Are all general contractors sharks?

You’ve probably seen the TV shows where homeowners have been left in the lurch by a contractor who took their money and disappeared before finishing the job. Sometimes the work wasn’t completed according to building regulations. Or – even worse – their home was left in an uninhabitable condition.

Copyright: SSSCCC/

Copyright: SSSCCC/

Unfortunately these shows often leave the impression that general contractors are sharks and cannot be trusted.

However, the very nature of these programs proves that there are contractors who know what they’re doing – they are the ones that come to the homeowners’ rescue.

So how do you separate the sharks from the serious, reputable contractors? You have to do some research. It might sound tedious, but in the long run it’s the only way to ensure that you’re getting the right person for the job, whether you’re doing a minor renovation or building a custom new home.

Do you know anyone who recently hired a general contractor? If so ask them for feedback. Some of the questions you should ask include:

  • Were they happy with the quality of the work?
  • Was the work completed on time and within the agreed price?
  • Did the company clean up every day? This might sound like an odd question to ask, but the act of keeping the job site clean indicates pride in their work and respect for your property.

It’s a good idea to put together a list of three general contractors. Provide them with your plans and the scope of work required, so that they’re all pricing the same work. Carefully review their quotes to ensure that they have all fully understood your requirements. The lowest price might not include everything in your scope of work.

Interview your prospective contractor:

  • How long has the company been in business?
  • Can they provide you with references? If so, follow up with them.
  • Do they have General Liability Insurance and are they covered by WorkSafeBC?
  • Do they have an Occupational Health and Safety Program in place?
  • Have any complaints been lodged against the company through the Better Business Bureau?
  • Who will be managing the project?
  • What will the hours be on site?
  • Are they using subtrades, or their own staff, or both?
  • What type of contract would be drawn up for the project?
  • Does the company provide a warranty?

This is just a sampling of questions you should be asking. One final aspect to bear in mind is personality – how do you feel about working with this person? Some projects will take weeks or even months and you will need to be comfortable with him or her on a daily basis.


To help you get started with your research we’ve put together two questionnaires – one for your friends and when following up with the contractor’s references, and another for when you interview the contractor. You can download the questionnaires by clicking on the link below.



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