This is a conversation we have all the time with our clients. When dealing with a new construction project, our clients often rely on us to provide references for trades or to provide them with guidance on how to choose the right man for the job. When it comes to hiring trades, we've learned that most of the time, just like with most things in life, you get what you've paid for. We like to break down contractors into three main categories and the first step is to choose the category that's right for you.
A jobber is a contractor who gets his hands dirty by actually working on the project himself. It may be a one-man show or a small team. This contractor may or may not be RBQ certified. We always suggest that you opt for certified trades since everything is on paper and gives you some kind of insurance should anything go wrong.
The main advantage of hiring a jobber is always the price. He has very little overhead, may either be starting up or interested in keeping his business small. The disadvantage is that you're at the mercy of his schedule. When you hire someone who is responsible for doing all or most of the work himself, it's only normal that if his last project runs late, you'll feel it. Or if he gets sick, it will delay your project by a few days. If he injures himself on the job, he may have to put a hold on your project altogether. These projects rarely start and finish on time. Sometimes we get lucky, but it's obviously hard for a jobber to keep a tight schedule and at no fault of their own.
THE SMALL COMPANY
The next step up from a jobber are the ones we use for most of our projects. This contractor has a small team or several teams of trades he either employees or subcontracts to. The person you meet with during your first consultation is most likely an owner who doesn't get his hands dirty. Their pricing is in the mid-range and there's an added service that comes with that. If one of their employees calls in sick, they replace them for you. If there's an issue with an installation, they make sure it's resolved. They oversee the project from start to finish by managing and scheduling their trades so you don't have to worry about a thing. They usually have excellent references and are able to respect the schedule.
THE LARGE COMPANY
A large-scale contractor would employ all of their trades and have several teams working for them on multiple projects at a time. They have an office, a secretary, maybe an in-house designer or even an in-house architect. The person you meet with during your first consultation may be a sales rep or the owner and their job would be to provide you with a quote and to then hand your project off to a project manager who will oversee the work to the end. They have a larger overhead and their prices reflect it, however, of course, you have a different level of service that goes along with that price point. Project start dates are set and respected, deadlines are met and they rarely run into any issues as these tend to be the most experienced of the categories.
The needs of every project can vary and each client may have different expectations to meet. We help guide our clients but based on these descriptions, you can probably figure out which is the right category for you. Renovating can be a stressful time and if you set realistic expectations of the person or team you hire, you are less likely to be disappointed throughout the project.
Once you've determined which category of contractors you're aiming for, you can start getting quotes. In order for you to feel confident with the person you choose, it can help to get up to three quotes from contractors within the same category. You always want to eliminate the quote that's either much higher or much lower than the other two and you will most likely end up with a couple quotes in the same ballpark. This is not the best field to "price shop" in. Chances are, if one quote is much lower than the others, it's for a reason. The final step is to pick the contractor who you clicked with the most and who's pricing was similar to others.