renovation contractor is how much experience they have. Does he or she have at least ten years of experience? Ten or more years of experience is highly beneficial to you as an experienced contractor is going to save you costly mistakes. An experienced contractor will understand building materials suppliers better and will almost certainly have better trades people working with him or her. He or she is going to be better at keeping to a schedule as this contractor will be used to the rhythm of a home renovation. They will be able to foresee certain things, such as: the shutdown of a wood processing facility due to COVID-19 may cause a shortage of a particular type of wood that is needed for your project. A good design build company contractor will likely be coming up with a solution to the wood shortage problem before it appears on the local news.

What sort of certifications does your design build company or renovations contractor have?

The construction industry is now a science. Does the person or company you hired belong to any professional organizations that help keep them up to date or provide training on the industry?

Verify how long a contractor has been in business for. One way to do this is to check how long they have had insurance with WorkSafe. Another way is to check how long they have belonged to the BBB and/or the local home builders association. If they do not have WorkSafe, that is a huge red flag as WorkSafe is required by law.

Questions to ask your home renovation contractor.

  • – Does your contractor have his own staff or does he sub everything out? A good design build contractor will have a staff carpenter/foreman onsite to help supervise the jobs. Staffmembers have more loyalty to the contractor than to sub trades. A sub trade has split loyalties as he or she is working on several jobs at the same time. A good design build contractor will have greater quality control and greater control over the schedule.
  • – Does your contractor own or rent his construction equipment? A design build or renovations contractor who owns his scaffolding, plate compactors, and other medium-sized construction equipment is probably going to save you 5% to 10% of the job costs because he/she does not have to pay rent for his/her equipment. He or she doesn’t have to add an extra hour each day picking up and dropping off the equipment from the depot. A double whammy is that not only does it cost you money to rent equipment, but it costs you something even more precious: time. If he rents a $1,000 plate compactor, he will spend 1 hour to pick it up and 1 hour to return it. About $100 of his time billed to you for each hour. That’s $200 total. Plus, it will cost $200 per day to rent the equipment and another $50 worth of damage insurance. So the plate compactor will cost almost the same amount to rent for one day as one third of its purchase price. Just imagine how much of your time and money is being wasted if your contractor is renting tools. The best case scenario is one where your design build company or renovations contractor owns his own heavy equipment such as excavators and dump trailers. You’ll save even more money and time that way.
  • Be sure to ask him what quality of materials he buys and uses. High quality materials will save you money. Period.
  • Is he a jack of all trades – a one man band? If he gets sick or injured or has a family crisis, your job will come to a screeching halt. If he takes on too many jobs he will get stretched thin and things may fall through the cracks. Your project may be one of those things.

Does your home renovations contractor fit the size of your job?

As mentioned about owning and renting tools, if you are implementing a larger project such as a home addition, a contractor who owns all of his own equipment will be a better choice than one who does not. One who has employees, a larger staff, will be a better choice as many hands complete a job much more quickly than one pair of hands.

If the job you have in mind is a small contract, such as changing a few fence panels, hiring a renovations contractor is probably a waste of your money. You would likely be better off with a handy man.

In our experience, kitchen renovations specifically run much more smoothly with a design build company that has all of the staff and trades available when he or she needs them to keep your project on schedule and thus on budget.

Does the design build company or renovations contractor have good reviews?

One or two negative reviews may just be a sign that the contractor is doing a lot of work and not that there’s anything wrong with them. However, if you start to see a pattern in their reviews about him or her not finishing jobs on time, quality control issues, or being difficult to reach, you should consider yourself forewarned.

A good contractor should have at least 10 or 15 good reviews under his or her belt. A review with one paragraph or more shows that the client really appreciated the job as opposed to a review that is just one sentence long.

Insurance and liability

  • As mentioned earlier, does he or she have WorkSafe? It is required by law. They must have it.
  • Does he or she have $3 to $5 million of general liability insurance? Because no liability insurance or just $1 million of liability insurance doesn’t go very far if there is an accident.
  • Does the design build contractor have a good credit history? If he doesn’t have a good credit history then he won’t have lines of credit with all of his suppliers. Lines of credit keep a project running smoothly. Ask if they have accounts with their suppliers. If they have accounts, they likely have lines of credit. If they don’t have lines of credit, they will be asking you for money every day. Or they will be asking you for large sums of money up front.

Hiring a home renovations contractor or design build company is a task that should be undertaken with great care. Ensure you research your candidates thoroughly before you hire anyone. It will save you time and money and provide you with the peace of mind you need to begin a home renovation.