1. How Do I Find the Right Contractor?
No matter where I go, this is the number one question I get asked. Hiring the right person for your renovation is crucial. Get it wrong and the whole project can be a disaster. Take your time. You’re about to spend your hard earned money on upgrades to your home so don’t rush to hire the first person who answers the call.
Check references and ask plenty of questions. How much of a down payment did they ask for? Was the contractor on time and on budget? How happy are you with the final project and did the work stand the test of time? Don’t be shy about asking questions. Just think of the amount of money you’re investing in the project. It makes sense to get it right the first time. Trust me – you don’t want to end up on one of my shows.
Ask to see a valid license; a good contractor will always have one. And make sure they have valid insurance, including full liability insurance and WSIB clearance. Without insurance, if someone gets injured on the project site, they might come after you with a lawsuit.
Once you’ve found the right contractor, get a contract. A contractor is not a contractor without a proper contract. The contract should contain every detail of the job so you know exactly what to expect. Details like materials and products being used, as well as subcontractors that will be working on the project, should all be listed on the contract. And don’t forget the payment schedule which should be tied to milestones rather than dates. Review the contract carefully, and don’t sign anything until you’re sure.
2. Do I Need to Get Permits for My Renovation?
Absolutely you do! And your contractor should know this, although it is your responsibility to get the necessary permits. I often hear of homeowners saying that a permit is just a cash grab and with the increase in the value of their home due to a renovation, they want to keep it off the record so their taxes don’t go up. This is just not smart.
Trust me when I tell you that a building permit is your protection. It’s your guarantee that the job is safe and has been done at least to minimum code. Think about it – if you’re having electrical work done, wouldn’t you want to make sure that it’s done safely and to code? A municipal building inspector will check that the work is above board and a record goes on file with the municipality that the renovation has passed inspection. It provides you with peace of mind and is important for insurance purposes and if you ever decide to sell your home.
3. How Do I Budget for a Renovation?
Budgeting is so important for a renovation and if it’s not done properly, it can be very stressful (and renovations are stressful enough!). Be realistic about what you can afford and always budget for those unexpected surprises that may pop up along the way. I recommend budgeting about 20 percent to cover these unexpected surprises.
Making a list of your renovation priorities will also help to decide on where you’d like to splurge and where you’d like to save. If your dream floors are out of your price range, then hold off on your renovation until you can afford them. You don’t want to settle on something only to turn around 5 years later and spend money on a redo. Be smart about where you allocate your costs; don’t waste money on cheap materials that won’t stand the test of time. Make it right the first time.
4. My Home Needs a Lot of Work. How Do I Know Where to Start?
Simple. You always start from the outside-in. We’d all love that gourmet kitchen or professionally finished basement. But these finishes are pointless if you have foundation issues or if you have a leaky roof. Always protect the building envelope first and then you can focus on those fancy finishes.
5. We’re on the Home Stretch of a Major Renovation. What Should We Be Looking For?
Before you hand over that final payment, do a thorough walk through your renovation site and take note of anything that remains incomplete or that will cause you concern. Are there any paint touch-ups needed? Are all fixtures caulked and sealed properly? Are faucets working as they should? Are appliances working properly? Going through this checklist with your contractor now will ensure that all your questions and concerns are addressed before your contractor deems the renovation complete.
6. What’s the Best Advice You Can Give to a Family Who is About to Embark on a Major Renovation?
My best advice is to move out. Renovations are stressful and that stress can run extra high if you’re living in the renovation space. That’s why I call it divorce dust! It’s also not good to be living in renovation dust. My crew seals off the area being renovated, but there’s always the chance of dust escaping. So if you can, do yourself and your family a favour and live elsewhere until the project is complete.
Images courtesy of The Holmes Group and Getty Images.