Tips & Tricks

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How PST Changes Affect You as a Homeowner in Saskatchewan

The provincial government announced their 2017 budget this week and it has hit the construction industry hard. Saskatchewan construction companies and contractors must collect provincial sales tax on new contracts starting April 1, 2017.

The move targets builders’ labour and overhead costs. It’s expected to add $345 million each year to provincial coffers. It’s one of the single largest contributors to government revenue in this year’s budget.

How does it affect you as a homeowner? Let us explain.

The budget decision by the Government of Saskatchewan to apply the Provincial Sales Tax (PST) to construction labour puts the province at a competitive disadvantage, raises new barriers to investment, and triggers the potential to an ‘underground’ economy, according to the Saskatchewan Construction Association (SCA).

With the average new home in Saskatoon and Regina selling for close to $450,000, it is estimated taxes will now raise the sticker price of that house to $478,500. That’s significant! As a homeowner, you’re directly affected by these changes that come into place next week.

It’s going to have a huge impact on affordability. It is estimated this will raise the prices of new homes by at least five per cent in Saskatchewan. Imposing PST on renovation contracts may backfire, as it may encourage more builders to take on cash-only jobs.

To soften the blow for contractors, they will be exempt from paying PST on materials starting April 1, 2017.

Saskatchewan is now the only province in Western Canada to fully tax construction labour which will inevitably leads to higher costs in new development and renovations. By applying this tax on construction labour, people are going to sit on their wallets and we’re likely going to see homeowners seek out and hire unregistered and uninsured contractors as a result.

As we have heard numerous times over the last couple days, the addition of the PST onto construction labour is a tax on growth. Combine that with the economy and the softened market – it’s a big blow. It does make Saskatoon and Saskatchewan a less competitive and less attractive market for investors.

Construction remains the second largest private sector employer in Saskatchewan and it’s important to recognize the role of construction to facilitate growth. The announcement by the government will make it more difficult for the construction industry to prosper, now and for years to come!

Saskatchewan’s finance minister noted the change will no longer allow contractors from out-of-province to bring in cheaper materials, then outbid local firms on the final construction cost. I guess that’s a positive if you’re going to make lemonade out of lemons.

Now as a final takeaway, if you’re planning a renovation, building a home or tackling a few home improvement projects this summer, try get into an agreement with a home professional prior to April 1st and it could save you a ton of dough!

Starting April 1st, you will be forced to pay that 6% PST on your home projects. If you’re looking to get a quote on your project and get scheduled in with reputable and certified contractors, post your project today and let us help you out! Here is how it works with Kijenga!

If you have any questions, please contact us at 1-844-545-3642.

Happy Hiring!

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5 High-Tech Trends to Improve Your Home

There are countless home improvements that homeowners can make in Saskatoon. They can be as big as knocking down a wall to make the kitchen and dining rooms flow into one big space or retiling your master bathroom, or it can be as simple as changing your cabinet knobs and drawer pulls.

When deciding to make upgrades to your home, why not consider these five high-tech home upgrades that were designed to make your life easier, more efficient, and safer.

  1. Solar Panels

Homeowners are not only getting smarter but more responsible when it comes to making improvements to their homes. Greener and energy-efficient solutions are now on many property owners list of upgrades.

According to the EnergySage Solar Marketplace Intel Report, solar panels can satisfy more than 85% of a home’s electricity demands. Solar panels produce electricity minus the noise and the emissions and make financial sense. They’re great for the environment and based on an average amount of sunlight, home, and system; you can cut back on about half your monthly electric bill.

Fun fact – Saskatoon is one of the Sunniest cities in Canada! Solar panels are ideal for Saskatoon homeowners because there is approximately 2,268 hours of bright sunshine a year and 319 where the sun is shining.

  1. Smart Locks

Smart locks, much like regular locks, keep your home secure by keeping intruders and thieves out thus keeping your valuable possessions and loved ones safe. Smart locks, however, have an added functionality that makes life not only safer but easier. It automatically turns on your home’s smart lights when you unlock the door. The many smart lock options allow you to work with other smart home products and your mobile devices.

  1. Smart Thermostat

Speaking of smart products, the smart thermostat is intelligent home technology that will help you save on electricity, heating, and cooling. The smart thermostat works with other smart products like the smart lock and will turn on to your preferred settings when the door is unlocked.

