Like almost every organized trade in Canada most of the building contractors and their subtrades have to be licensed. This ranges from a general contractors license to the guy who works for the gas company and installs your gas meter. What the contractor license shows is that these occupations have met a certain standard before they were allowed to conduct business. And isn’t this what you want when you are looking for a kitchen or bathroom remodel?
Each province in Canada maintains its own licensing requirements within specific areas of construction and remodeling. For example a province-wide construction license is not needed to build in most parts of Ontario but the trades are monitored with a Certificate of Qualification.
Once you get down to the municipal level this changes. For example in the city of Toronto a general contractor, or subcontractor, has to possess valid city of Toronto license. This also pertains to carpenters, concrete workers, roofers, bricklayers, insulators and waterproofing services. What this means is that those beautiful kitchens featured on Toronto television programs were built by licensed contractors.
Everyone is looking for a deal. Why pay the going rate for an electrician to put in your light fixtures when a handyman will do the job for 1/3 of the price? Because when it comes to rewiring a room or installing a breaker panel an unskilled or partially-skilled worker could make a mistake resulting in a fire.
In almost every part of the country electricians, plumbers and the mechanical trades are required to complete a journeyman’s apprenticeship that can take as long as four years. Not only that the apprentice is required to have six weeks of classroom training each year followed by the successful completion of an exam. To get their journeyman ticket after this long training period they also have to take a final exam. To legally bid on contracts may require another few years plus a business course and followed by an exam. This means that to become a contractor could take as long as some vying to be a doctor.
Most trades licensed in Canada support a country-wide standard called the “Red Seal” program This provides a level playing field for the trades so that they can work in all parts of Canada. It is also a reassurance for homeowners or those who want homes built because they know that an electrician hired in Goose Bay, Labrador will have the same skills as an electrician in Brandon, Manitoba.
There are a few types of costs when having a large renovation completed or a home built. The basic cost of a reputable company may be a lot higher than the next bid simply because this contractor has more inclusions. Hiring a non-licensed contractor may save money on paper but consider the additional costs:
Hidden Costs: A licensed contractor is usually a business person having taken a business course to get the contractor’s license. He or she will have lines of credit at several suppliers and will deal with subtrades who have similar arrangements. Never deal with anyone who wants money for the materials upfront because it is implied that they do not have good credit nor do they know anything about doing business in the renovation trade. The materials may cost more than what a reputable contractor can get. Not only that, an inexperienced contractor may keep hitting you up for money for a wide variety of reasons. In the end the job might cost more that the larger bid but without the polished finish.
3. The Job That Never Ends
General contractors with a license tend to be more organized than one who has not taken the requisite courses. They know how to schedule the subtrades to come at the right time so that the project gets completed on time.
Many unlicensed people “shoot from the hip” and find themselves at the mercy of the subtrades. If they can’t get the right person to come in when needed everything slows down. For example, the utilities – electrical, plumbing, HVAC – are roughed in after the framing is done. However, the walls can’t be closed in by the drywall team until this has been completed. Meanwhile the busy drywalling contractor has to move on to another project and it may be a month before he or she can come back. Now you’re living in a mess for at least that time.
Contractor licensing also ensures that the contractor is kept up-to-date in all areas of safety. Since he or she has to renew the license periodically this means that safety knowledge has to be current. In many cases a contractor can’t get insurance without these periodic upgrades and without the capability getting insurance or bonding the license will not be given.
Take the guesswork out of hiring a contractor and make sure that the person you hire has the qualifications demanded for your area. Consult our Contractor Directory or simply post you project online.
Key Hiring Tips
Hiring a contractor is an important decision so it is best to get all the information you can on each company. This includes checking references, insurance and licensing information. On a larger project a designer or architect is required in order to get the permits. Smaller projects still require a plan and the job will turn out great with the a little organization.