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INDUSTRY EXPERT: Stress Buster

Stress Buster: Avoid needless home improvement stress with these simple steps

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Stress Buster: Avoid needless home improvement stress with these simple steps

Regular communication between you and your renovator is essential and may avoid problems.

Canadians love their homes. So much so that homeowners spent nearly $73 billion in 2017 on renovations, according to the Altus Group. That’s $20 billion more than is spent annually on building new homes across the country.

Unfortunately, everyone has a horror story about a home renovation gone wrong, from losing their deposit, spending more than you anticipated, or a project that took too long to finish. The reality is that the average homeowner doesn’t know all they should know when undertaking a renovation project.

Photography: Bigstock.com
Photography: Bigstock.com

To avoid disappointment and to set you on a path toward a successful renovation, RenoMark has come up with five steps to a worry-free renovation.

  1. Define your project. The more you know what you want out of the renovation, the more accurately the renovators can help you achieve that goal.
  2. Set your budget and expectations on the same path, if they are not realistic or in alignment, then you will be disappointed before you even start.
  3. Select the right renovator, you should look to reputable organizations such as RenoMark as a source of professional companies. Plus, these companies must adhere to the RenoMark code of conduct and the Association’s code of ethics, this alone means that they are a professional and not a fly-by-night company.
  4. Sign a contract. The contract should be reviewed by a lawyer and it will be the basis of understanding for the work moving forward. At a minimum, it should include costs, payment schedule, construction timeline, product-specific details, a communication protocol, warrantee clause, and a close-out plan. Avoid renovators who offer to do work without a contract in an attempt to avoid paying the HST. This type of renovator may also not be paying worker’s compensation or carry adequate insurance, leaving you at financial risk.
  5. Check on Progress. Regular communication between you and your renovator is essential and may avoid problems. During the course of a renovation, it is common for the homeowners to request changes or ask for additional work. These requests may affect the cost and time it takes to complete your project. It is important that you have a signed change order for all changes. Finally, remember to ask questions. The last thing anybody wants is to make an assumption or a guess that may lead to an error and then disappointment.

RenoMark.ca is a great resource to help you find the right renovator. RenoMark was established by the GTA-based Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD) to identify professional contractors that have agreed to abide by a renovation-specific Code of Conduct. The RenoMark program has been endorsed by the Canadian Home Builders’ Association and the Ontario Home Builders’ Association.

David Wilkes is president and CEO of the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD), the voice of the home building, land development and professional renovation industry in the GTA.

For the latest industry news and new home data, follow BILD on Twitter, Facebook, BILD’s official blog, and bildgta.ca.


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Communicating with Contractors and Suppliers

Communicating with Contractors and Suppliers

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Communicating with Contractors and Suppliers

by Samantha Sannella

The first step in any good partnership is to select at least three contractors/suppliers who can meet your requirements based on several criteria, including:

  • They should have relevant experience and expertise in what you are trying to accomplish so look for a portfolio of projects. Good vendors can provide photos and reference letters. Also check to see if they are licensed and insured and if they use certified products and installation methodologies.
  • They should have a process in place that you can understand and follow. If you are unfamiliar with their technical terms, ask them to explain or use the power of the internet to educate yourself.
  • They should be able to provide references for successful projects that are similar to your own. Keep in mind that it is nice to hear good things about the contractor, but always ask where mistakes were made and how they rectified them. How your vendor resolves issues is an important part of the relationship. Customer service is key.
  • The lowest price isn’t necessarily the one that you should choose. Consider a cost benefit analysis to weigh the cost of the project against the potential quality outcome. My motto is, “The bitter taste of poor quality remains much longer than the sweet taste of a low price.”

Define the Commitments

You should receive a project plan that defines the scope, estimate and schedule for their work. You also need to come to a mutual agreement as to what each side will deliver to the other. You will increase your project’s chance of success by defining your commitments and the contractor’s commitments.

Ask for a written estimate of all materials and labour up front before any agreement is in place. This should be delineated by phase. For example, I have seen many estimates where the contractor or vendor quotes a lump sum for the bottom line without providing the details. If a contractor cannot provide details in a written format, you are increasing your risk that something will go awry.

Maintain Consistent Communication

Do not get caught waiting for a “magical result” several weeks or months in the future. Instead, actively communicate and work with your contractor through reports and inspections of the work completed.

To manage the contractor, you need to maintain contact with them. Demand regular status reports or meetings that describe their accomplishments to date, what work is still in progress, and what has not been started. These should be measured in work hours, days or weeks, something that you can convert into a dollar amount. Do not accept percentages as units of measurement. A project can be 90 per cent done for months or even years. I know many people who have jobs that stopped at 90 percent.

Final Inspection

Final inspection is an important part of the job. When negotiating the contract, always hold back 10 or 15 per cent of the total cost until the job is 100 per cent complete. This will provide incentive for the vendor to finish all the work in a manner satisfactory to the owner.

Professional architects and interior designers inspect the contractor’s work in a formal process called a deficiency list or punch list and are responsible for approving invoices to the clients as work progresses. It’s a tedious but useful process as you make a list of all deficiencies — it requires a keen visual inspection to note even the smallest details, such as a crooked light switch plate on a northwest wall, or the lack of caulking at the corner of a sink.

Your goal should be to obtain the best possible quality construction for the most reasonable price. At the completion of a satisfactory job, you should offer the vendor the ability to photograph the work as well as offer them a letter of reference for their file.

SAMANTHA SANNELLA, BFA ID, M ARCH, is a designer, educator and principal at Urban Retreat Homes.

She is an expert in the field of design and construction and is a columnist for RENO & DECOR and editor of the Ontario Design Trade Sourcebook.

urbanretreathomes.com



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