CAA - Quebec Finding a contractor for small jobs: Mission possible!

There’s the front door that never fails to put a frown on your face. That stair step that strains dangerously under your weight. The huge mirror you can’t hope to hang by yourself. And those shelves you’ve been dusting for months—only they haven’t been installed yet!

These are just a few examples of the minor unfinished jobs that, over time, become major irritants around the house if you don’t have the skill or the dexterity needed, or aren’t fortunate to be able to count on a friend or relative with a gift for do-it-yourselfing.

The problem? These odd jobs are so minor that finding a professional who’ll agree to do them for a reasonable fee is no small feat.

When there seems to be no solution

These kinds of jobs would be a piece of cake for the majority of contractors—and, quite simply, too small to be profitable. Most will politely decline your request by claiming to be “too busy at the moment”, which is obviously more diplomatic than dryly replying “it’s not worth my time”. Others may get the same idea across by explaining they have a minimum charge policy (it will cost you so much that you’ll be deterred).

Even if you can understand that, for a by-the-book company that employs qualified professionals, it’s difficult to turn a profit on such small jobs, for you, the problem remains!

The solution may well be hiding in the essence of the problem itself. The challenge is to turn it into a situation where everybody wins: you’re satisfied that the work is done at last, and the contractor makes money from the job. At this point, a bit of strategizing can come in handy.

Savvy strategies for attracting a pro

First of all, think about grouping several jobs together. The prospect of a half-day (four-hour block) or full day of work is more likely to interest a professional contractor.

  • Make a list of all the jobs that need to be done, even the ones that seem trivial (detached mouldings, a doorknob that needs readjusting, a clothesline to install, a loose stair railing, a deck or fence plank that needs replacing, etc.). Go around the house and note all the work required—and then do it again to make sure you haven’t missed anything.
  • Make separate lists for indoor and outdoor work.

Can’t find enough jobs? Talk to your neighbours. Some of them might be facing the same problem. If two or three of you get together, you can probably come up with a more enticing “menu”.

Next, use an approach that’s more likely to get a contractor interested:

  • Start by knocking on the doors of companies in your neighbourhood. Being close by could be a pivotal advantage for both parties. For you, it’ll mean a lower bill because there won’t be any charges for extra distance travelled. For the contractor, the fact that the work is in a home just around the corner or down the street may outweigh the fact that the job is small in scope.
  • If the repairs aren’t urgent, say so right away. Most contractors usually don’t mind having a few small jobs in their order book to fill in a work day or week between larger projects. The contract will be that much more attractive if you live not far from the company’s office or the home of one of its workers.
  • Explain the nature of the work in detail. For example, a contractor may appreciate having a specific job sheet that is restricted to indoor work. It might allow him or her to send workers to your home for a day or two if heavy rain keeps them from working on an outdoor construction job that’s in progress.
  • You’ll maximize your chances of getting a rapid response if you make sure that a relative, friend or neighbour can come to your place if you’re at work and the contractor shows up on very short notice. It’s best to seize the opportunity when it presents itself…

Use these tips and tricks, and you’ll likely attract an appreciative contractor who realizes that you’ve been discerning enough to put together an offer that takes his or her constraints into account.