If you’re looking at getting a NEST thermostat but the installation is a daunting task, you have to check out this deal on our marketplace. Get it done for you! View Deal

  1. Surveillance Cameras

According to Statistics Canada, there were 9,407 property crime violations that included breaking and entering in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in 2015.

Installing cameras around your home will give you an extra layer of protection and those placed outside your house will let thieves know you’ve got a security system in place. And beyond keeping your home secure, indoor cameras can help you keep an eye on things around your house like your children and your pets.

  1. Vacuum Baseboards

Also known as sweep inlets, vacuum baseboards can be easily installed in a new or existing home. This clever addition to your home will make you get rid of your old dustpan by letting your central vacuum do all the work. Just sweep the debris you’ve gathered with your broom near the opening of the inlet, open the valve, and let your central vacuum system suck it away!

There’s a common misconception that technology comes with a hefty price tag. While some do, consider them as investments on the overall appeal and value of your home. Some home trends will only add to the beauty of your home while others, like the high-tech trends mentioned here will prove to be ingenious ways to make life so much easier.

Brown chair with clean home decor that won't break your bank.

Easy Home Upgrades That Won’t Break the Bank

Home improvement projects are daunting, not only because of the stress they cause but because they are also quite costly most of the time. With the downturn of the economy in Saskatoon, there are a lot of homeowners that love the idea of upgrading one or two rooms in their house, but then they take a hard look at their finances and question whether or not they can afford it.

More and more homeowners are looking to remodel their bathroom(s), revamp their kitchen, make more space by developing their basement or simply looking to fix a few odds and ends.

When it comes to home improvement projects and renovations, you just have to make smart decisions. Listed below are some budget-friendly tips so that you can tackle those home projects without breaking the bank.

Be Bright about Light

Good lighting can make a huge difference in your interiors. A perfectly designed home that is improperly lit will never be able to achieve its full aesthetic potential. With that said, being smart with your lighting doesn’t have to be this big scary thing. Consider planning with the future in mind. LED lighting, although a tad bit pricier than other lighting options, consumes less energy. Especially for lights you use on a regular basis (living room, kitchen), the money you save on electricity costs would make up for the higher price tag. Here is some valuable information from SaskPower.

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Be intelligent about making the wiring for your lights flexible. Even though you’re happy with the accent pendant light that illuminates your dining room, it would be wise to let the electrician prepare the ceiling for any recessed pin lights that you might decide to install in the future.

Two (or More) in One

Utilizing furniture and design features that serve more than one function not only saves you money, it create more floor space for you. Utilizing storage ottomans will provide you with both a stylish seating option and a space to store toys and books. For some homeowners, purchasing beds with storage space underneath is a great option. There is a plethora of smart furniture options for you to choose from and all you need to do to make them work for your own home is to keep an open-mind and a have a keen eye for style. There are lots of unique furniture and home decor stores in Saskatoon where you can find the perfect piece for you and your space.

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Bring in the Colour

People often underestimate the power of intelligently-planned colour palettes. The generous use of white undoubtedly brightens up a room but other colours work just as well and even add a little flair. You can go with a tan, beige, and warm browns for a very comfortable look and feel. If you want the room to be a little on the edgy side, use bright accent colours that pop. Neon greens, navy blues, and bright magentas do wonders to a room. Endless possibilities open up when you consider just re-painting a space. It’s an affordable design solution that has the potential to totally change your perspective on a room.

Give Faux a Chance

Think out of the box. Smart homeowners really put some thought into figuring out the individual qualities in design elements that they like and replicate those qualities with more affordable materials and building methods. Brick walls are undoubtedly charming, but having one installed is sometimes not feasible or affordable. Options such as brick veneer or even brick wallpaper can be more doable and budget-friendly than real brick. Wood flooring is also a popular design choice. However, the intricacies behind installing solid wood flooring and the maintenance of such design features can sometimes be overwhelming. Faux wood porcelain tiles or wood vinyl flooring could be better alternatives.

