The Importance of Choosing the Right Underpinning Contractor for Your Home

Underpinning is a complex and crucial process that should only be undertaken by experienced and reputable contractors. Choosing the right underpinning contractor in Toronto is essential to ensure the structural integrity and safety of your home. Here are some key factors to consider when selecting an underpinning Toronto contractor:

The cost of underpinning can vary significantly depending on several factors, such as the size of the property, the extent of the work required, and the contractor’s experience. It’s essential to obtain multiple quotes and carefully review the scope of work and materials to be used. While cost is an important consideration, it should not be the sole deciding factor. A reputable contractor may charge more, but they will likely provide high-quality work and a warranty, ultimately saving you money in the long run. When evaluating underpinning cost, be wary of quotes that seem abnormally low, as this may indicate that corners will be cut or substandard materials will be used.

Licensing and Certifications

Choosing a licensed and certified underpinning contractor is crucial for your home’s structural integrity and safety. An unlicensed contractor lacking proper training and expertise can make errors that lead to further foundation damage, not to mention voiding warranties.

When hiring a contractor, look for the following licenses and certifications:

  • A general contractor’s license demonstrates they are legally approved to operate and pull permits in your state. Unlicensed contractors often cut corners.
  • Professional engineering license: This indicates that an engineer supervises the work and determines the right solutions for your home’s needs.
  • Manufacturer certification – Certification from underpinning product manufacturers shows the contractor is properly trained to install their systems.
  • BBB accreditation – Accreditation from the Better Business Bureau provides quality assurance.

The dangers of using an unlicensed contractor include:

  • Improper underpinning techniques need to stabilize the foundation fully. This can lead to continued settling and expensive repairs down the road.
  • Structural damage to load-bearing walls and supports if the work is not done correctly.
  • No building permits or code inspections, increasing safety risks.
  • If something goes wrong, there is no insurance, bonding, or guarantees to protect you as the homeowner.
  • No recourse if the contractor performs shoddy work or damages your home.

Do your due diligence to vet licensing thoroughly before allowing any contractor to conduct structural underpinning work on your property. The right certifications assure their expertise.

Experience and Expertise

When hiring an underpinning contractor, it is important to look for significant experience working specifically on underpinning projects. Generally, you’ll want to find a contractor with at least 5-10 years of underpinning experience. They should have expertise working with various types of foundations, such as concrete slabs, crawl spaces, basements, etc. An experienced underpinning pro will be familiar with local soil conditions and building codes that apply to your project.

Some key signs of expertise to look for:

  • Years of experience doing underpinning and foundation repair specifically, not just general contracting
  • Strong track record with past underpinning projects similar to yours
  • Knowledge of local soil types and conditions that may impact your foundation
  • Familiarity with permitting and regulations for underpinning work in your area
  • Training and certification for underpinning and foundation repair

The right underpinning contractor will have the specialized expertise for your foundation issues, not just general home improvement skills. They should be able to assess the problem, explain your options, and execute the repair properly to prevent future issues. Feel free to ask about their specific underpinning experience and training.

Reputation and References

A contractor’s reputation and references from past clients are crucial factors when deciding who to hire for underpinning work. Homeowners should thoroughly research potential contractors to improve their quality of service and professionalism.

When speaking with references, ask detailed questions about their overall experience:

  • Were they satisfied with the completed work?
  • Did the project be scheduled and within budget?
  • Was communication clear, and were expectations set properly?
  • Did they encounter any problems or surprises?
  • Would they hire the contractor again for future projects?

Online reviews like Yelp and Angie’s List can provide candid insights into a company’s strengths and weaknesses. Look for contractors with consistently positive feedback and few or no serious complaints. Be wary of reviews that appear overly glowing or generic.

It’s also wise to check for disciplinary actions, lawsuits, or license issues through organizations like the Better Business Bureau. One or two isolated incidents may not be a major concern over many years. But patterns of negligence, fraud, or shoddy work should raise red flags.

Retesting potential underpinning contractors thoroughly will help homeowners feel confident in their choices and avoid regrets. The stakes are high with structural foundation work, so choosing a company with a proven record of success is critical.

Quotes and Contracts

When selecting an underpinning contractor, getting quotes from multiple companies for comparison is important. The quote should clearly outline the complete scope of labor, materials to be used, timeline, and total cost. Be wary of quotes that seem abnormally low compared to others, as this may indicate that corners will be cut.

Carefully review the contract before signing and look for:

  • Detailed scope of work
  • Payment terms – avoid large upfront payments; instead, schedule payments tied to the completion of project milestones
  • The frame for starting and completing the job
  • Type of materials/equipment to be used
  • Cleanup responsibilities
  • Warranties – look for a warranty of at least five years for materials and labor
  • Insurance and licensing information for the company
  • Change order process – what happens if additional work needs to be done?
  • Dispute resolution procedures

A reputable contractor will be transparent about their processes and provide a detailed contract for review. Ask questions if anything needs to be clarified before signing. Also, verify what warranties apply to the underpinning materials and workmanship, as this provides protection if any issues arise with the foundation post-project. It is recommended that a minimum 5-year warranty be provided.

Getting quotes from at least three contractors and scrutinizing the contracts will help ensure you choose the right underpinning company for the job. This upfront due diligence will give you confidence that they will deliver high-quality work.