As a contractor and designer for over 20 years, I still get tricked from time to time by a not-so-trustworthy trade. Did you ever hire a doubtful trade? Then you immediately know what I am talking about. Read on to learn how to skip the odd one and hire the best of the best.

Once in a while, I fail to listen to my inner voice screaming to avoid hiring this person. Maybe they’re starting and I want to give them a shot. Maybe they’re good at selling themselves. Sometimes they even come recommended. Ultimately, you are the reason why I care so much. After all, those people enter your private space we call your home. Without hesitation, I will go the extra step to get rid of the wrong person to hire someone else to finish the job. But how to find them in this digital era where a lot of good mature trades are retiring and no young adults seem to be heading to the trades?

I am not here to tell you to beware of all, but please, beware of most. The quieter and the humble one usually has the most to offer. Their ego isn’t overpowering, and they know they are good at their job. They take pride in doing the best they can at their job, without the incessant need to cry it out loud. The loudest that have a lot to say, seem very knowledgeable, and aren’t afraid of telling everyone how good they are, should be the ones with little red flags flashing. In my experience, the one who talks the loudest usually goes on the opposite proportion of their talent. More often, it is the reverse we should be attracted to; the truly good ones. Please don’t take me the wrong way, I like confidence, and powerful people who know what they are and who they are, but there is a fine line between talking too much and being truly skilled, and that is this fine line I am looking for.

Back to the construction trade. We did this full home remodel a few months ago. Hired twenty-plus different trades. After living and working in Penticton, British Columbia for about six years, we thought we had a professional crew aligned for each step of that full renovation process. That means each trade has to come at the right time, at the right moment, sometimes, 2 or 3 on the same day (if we don’t want a job site open for six months). Everyone has a precise job to do at a precise time. My job is to manage the schedule and make sure of that. Everyone is as important as the next. Everyone’s job is intricately connected to each other.

When one messes it up, the ripple effect can be as large as delaying a job site for days, for weeks or worse, (dare I say it) a few months! Everyone is so busy, and tied to different contracts elsewhere. Our job is booked in for these specific days and some trades have no time to delay. So when the time is right, the job must be done now. As a contractor, we cannot tolerate laziness or careless people. As we all know, construction can have unexpected surprises, delays and uncontrollable events. Does that resonate with you?

If you think about it, construction has been around since humankind. We tend to not question the trade’s ability to perform their job safely and professionally. But trust me, not all tradespeople are created equally. Some are meant to be and take their job very seriously and some are there for the paycheck or because they have been told to do that or for whatever reason… but you can always tell the difference.

That is why, as a homeowner, I can only imagine the trouble of finding the right trade for the right job. Most often, the good ones are so busy, or tied to a contractor who doesn’t give them too much space to venture very far.

Here are a few simple steps you should do before you hire any trade. The same goes for a designer or a contractor. Please, do your due diligence to make sure you have the smoothest ride possible.


  1. Probably the most important one: take references. However, it would be to no avail if you don’t call. You must contact those references. Ask many questions. If a trade doesn’t want to give you any references or doesn’t have anyone for you to call, that should raise a red flag for you. Unless he is new to the area or young and starting, then trust your gut feeling.
  2. Ask your friends and family about their experiences and their references. However, make sure your friends’ standards are equal to yours, or you might be disappointed. We don’t have the same expectations so be clear about your expectations and the service your friend received.
  3. Speaking of family and friends, when “hiring” them for your work, make sure you have an honest discussion about your boundaries, your needs and your expectations.
  4. The cheapest quote might equal the fastest, but might also equal the lack of important details. Make sure you know your priorities.
  5. Sometimes, the most readily available can be a sign. If your trade is ready tomorrow, then you may want to ask directly why he is not busy. However, if you work in the opposite season, you might have some luck, as in: if you plan your fireplace remodel in spring or your pool installation in fall.
  6. Trust your gut feeling, that little voice in your head, your intuition, or your instinct –  however you want to call it, that tells you to move forward, or to run away in the opposite direction.
  7. You are entitled to ask if your trade or your contractor has insurance. If not, you may want to sign a waiver for their liability. 
  8. When ready to hire, make sure you have what you agreed to for the job in writing. It can be a formal contract or an informal quote, but the main point is that your agreement and your expectations are all written down. This will avoid any confusion as to what is and what is not included.
  9. Drawings & a good set of plans add another layer of clarity because sometimes words can be misleading.
  10. Last but not least, you can discuss the finer details, such as whether loud music is accepted, whether smoking in designated areas only is permitted, whether evening or weekend shifts are allowed or not, bathroom usage, whether their child/spouse/friend may or may not come to the job site, etc. It is much harder to set boundaries once the train has left the station.

Construction sadly often has a bad reputation. I cannot blame you. I am a professional and I sometimes have to deal with a bizarre one. I can empathize with you if you have done a renovation or a new build once or twice in your lifetime and hired the bad ones, then yes, construction can be draining and exhausting.

On the other hand, when you have the right crew, building and renovating can be so rewarding and satisfying. It is almost magical what you can create out of raw material and seeing the whole process unfold. Any space can be transformed and enhanced in such a way that you feel energized in your new home.

If you are still unsure of the entire procedure, then think about hiring a trusted contractor that already has a trusted and bonded crew. This can save you time, energy and money while making your renovation an enjoyable process.

Ready? Perfect then, let’s give you some references to start with!