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Do-It-Yourself (when it makes sense)

For the closet craftsmen out there, consider foregoing store-bought items for things you could create yourself. It might seem daunting at first, but the fulfillment one gets from creating something for their home (not to mention the costs sometimes saved) are well worth the initial apprehension. Learning and trying to do home upgrades yourself also serve to broaden your knowledge about home improvement.

Rustic Charm

A growing movement nowadays is the popularity of raw, unfinished aesthetics. If done right, these types of designs prove to be incomparably beautiful and unique. In many cases, these “unfinished” looks serve to be even better than more expensive alternatives. Raw concrete walls have been all the rage nowadays, and the vintage industrial style is making a big comeback. Consider industrial style furniture and surface finishes and you will find that oftentimes, less is more.

Go Green

Recent studies have proven that ornamental plant-life increases happiness and productivity. Although this research was conducted in an office setting, the same holds true for residential spaces as well. The smart use of plants serves to liven up a place, bring in some fresh air into the house, and really improve the quality of life in a space. They need don’t have to be expensive or high-end. Find something that works within your budget and just them them intelligently.

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In the end, it’s all about understanding how you want your home to look and feel and making smart decisions to get you there. There are often many alternatives in all aspects of home design and improvement projects. Professional designers, when faced with difficult design choices, always make it a point to go back to asking themselves “why?”

Why do we need recessed ceiling lighting? Perhaps a well-placed centre light might do the trick? Why must I insist on polished marble floor tiles? Maybe using porcelain floor tiles will have the same effect?

Once you get to the root of what you want in your home, you start to see the bare bone spirit of the spaces you have in front of you. The more you understand what your house needs, the better (and more affordable) your home improvement decisions will be.

To help you with your budget-friendly home improvement projects, you must check out our marketplace of certified and reputable pros in Saskatoon. You will find sweet deals from verified contractors.

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Fall Checklist For Your Home

It’s crazy to say this but Fall is right around the corner here in Saskatoon and if you’re a homeowner, it’s time to get ready. The little things you can take care of over the next few weeks can make a huge difference for you and your home.

We have put together a list of tasks that may or may not apply to you and most of the items here can be done by you when you have some free time. That being said, if there is something out of your scope, don’t be afraid to hire a professional and let them handle it. It’s worth the investment. Trust us.

Here is the checklist at a glance.

  • Inspect and clean your gutters and downspouts around your home.
  • Seal gaps and cracks around windows and doors with weather-stripping and caulking.
  • Inspect your roof for damaged or curled shingles, corroded flashing, or leaky vents.
  • Take the steps now to repair damaged sidewalks, driveways, and steps.
  • Drain and winterize outdoor faucets and irrigation systems.
  • Clean or replace dirty furnace filters.
  • The winters can be cold here in Saskatchewan. Have a professional inspect your heating system.
  • If you have a gas-fired room heater, have it inspected by a pro. Also, perform any routine maintenance recommended.
  • Wood stoves are making a comeback. To avoid a deadly situation, be sure to inspect yours before firing it up.
  • A home safety check should be an annual ritual in every household. Test smoke and CO monitors, inspect (or install) fire extinguishers, review fire escape plans, and get rid of old newspapers and other fire hazards.

 

Your roof’s drainage system annually diverts thousands of gallons of water from your house’s exterior and foundation walls. That’s why it is so important to keep this system flowing smoothly. Clogged eavestroughs can lead to damaged exterior surfaces and to water in your basement. They are also more prone to rust and corrosion. Before the leaves fly this fall, have your gutters cleaned, then covered with mesh guards to keep debris from returning.

 

A home with air leaks around windows and doors is like a coat left unbuttoned. Gaps in caulk and weather-stripping can account for a 10% of your heating bills.

Weather-stripping is easily the most cost-effective way to rein in heating and cooling costs. This humble material also reduces drafts and keeps your home more comfortable year-round. Because weather stripping can deteriorate over time, it is important to inspect it periodically.

If you suspect a problem with weather stripping, you have several options for checking. Close a door or window on a strip of paper; if the paper slides easily, your weatherstripping isn’t doing its job. Or, close the door or window and hold a lighted candle near the frame. (Don’t let the flame get near anything flammable!) If the flame flickers at any spot along the frame, you have an air leak.

While you’re at it, also check for missing or damaged caulking around windows, doors, and entry points for electrical, cable, phone, gas, and so. Seal any gaps with a suitable caulking from your local home centre.

