Five tips on choosing a home contractor, part of the CBC News and Business in Vancouver series 'Renovation Reality' on the home reno business.

1. Don’t give into sales pressure. If a contractor shows up to your door offering services, ask to take their business card or flyer. Do not let a person pressure you into signing up. Let them know you will contact them after consulting with your spouse or partner.

2. Be picky and have lots of options. Seek at least three bids from prospective contractors based on the same specifications, materials and labour needed to complete the project. Homeowners should discuss bids in detail with each contractor and ask questions about variations in pricing. The lowest-priced contractor may not be the best.

3. Make sure they are insured. Consumers should ask whether the company is insured with WorkSafe BC against claims covering workers' compensation, property damage and personal liability in case of accidents. Consumers should obtain the name of the insurance carrier and call to verify coverage.

4. Know where your responsibilities lie. The homeowner is responsible for ensuring all contracted work conforms to zoning bylaws and ensuring prompt payment according to the requirements of the law. The contractor is responsible for identifying necessary permits and ensuring all legal requirements are satisfied; removal of construction debris when the job is finished; warranties on all contractor-supplied work and materials for a period of at least one year.

5. Get everything in writing. Read and understand the contract before signing. Get all verbal promises in writing. Include start and completion dates in the contract. Homeowners must hold back 10 per cent of the contract price until 55 days after the general contract is substantially completed, abandoned, or otherwise ended to ensure that all subcontracted companies are paid. This way, if there are liens from workers who did not get paid from the original contractor, the holdback may be used to help pay these liens.

Source: Better Business Bureau, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation