How to find a great contractor

By Angie Kendel

We just finished up quite a busy couple of weeks after the Winnipeg Renovation Show. My stage presentations always touch on how to find a good contractor. I received so much feedback from the audience on this that it seemed like a good idea to share this info once again with our readers.

You want a company that has a good reputation. Look for word of mouth referrals. However, do not rely on online reviews. Were you aware that any company can purchase positive “google reviews”? Online reviews can also be from family and friends and not an accurate representation of the companies’ work or business ethics. This also applies to photos. In this age of technology, there are no shortage of fabulous pictures to be copied online. Is this really their work? Best way to be sure is to speak to a previous customer and ask to go see the work at their home if possible.

Ensure the company has general liability insurance, preferably 1-2 million, you can request to see a copy of their insurance. Ensure they are covered by Workers Compensation Insurance. Even if you are just hiring an individual contractor to work in your home, they should have WCB and general liability insurance. One gentleman told us about a painter he had hired off Kijiji. The painter fell off a ladder while working in the customer’s home and broke his leg. The contractor did not have insurance and ended up suing the homeowner, resulting in an increase in home insurance rates. It’s important to ensure you get a good price but also that you are protected as the homeowner. If hiring any subcontractors, do subcontractors have their own insurance and Workers Compensation account? You can go online to verify WCB coverage at

Do your due diligence. It is a good idea to check with Manitoba Home Builders’ Association, is the contractor a member? Are they Renomark? This ensures they have insurance and offer a warranty on their work. Check with BBB to see if they have any customer feedback and how they may have addressed customer concerns. Not every job goes according to plan, but it is important to ensure the company takes responsibility for any problems and attempts to correct them. Just because you do not see any complaints at BBB, do not assume the company is reputable. We were recently told by an elderly customer they were threatened by a contractor with a lawsuit if they registered any negative google or BBB reviews. They were too scared to do anything.

Most importantly, check the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench Name Registry. This is a critical step. If a company has had a dispute with a vendor — it could be a legitimate issue where a vendor did not uphold their part of an agreement. However, if the company has a long history of disputes with vendors and customers, you may wish to look elsewhere. A company with a history of court appearances at Queen’s Bench would say to me that there is an issue with ownership taking responsibility or not being open to solving problems when they occur. This is a company I would stay away from. I also try to screen our vendors in this manner as well. No one enjoys dealing with problems. Taking the time to do your due diligence before you agree to work with someone, can solve you a lot of headaches down the road.

Finally, never, ever provide payment in full for a job in advance. A deposit of 10% is common to book the job. If there are customer materials that need to be ordered payment for these may be required. Each vendor is different. Some require a partial deposit while others require payment in full for custom orders in advance. Ask your contractor what payment terms they require for different materials. Once work commences there may be progress payments monthly or semi monthly depending upon the size of the job. However, you should never provide the final payment until the work has been completed. This ensures you will be happy with the work and the contractor will ensure the job is completed in a timely manner as they will want to be paid. We have heard too many stories over the years of homeowners who have paid in advance and end up waiting for months for the contractor to return to complete the job.

Planning a renovation can be exciting and daunting. Follow these tips to ensure you work with someone you can trust and has a good reputation! Your renovation experience should be positive and over as quickly as possible! For more info check out our website at or email me at