Renovation Tips

It’s time for something fresh!

So your house is falling apart, or you’re tired of the old outdated finishes, and it’s time to rejuvenate some life into your home!

Where do you start? How much will it cost? How long will it take?  Will we get taken for a loop by a bad contractor?  You may be thinking “jeez this is stressful already and I haven’t even started”.  But don’t worry.  There are things you can do to answer these questions BEFORE you even swing a hammer or sign a cheque.

Pre plan
Planning out your project is key to getting through a renovation without losing your sanity or emptying your bank account from unexpected costs. Determine the extent of what you’d like to do and decide as best you can all of the details that matter most to you.  Consider kitchen style, type of countertops, trim, flooring etc. This can even be done before you hire a contractor and will help your renovator to give you a completely accurate estimate with a much smaller contingency. Things come up in construction but many can be addressed if a solid plan is in place prior to beginning. Your contractor may suggest changes based on budget and how new products mesh with an older home but it’s helpful to have your needs and wants outlined from the start.

Hire the right company
Selecting a contractor to work on your home can seem daunting.  But asking the right questions and having a contract in place can take away the worry and make your project as fun and enjoyable experience as possible. Seeing the steps of your home transform is as interesting for most as it is exciting.

Selecting a company that has experience in the specific job you want done is a great place to start.   If it’s a specific job like new siding, a new roof or even a deck or fence, get in touch with companies that specialize.  They do the same job day in and day out and are the best at their trade.

If it’s a large renovation that includes multiple trades such as an addition or entire floor renovation.  Be weary of contractors that are “jack of all trades” because as the saying goes they’re usually master of none.  Most large scale renovators use almost entirely sub trades to do the work such as paint, tile, trim, plumbing, electrical and hvac. In this case your general contractors crew will typically be in charge of things like demolition and maintaining the site as well as assisting the sub trades and being the eyes and ears on site for the general contractor.  Your general’s job is essentially to organize the project according to the timeline while keeping you the customer in the loop with progress and changes.

Customer References
The most important overlooked part of hiring someone for your project is customer references.  Happy clients are typically proud to show off their renovations and are happy to assist their contractor in making new customers feel comfortable.

BUT WAIT don’t just go have a peek at the wonderful job they’ve done. Ask if the project was on budget from start to finish. Or if the extra costs were agreed upon upgrades chosen by the customer during the project, or things that came up that were beyond the contractor’s control and were unreasonable to anticipate prior to starting.

The other key question is how was the experience?  Was there good communication between the contractor and customer about progress and any arising issues? How were the crews onsite? Were they respectful and left the job site in a good state each day.  Did the contractor give the customer a good idea of things that would or wouldn’t be affected by the project and how to live with and work around the project to maintain as normal a lifestyle as possible during the reno. You’d be surprised at how many customers spend tens of thousands of dollars with contractors and don’t even get any references!

The contract
Customer contractor agreements don’t have to be full of legal jargon that’s hard to understand or full of fine print. Typically they’re quite the opposite. A good approach is to write down all of the questions listed above and any other expectations you may have during the project. As well as the finishes / product selections for your project and the expected timeline. As you read your proposed contract just make sure all of your questions are answered in wiriting and you’re good!

Payment
The last step to getting started is having a pay schedule in place.  A possible deposit will depend on the type of job.  Be sure to discuss interim payments throughout the project and at what stage a remaining amount is due. By law a customer is able to withhold 10% for 45 days starting when the job is reasonably completed.  This lets you make sure small things are buttoned up and that your contractors sub trades are all paid up with no issues. A rule of thumb I go by is that you should always owe your contractor slightly more than you’ve received. If there’s no material onsite don’t pay for it. If there are no deposits required to say order a kitchen or maybe secure a deal on a product, then why give the contractor money they don’t need? Any reputable company that’s been in the business will be able to float the job financially until the next milestone and payment in your schedule.

Outline your project, do your research on your trades or general contractor.  Keep the ball in your court financially.  Lastly communicate, communicate, communicate! You’ll enjoy and survive your next house project and keep it feeling like a home!

Patrick Taylor, DCL Director
Quality Carpentry