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Home reno

Home construction and renovation the largest contributor to Canada’s underground economy

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Home construction and renovation the largest contributor to Canada’s underground economy

Home reno

Looking to custom-build a home or do your dream renovation – and save a few bucks by using unlicensed contractors? One, you’re not alone. And two, it could be a huge, costly mistake. Indeed, residential construction is by far the largest contributor to Canada’s underground economy, according to Statistics Canada. In 2016, this sector was responsible for 26.6 per cent – or $13.7 billion – of this activity, compared to 13.5 per cent for the retail trade, and 12.1 per cent for accommodation and food services.

The underground economy is defined as consisting of market-based economic activities, whether legal or illegal, that escape measurement because of their hidden, illegal or informal nature.

And the numbers are huge – totaling $51.6 billion in Canada for 2016, or 2.5 per cent of gross domestic product, and up 3.5 per cent from 2015.

The underground economy in Canada is even outperforming the total economy – increasing 3.5 per cent from 2015 to 2016, compared to the 2.0 per cent growth in total economy GDP.

Underground economy by province and territory

Ontario was responsible for the largest contribution in 2016 – $19.7 billion, compared to $11.9 million in Quebec, $7.6 billion in BC and $5.8 billion in Alberta.


As a percentage of GDP

PEI 3.1
Quebec 3.0
BC 2.9
Manitoba 2.6
Nova Scotia 2.6
Yukon 2.6
New Brunswick 2.5
Ontario 2.5
Saskatchewan 2.5
Nfld. 2.1
Alberta 1.9
NWT 1.1
Nunavut 0.8


Why you should care

Why should you care about this issue?

On a more global scale, underground economic activity means taxes are not collected – topay for programs and services such as healthcare, education, parks, child benefits, Old Age Security and Employment Insurance.

More directly for you, however, is that an “under the table” home reno or custom-build puts you at risk. Not only do you have limited recourse if the project is not done to your liking, or is over time and budget, but you could also could be liable if a worker is injured on-site during a home renovation or if you unknowingly purchase damaged goods or shoddy service with no receipt.

Always get a contract or receipt

Cash deals with no paperwork may mean a business isn’t paying its taxes. You may be liable if something goes wrong.

RenoMark protection

In the Greater Toronto Area, the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD) helps homeowners make informed decisions about renovation projects through a program called RenoMark. The program was established in 2001 and is now delivered in partnership with the Canadian Home Builders’ Association (CHBA) and local home builders’ associations across Canada.

RenoMark identifies professional contractors who have agreed to abide by a renovation-specific Code of Conduct. The Renovators Mark of Excellence makes it easy for homeowners to identify participating professional renovators who have agreed to provide a superior level of service.

Get it in writing

Make sure to get the details of any reno project in writing and signed by both you and your contractor. RenoMark Renovators provide a two-year warranty.

Do your research

Ask for at least three references and always check them

By dealing with reputable businesses that follow the rules, you’re also helping workers. Honest businesses follow health, safety and other employment standards.

The Canadian Home Builder’s Association also offers free and unbiased information on how to hire a contractor the smart and safe way, at getitinwriting.ca


Getting Started with Home Renovation

Reno Expert: Good Help Wanted

What you need to consider before renovating your home



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Tips on how to survive a home renovation

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Tips on how to survive a home renovation

By Jo Alcorn

As you may or may not know from my constant social media updates, I have been living through a massive kitchen renovation since September. That means three months without water, counters, floors and more.

Did I move out? No. How did I cope? Here I share a few tips and tricks on how to live in a home that is under construction and not go crazy in the process (okay, maybe just a bit crazy but that’s acceptable).


The inspiration collage is what kept me sane and helped me to keep the end product in mind when the going got tough. I would look at that gorgeous inspiration and know that — one day — it would all be mine. No pain, no gain right?


Compare that beautiful inspiration image to this, which was my reality for three months. To stay sane, and functional, and still live there, I had to find ways to make things work for all of us.


