Choosing a Pro

Selecting the right insulation contractor for your job is an important decision. Not sure where to start?

There are a couple of places you can start. RenoMark™ is a national source for renovation advice and professional contractors. Its website is designed to help you better understand how to best approach your project, how to do your research, and then find the right company to do the job.

Another place you can start is with the eRenovate app. This app has simplified the process of finding a contractor for any home renovation project, and their verification process gives you peace of mind knowing all of the contractors who provide you with estimates are reputable and licensed. Describe and post your project within the app, including any photos and/or videos, and then wait for the estimates to start rolling in. You can then compare estimates and contractor profiles—which include information about the company, ratings, and reviews—and use the internal messaging feature to ask additional questions or set up a meeting.

Before you hire an insulation contractor

Your home is probably the biggest investment you’ll ever make, so before you award your job to a contractor, be sure to take the following steps:

  1. Do your research: read through the NAIMA Canada website and make use of the resources it offers, such as the Insulation Comparison Guide and the Key Checklist for Inspecting Insulation Jobs. The RenoMark™ and eRenovate have links to useful resources. Make sure you check the qualifications of not just the contractor, but of the installers who will be executing your job.
  2. Check references: Ask the contractor for references, including other homeowners for whom he has done work. If you’re using the eRenovate app, check the ratings and reviews. A key consideration is to choose a contractor with a proven record in the three mandatory aspects of your project: air sealing, adding insulation, and assuring a good vapour retarder.
  3. Ask trusted sources for a reference: In addition to the approaches mentioned above, you can also check with the local Better Business Bureau for a contractor, or ask your bank to get a report on the contractor’s credit rating.
  4. Evaluate materials, too: Remember that you want the contractor to use good quality materials. When discussing the project with the prospective contractor, discuss R-values, and don’t forget that R-values are determined by material type, thickness, and in the case of loose-fill insulation, by installed weight per square metre or foot (or density), not by thickness alone.
  5. Ask questions about how the contractor’s installers are paid: Does the contractor pay them by the number of square feet they cover, or by the hour? If he pays them by square footage, they might do a hasty job on your house just so they can get on to the next one.
  6. Check if the contractor has appropriate insurance coverage: Does the contractor have insurance to protect his men if they are injured? Are you covered if one of his workers damages your house? Ask for proof of current insurance.
  7. Check bag labels: When you talk to a contractor or his salesman, ask him to show you a sample of the bag label for his brand of insulation and ask him to explain it to you. The bag must show compliance to the CAN ULC S700 series standard. If a contractor uses insulation packed in bags that aren’t labelled, don’t hire him. The quality of the material will be unknown. Always deal in R-values, not centimetres or inches. Every type of insulation has a different range of R-value per inch, and the packaging does not usually indicate its R-value per inch. You want a guarantee of a specific insulation R-value. (Note that R is traditionally the imperial measure, and RSI is its metric equivalent.)

Managing Contractors

Once you’ve hired a contractor, there are a few things to do to manage the project and make sure you’re getting the results you want. Some tips:

  • Make sure the contractor gives you a contract or receipt for the insulation installed.
  • Check that the proper amount of insulation is actually installed. Make sure you get the R-value you were promised up front.
  • After the job is finished, inspect your home to make sure the insulation was installed correctly.

Contract or Receipt for Home Insulation

Installers of insulation should give their customers a contract or receipt for the insulation installed. For all insulation except loose-fill and aluminum foil, the receipt should show the coverage area, thickness, and R-value of the insulation installed. For all types of loose-fill insulation, the receipt should show the coverage area, initial installed thickness, minimum settled thickness, R-value, and the number of bags used. For aluminum foil, the receipt must show the number and thickness of the air spaces, the direction of heat flow, and the R-value. All receipts must be dated and signed by the installer.

Check that the Proper Amount of Insulation is Actually Installed

Each bag of insulating material used by the contractor should be marked with an R- or RSI-value. For loose-fill, the bags will tell you the R- or RSI-value for the area to be covered. It is important that you check that the proper amount is installed in your home. Ask the contractor to attach vertical rulers to the joists prior to a loose-fill installation in your attic to help you see that the proper depth was installed. Look for the R- or RSI-value printed on the batts, rolls, or the facing.

Inspect the Insulation Work

Inspect your home to make sure the insulation was installed correctly (you may want to use the Key Checklist for Insulation Inspections). Demand quality from your installer and question anything that looks wrong. If this is new construction, ask if you or a professional can inspect the insulation before the drywall is put up. Some builders and contractors do not want to do this, but after the drywall is up, it’s hard to tell if any mistakes were made, and much more expensive to fix. Don’t compromise. It’s your house, and you are the one that will have to live with any mistakes.