 

Few homeowner problems are more frustrating than a leaky roof. Once the dripping starts, finding the source of the problem can be time-consuming and costly. Stop problems this fall before ice and winter winds turn them from annoyances into disasters.

Inspect your roof from top to bottom, using binoculars if necessary. Check ridge shingles for cracks and wind damage. Look for damage to metal flashing in valleys and around vents and chimneys. Scan the entire roof for missing, curled, or damaged shingles. Look in your gutters for large accumulations of granules, a sign that your roof is losing its coating; expect problems soon. Finally, make sure your gutters are flowing freely.

Roof-mounted television antennas, even if they aren’t in use, may have guy wires holding them in place. Look for loose or missing guy wires. If you see some, and your antenna is no longer being used, consider having it removed altogether.

 

Damaged walkways, drives, and steps are a hazard year round, but their dangers are compounded when the weather turns icy. Fixing problems in the fall is also critical to preventing little problems from becoming expensive headaches.

Look for cracks more than 1/8-inch wide, uneven sections, and loose railings on steps. Check for crumbling asphalt, or washed-out materials on loose-fill paths.

Most small jobs are well within the ability of a do-it-yourselver, but save major repairs for experienced hands.

 

Living in Saskatoon where we can experience some serious cold snaps in January, you have to take steps now to ensure that outside faucets and in-ground irrigation systems don’t freeze and burst.

Close any shut-off valves serving outside faucets, then open the outside faucet to drain the line. (There may be a small cap on the faucet you can loosen to facilitate this draining.) If you don’t have shut-off valves, and your faucets are not “freezeproof ” types, you may benefit from styrofoam faucet covers sold at home centres.

To freezeproof an inground irrigation system, follow the manufacturer’s procedure for draining it and protecting it from winter damage.

 

Furnace filters trap dust that would otherwise be deposited on your furniture, woodwork, and so on. Clogged filters make it harded to keep your home at a comfortable temperature, and can serious increase your utility bills. A simple monthly cleaning is all it takes to keep these filters breathing free and clear.

Here’s how: Disposable filters can be vaccumed once before replacement. Foam filters can also be vaccumed, but they don’t need to be replaced unless they are damaged. Use a soft brush on a vacuum cleaner. If the filter is metal or electrostatic, remove and wash it with a firm water spray.

 

Once a year, it’s a good idea to have your heating system inspected by a professional. To avoid the last-minute rush, consider scheduling this task in early fall, before the heating season begins.

Here are signs that you should have an inspection performed sooner:

  • Noisy belts. Unusual screeches or whines may be a signal that belts connected to the blower motor are worn or damaged.
  • Poor performance. A heating system that doesn’t seem to work as well as it once did could be a sign of various problems. Your heating ducts might be blocked, the burners might be misadjusted, or the blower motor could be on its last legs. One check you should be sure to conduct: Make sure your furnace filter is clean.
  • Erratic behaviour. This could be caused by a faulty thermostat or a misadjusted furnace.

 

Even if you use your fireplace only occasionally, you should check it annually for damage and hazards.

Inspect your flue for creosote. Creosote is a flammable by-product of burning wood. If it accumulates in a flue or chimney, the result can be a devastating fire. Have your chimney inspected annually for creosote buildup. If you use a fireplace or wood stove frequently, have the flue inspected after each cord of wood burned.

For most people, the best option is to have your entire chimney system inspected by a chimney sweep. Once you know what to look for, you can perform the inspection by shining a bright flashlight up the flue, looking for any deposits approaching 1/8 inch thick. These deposits should be cleaned by an experienced chimney sweep.

Look for flue blockages. Birds love to nest at the top of an unprotected flue. A chimney cap can prevent this from happening. If you don’t have a cap, look up the flu to ensure that there are no obstructions.

Exercise the damper. The damper is the metal plate that opens and closes the flu just above the firebox. Move it to the open and closed positions to ensure that it is working properly.

Check your chimney for damage. Make certain that the flue cap (the screen or baffle covering the top of the chimney) is in place. Inspect brick chimneys for loose or broken joints. If access is a problem, use binoculars.