I have two sweet dogs that live with me, so I desperately needed to keep the space clean and tidy – not only for my own health but for their health and safety as well. I can’t tell you how many Swiffer pads I went through each day. I was constantly whipping that magic tool around, day in and day out. I’d start with the Swiffer Sweeper to trap and lock in all the dirt (and let me tell you there was a lot of dirt). Next, I’d use the Swiffer WetJet on the finished hardwood floors to clean up any remaining dirt and grime and make it a safe haven at the end of the night … until the dirt and dust appeared the next day and then I’d repeat.


I’m not sure if you can tell but I am a bit obsessed about cleanliness. It’s pretty hard for someone like me who lives in a tidy home to live through a reno. I turned to tools and products that would give me peace of mind, knowing they’d help keep my space as clean as it could be, for all of us. I tried Scrub Daddy for the first time during my renovation and it was life changing. This little sponge doesn’t scratch delicate surfaces and doesn’t require harsh chemicals, which I am totally against for my own health but also the health of my furry friends. The power of this little scrubber is amazing.

On top of cleaning the floors, it’s so important to clean surfaces, windows, tops of furniture and anything the might be mingled with dust. Because I am so against toxins and chemicals, I was thrilled when I found out about Thieves. This is an all-natural, 100 per cent pure, plant-based, essential oil cleaner from Young Living. Half a capful makes a full bottle of this cleaning goodness. One single Thieves bottle will make 26 full bottles of cleaner, and at $27.50, that is a steal. In addition to being all plant and essential oils based, it kills 99.96 per cent of airborne bacteria and germs, it’s safe around kids, and I don’t need to worry when my sweet pups come into contact with it. You can get Thieves from The Oil Girls Canada.

Speaking of cleaning, people often overlook cleaning the inside of their appliances. After, or even during a reno, if you still have appliances up and running it’s important to take care of them. Did you know that only 27 per cent of Canadians have cleaned the inside of their dishwasher in the past 12 months? Ewww! There are specially formulated tablets that actually clean the inside of dishwashers called Affresh. They clean the hard water and mineral deposits that accumulate in your dishwasher over time. During and after a reno is possibly the most important time to tackle this task.


Living without a kitchen is hard. I don’t mean kinda hard, I mean really hard. To stay sane I had to make sure I had access to appliances and alternate items so I was not breaking the bank every night eating out. My KitchenAid six-quarter slow cooker was my saviour. All you have to do is throw in your ingredients, let them simmer and have a meal at the end of the day. It also automatically goes into keep warm mode for up to four hours so you know you’ll have a hot meal to look forward to. The KitchenAid compact oven is also great if you are going to have to go longer periods of time without a kitchen (and mine was pretty long). It takes up a very small footprint, you can plug it in just about anywhere to make anything from roasted meats, fish and vegetables, to quiche, pizza, muffins and more.


Clean air is so importance to me because I have severe allergies. If you are living through a reno, or you have kids or pets, clean air should be a top priority. The Philips Air Purifier is proven to reduce allergens, odours, volatile organic compound emissions and even certain bacteria. The filter removes 99.97 per cent of allergens and pollutants while the active carbon filter reduces gases and odours from the air.


This might seem like an odd recommendation but another key to surviving a reno is to decrease your stress (and trust me I had a lot of it when there were hiccups in the delivery times, delays and changes that needed to be made, all which inevitably slowed down the process). Make sure you have a safe, clean retreat to get away to where you can rest and restore before conquering an entirely new set of challenges the next day. Soft pillows and a comfortable mattress (my new Bills Bed mattress sure came in handy these past few months) are absolute musts. You might also want to try out my new washable, hypoallergenic, cruelty-free, Canadian-made sleeping pillows and duvets — a good night’s sleep is just the blink of an eye away.

All in all, I think I am surviving just fine! My pups and I still live at home, eat at home and enjoy the rest of the house – no easy feat in these conditions! But these are sure to help you through the long weeks of a reno. Keep looking at your inspiration photos — it will all be worth it in the end.



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