Twelve Qualities in Great Contractors or Trades

Sometimes things that are a “given”, people let slide or ignore in favor of an inexpensive quote. It is really important to establish what your non-negotiables are and hire the trade that is the best fit for your expectationsand that your bank account will allow ]. Don’t ignore early warning signs either. Excuses starting before you have even met are often a sign of what you may get during an actual project. I always look to be sure a trades actions mirror what they are verbally telling me [ ie. says “ my job sites are highly organized and clean” but you see tools in complete disarray in their truck ].

Twelve Qualities in Great Contractors or Trades:

  1. Comes with a proven, established skilled crew or sub-trades appropriate for the scope of work [ You would be surprised how many trades leave actual work in the hands of people they have never subcontracted! ]
  2. Great communication [ verbally, detailed agreement & change orders etc ]
  3. Good listener [ & understanding of who is the client! ]
  4. Reliable [ follows through on commitments, shows up on time and when expected, makes your job a priority and keeps the project on track  ]
  5. Trustworthy
  6. Attention to finishing details [ The finishing details can make or break a finished space. Some trades feel a job is complete if it is functional. If you want more than function, be sure your level of attention to detail matches the trades and your budget! ]
  7. Ability to anticipate most challenges before they arise [ this will help minimize surprises, frustration, extra costs ]
  8. Organized [ order of actual work & also tools on job site ]
  9. Ultimate respect for homeowners space [ all surfaces thoroughly covered before work commences & very special care throughout project ]
  10. Continual clean and daily end of day job site clean up [ the entire crew needs to be on board with this! ]
  11. Creative problem solver [ Challenges always come up. You want a problem solver, not an excuse maker or blamer ]
  12. Great after care customer service [ When a job is complete and something needs to be addressed, I expect a problem solver, with a willing attitude who comes back to job site in a timely manner! ]

Needless to say, always cover these bases: 3-5 referrals of similar scope of work, proper permits, licenses and insurance.

Anything else? Please add in the comment section!

Lisa Ferguson Interior Design, author of this feature, is a full service Interior Design firm in Toronto, Ontario. Lisa would love to talk to you about designing a space expressly for you.

You can also find a full list of all our global mentors [ who are top professional interior designers ] on our Mentors Page.


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9 Responses to “Twelve Qualities in Great Contractors or Trades”

  1. Jacqueline Corea Says:

    Great tips Lisa! I would add one extra tip about having updated insurance coverage. We ask our trades every year to provide proof of their insurance. Unfortunately, we had to learn this lesson the hard way. Once, a painter of ours knocked a sprinkler head loose and caused a flood. His did not have insurance, and since we had hired him on behalf of our client, we had to cover the cost! Ouch!!


    • Decor Mentor Says:

      Jacqueline, Thanks for that! Great advice. Yes updated and an actual copy ( not a verbal )!


  2. Michelle Jennings Wiebe Says:

    Wonderful, helpful post. At Studio M, we have maintained many of our sub-contractors and trades people for two decades. Once we find the “right” person, we are very loyal. Of course, they must continue to provide excellent craftsmanship and client service. I also agree with Jacqueline’s comment, as we ask for annual updated proof of insurance coverage.


  3. LeAnne Bunnell Says:

    Can I add one more?

    A sense of humour and a calm disposition can help make you or your client feel at ease. My favorite contractor always has a smile on his face, a kind word and a great laugh. He instantly makes my clients accepting of his presence in their home. There is enough drama in a renovation without adding cranky trades.

    I love this list!


  4. Melissa Says:

    Great post Lisa! What a practical and applicable topic. My husband and I have had our share or experience with tradespeople and sometimes you just know right away who to go with because of some of these items you have listed.


  5. Whitney Westman Says:

    I’m truly enjoying the design and layout of your site. It’s a very easy on the eyes which makes it much more enjoyable for me to come here and visit more often. Did you hire out a designer to create your theme? It’s awesome to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same out of date rehashed information. Wonderful read! We are looking for ideals for our new site. Thank You. Hardwood Flooring – Royal Flooring Center, 1515 Matheson Blvd. East, Unit B10, Mississauga, ON L4W 2P5 (905) 625-4344


    • Decor Mentor Says:

      Thank you Whitney! Yes, we had a graphic designer and custom web programmer create the Decor Mentor site. You can see their links at the bottom of the main page!


  6. Sandy Says:

    If you go with a general contractor, be sure you get a very detailed estimate for all labor, all materials specified by type or $ allowance for fixtures, and written timelines and deliverable dates. Remember, they can charge 30% to 50% of the actual job costs so really consider doing this job yourself. I have always been my own general contractor because it saves money and ensures quality in the long run. I can pay more for top notch established trades because of that dollar savings and I go with local people. I now have an outstanding electrician, painter, window installer, and wood floor installer. We are renovating our family room and I’ll need to search out a drywall installer. With this key group, I can continue with my house renovations with my own team.


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