 

You may know that bone dry winter air is bad for your health, but did you also know it can make fine wood more prone to cracking? You and your home will feel more comfortable if you keep your central humidifier in tip-top shape during the months it is running.

First, inspect the plates or pads, and if necessary, clean them in a strong laundry detergent solution. Rinse and scrape off mineral deposits with a wire brush or steel wool.

 

Keeping a gas heater in good shape is both a safety and a cost issue. An improperly maintained heater can spew poisons into the air of your home, or it may simply be costing you more to operate. Have a professional check these devices annually. There are also some maintenance items you should address.

First, shut off the heater. Then check the air-shutter openings and exhaust vents for dirt and dust. If they are dirty, vacuum the air passages to the burner and clean the burner of lint and dirt. Follow the manufacturer’s advice for any other needed maintenance.

 

Woodburning stoves are a great way to add atmosphere and warmth to your home. But regular inspections are needed to ensure that these devices don’t become a safety hazard. Here’s how to check them.

Inspect stovepipes. Cracks in stovepipes attached to wood stoves can release toxic fumes into your home. Throughout the heating season, you should check for corrosion, holes, or loose joints. Clean the stovepipe, and then look for signs of deterioration or looseness. Replace stovepipe if necessary.

Look for corrosion and cracks. Check for signs of rust or cracking in the stove’s body or legs.

Check safety features. Make sure that any required wall protection is installed according to the manufacturer’s specifications and that the unit sits on an approved floor material. If you have young children, be sure to fence off the stove when it is in operation.

At least once a year, do a top-to-bottom review of your home’s safety features. This is also a good time to get the family together for a review of your fire evacuation plan. Here’s how to do this:

 

Replace the batteries in each smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detector, then vacuum them with a soft brush attachment. Test the detectors by pressing the test button or holding a smoke source (like a blown-out candle) near the unit. If you haven’t already, install a smoke detector on every floor of your home, including the basement.

 

Every home should have at least one fire extinguisher rated for all fire types. At a minimum, keep one near the kitchen; having one per floor isn’t a bad idea. Annually, check the indicator on the pressure gauge to make sure the extinguisher is charged. Make certain that the lock pin is intact and firmly in place, and check that the discharge nozzle is not clogged. Clean the extinguisher and check it for dents, scratches, and corrosion. Replace if the damage seems severe. Fire extinguishers that are more than six years old should be replaced. Mark the date of purchase on the new unit with a permanent marker.

 

Every bedroom, including basement bedrooms, should have two exit paths. Make sure windows aren’t blocked by furniture or other items. Ideally, each upper-floor bedroom should have a rope ladder near the window for emergency exits. Review what to do in case of fire, and arrange a safe meeting place for everyone away from the house.

 

It’s time for the fall cleanup. Get rid of accumulations of old newspapers and leftover hazardous household chemicals. (Check with your state or local Environmental Protection Agency about the proper way to discard dangerous chemicals.) Store flammable materials and poisons in approved, clearly labeled containers. Keep a clear space around heaters, furnaces, and other heat-producing appliances.

certified and verified contractors

What does it mean to hire a licensed, bonded and insured contractor?

Let’s face it, every one of us homeowners wants to do business with a reputable company who will deliver what they promise. We want quality work at a fair price and we want that customer service to be top notch. Hiring a contractor with the right certifications and credentials can be the difference between a happy hiring experience and a home improvement nightmare we all know too well.

Doing your homework as a homeowner is a super important step in the hiring process and luckily for you, we take care of all that by screening every single one of our home professionals. Besides the certifications and credentials we verify, all home professionals must agree to the Kijenga Pledge, ensuring the standard we set is at the highest right from the start.

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That being said, what does it mean to hire a contractor that is licensed, bonded and insured?

Let’s start with licensing. If you’re confused about if a contractor you are hiring is licensed, you’re definitely not alone. Here in Saskatchewan, there is a set standard for a contractor to follow the rules and regulations. A contractors license generally involves a registration with the license-issuing agency and includes proving the contractor holds the minimum insurance and/or bonding as required by the municipality. Oftentimes, a license is required for a contractor to pull a permit at the local building department. Contractors are able to purchase a business license directly from city hall.

