Choosing a RAIN Smart contractor
Chapter 5: Alexis and the RAIN Smart Home
by Daniel Jordan, RAIN Program Volunteer
Winning a $10,000 dollar grand prize is exciting enough, but knowing that the prize is going to have an impact on the future of your family, your community, and the environment makes it even more enjoyable. Alexis Motuz has been feeling that joy ever since she won the Rain Smart Front Yard Makeover contest grand prize last year.
Now it is time to get some help actually doing the work. Let’s look at what Alexis learned as she began the next step of the project – finding a contractor.
Alexis on finding a contractor
When I began the process of making my property RAIN Smart, I wasn’t sure exactly how it was going to go. When I learned that I needed to find my own contractors to do the work, I found it a little bit intimidating. Reep suggested that I find three different contractors to give quotes on the work. That process would help me decide how much of the planned work I could hire others to do and how much I would need to do myself.
I began my search for a contractor by checking out the list of contractors on the REEP Green Solutions website. I knew someone in the neighbourhood who happened to be on the list, so I began by contacting him. Once we looked at the project, he recommended another company that could handle large jobs (and have the machinery required) for a job like the one I would be undertaking.
What I found most challenging was carving out the time to meet with contractors, do the site visit, discuss options, figure out the costs and work within the budget. There was a fair bit of back and forth as landscaping materials and labour add up quickly. To offset some of the costs, I will have the contractor lay out the yard, install edging, dig and install the storm crates, but leave laying some of the landscaping fabric and mulch to me.
Having found a contractor to do the work, I was excited for the work to start.
Choosing a contractor
The RAIN Smart techniques you plan to implement at your home will determine if you need to hire a contractor. For example, installing a rain barrel may be something that you are able to do yourself, whereas creating an inground cistern will likely require you to hire a professional.
Choosing a contractor is an important step in the process. Your contractor becomes your partner in the project. Finding a good contractor can make your RAIN Smart project that much more enjoyable.
While there are no exact rules for choosing a contractor, here are some basic principles which can help you.
Ask for recommendations
One of the best ways to find a reliable contractor is by speaking with someone who has had a similar project completed on their property. If they are willing to recommend the contractor they used that is usually a good sign. Asking your designer for suggestions may be one place to start.
Get estimates from at least three different contractors
Getting three different estimates will allow you to get an idea of the general price range of the project. It will also give you a better opportunity to find a contractor who is a good fit for you and your project.
Make sure they have up-to-date insurance
In Ontario, contractors should have WSIB coverage, liability insurance and personal injury insurance. They may also need to have a fall protection awareness course and WHMIS.
Don’t always take the lowest estimate
You want to find a contractor that you are going to be able to work with well. This isn’t necessarily the one with the lowest estimate. In fact, if one contractor’s estimate is well below all the others, perhaps this is a warning sign. Do they fully understand the project? Are they going to cut corners? Instead, look for someone who has the experience and resources to do the job, who has a good business reputation, and who shows signs of good communication.
Get everything put down in writing
When it comes to hiring a contractor, don’t let a handshake suffice. A project can change over time and unless every step of the project is in writing, the cost of the project can quickly increase. Having things in writing is another way to have clear communication with your contractor throughout the project.
You may also be interested in the advice of our home energy coach on how to choose and work with contractors.