Licensing protects the homeowner be helping ensure that contractors meet the minimum insurance requirements. By hiring a contractor that is not licensed, it can cost you in a number of ways. For example, if your project required a building permit and your contractor was to pull one but failed to do so by being unlicensed, a city building inspector may stop the work until he or she is satisfied a licensed contractor has obtained the proper permits.

If you do end up hiring a contractor outside of Kijenga that is not licensed, you must understand the issues that may arise. If a problem with the project occurs after the work is completed, you may find yourself “shit outta luck”.

It should be noted that there are trade-specific licenses for electricians, plumbers and HVAC technicians. These contractors require much more specific knowledge and experience than basic contractor licenses.

A contractor obtaining a trade-specific license often means that they have completed a minimum number of hours of working experience as an apprentice in the trade and that they have completed and passed a standardized test based on their trade. They will likely complete continued education courses to renew their license and keep it valid along the way.

What does it mean if my contractor is bonded?
Depending on where you live, contractors may be required to be “bonded” in order to obtain a license. That is not the case here in Saskatchewan. That being said, if a contractor is bonded it means they must purchase a surety bond which acts as a form of insurance to protect you the homeowner if he or she fails to complete the job properly or fails to pay for permits, sub-contractors or other financial commitments.
Bonding requirements will vary from province to province and city to city so it’s in your best interest to know the rules where you do live.

It is important to note that most homeowners don’t realize that a contractor’s bond may also protect them from being held accountable with an unpaid supply bill or the cost of unpaid workers that were hired for the job. One step further, a bond could cover any damage to the property as a result of a contractors negligence. If there is lost or stolen property, this bond is your best friend.

The agency involved in the bond is usually a surety company, which requires the contractor to pay regular premiums to continually renew the bond. These premiums are factored similarly to insurance plans, as they take into consideration both the amount that the bond covers and the history of the contractor.

To receive monetary compensation for an unsatisfactory performance, a homeowner would have to contact the surety company and provide proof that the job was incomplete or that the contractor failed to pay for materials or other obligations that were contractor’s responsibility.

Bonds are not only beneficial for the homeowner, but for the contractor as well, since there are people who won’t hire a contractor who doesn’t offer the protection of a bond. There are many suppliers and subcontractors who will only work with a contractor who has a bond in place as well.

To determine whether or not your contractor is bonded, ask him or her for a bond number and certification. You should take extra precautions to ensure that both the bond and the license are up to date as well. At Kijenga, we don’t require a Kijenga Pro to be bonded but there are many that carry the certification.

Why does insurance matter?
Most provinces require that contractors demonstrate proof of insurance as part of obtaining a trade license. Insurance for a contractor will typically fall into two main categories. There is liability insurance and workers compensation.

  • Liability — Covers property damage and injuries caused by the contractor’s work. It will not normally pay the cost of repairing or replacing bad work; that’s the purpose of the bond.
  • Workers’ compensation — Provides payments to injured workers, without regard to who was at fault in the accident, for lost wages and medical services. It also provides benefits to the contractor’s family in the event of death. If the owner is the only employee, WCB may or may not be required, depending on the province. Here in Saskatchewan you don’t require WCB if you are the only employee of the company.

Without these types of contractor insurance, consumers could end up paying out of their own pocket if their homeowner’s policy is insufficient to cover the bills should a contractor become injured or an accident occurs on the consumer’s property.

Any home professional you hire should be insured. All Kijenga Pros carry insurance as per our certification and screening process so you can feel comfortable in those contractors you do hire through Kijenga.com.

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Here is common terminology for you.

Licensed: Contractors have been granted a trade license as mandated by provincial and local laws. It generally requires passing competency tests about business practices and trade skills, paying a fee and proving insurance and/or bonding.
Registered: Typically less stringent than licensing, it often requires contractors to prove insurance and pay a fee, only sometimes requires bonding and rarely tests competency. A few places use licensing and registration interchangeably.
Bonded: Contractors have an arrangement with a third party (a private bond issuer or a recovery fund held by the licensing municipality). Homeowners may petition for reimbursement through that third party if contractors harm them financially because of shoddy work or failure to pay subcontractors as promised.
Insured: All contractors you hire should be insured. If you’re hiring a contractor outside of Kijenga, ask to see a Certificate of Insurance, then call to verify the policy is current and has enough coverage for your project.