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Where Are They Now? Part 1 of 5

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Where Are They Now? Part 1 of 5

May marks our 7th anniversary. Happy anniversary to us! In light of that, we thought we’d revisit a piece from our April/May 2016 fifth anniversary issue where we caught up with some contractors we’d profiled in earlier editions.

Dan MacKay Construction
Location: Delbert, N.S.
Employees: 5
Annual Revenue: No available
Appeared in: July/August 2011


“I just finished a house yesterday,” Dan MacKay told us during a recent interview. “I love doing the final inspection. Making sure everyone’s happy.” This Nova Scotia-based company still does about two new builds a year, and fills in the gaps with smaller renovation jobs.

That build was a 2,400-sq.-ft. bungalow with some upscale details – a tray ceiling, some nice outdoor lighting – just outside Truro. Recently, MacKay and his team completed a showpiece of a 7,000-sq.-ft. home in the same subdivision. (Yes, word of mouth still lands the company most of its jobs.) That three-story home took nine months to complete.


Not much has changed at the company in recent years. MacKay still focuses on doing top-quality work and planning ahead so there are few gaps in the calendar. But there’s a bit more talk of “being selective” with projects, and golfing.

MacKay Construction is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year and the main members of the team – Rod Nelson and Hal Otter son – are still on board as they have been since the early days. “I do plan on slowing down a bit in the next few years. We’re good for a bit. I’m 61 now,” says MacKay.


His other passion – golf – might be taking up a bit more of his time, particularly in the offseason, as he travels to Florida every March. He’s also part owner in a nearby golf course.

With much of his team close to his age too, he’s not sure the long-term future of the brand. There’s still time to plan for that, and still enough passion for the work, and enough work, to keep MacKay Construction going strong. “I still love doing it.”

—By Diane Peters



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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.



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Industry Expert: BILD

Industry Expert: First Things First

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Industry Expert: First Things First

by Bryan Tuckey

Simplify the building permit process by entrusting your renovation to a professional

Now that you’ve decided to renovate your home, the first step is to do your homework and determine what building permits you might need.

Most construction, renovations, alterations and demolitions require a building permit. For instance, in many municipalities you need a permit for constructing separate rooms in your basement, but you probably don’t need one if you are building a fence, unless it is one that will enclose a pool.

Too often people question the importance of permits and sometimes they are tempted to undertake projects without having required permits in place. However, that is very short-sighted. Permits help protect you, your home and your community by making sure your project is structurally sound and follows all regulations.

Unprofessional renovators may be willing to do work without obtaining permits. Forgoing required permits may seem like a way to speed up your renovation and save money upfront, but it could very likely result in renovation deficiencies and added costs down the road. You could be faced with substantial fines and then having to redo the work. Lack of required permits may affect your home’s insurance coverage and you could also run into problems when you sell your home.

Local municipalities issue permits and application processes, and the rules governing building permits, can vary depending on where you live. Getting a building permit can be a complicated process. It can take several weeks or even months to obtain, and it can be a bit overwhelming, so a good approach is to work with a professional renovator who is experienced with permit applications.

RenoMark professional renovators are very experienced with permits and they will guide you through the process. They will assess your project and explain whether or not a permit is needed and what it will take to get one and they will work on your behalf to acquire them.

A critical step in obtaining your permit is ensuring that your project complies with the Ontario Building Code, municipal zoning and other applicable laws. Working with a professional renovator is the most efficient way to obtain permits. Your renovator is the project manager for your renovation and he/she will bring in the right people such as architects or engineers to get any necessary drawing for the permit application process. Make sure that the costs for additional professional services are discussed upfront and included in your renovation contract.

After you’ve obtained your permit and started construction, your renovator will arrange for all inspections required under the permit.

BILD created the RenoMark program in 2001 to help homeowners distinguish professional renovators from underground contractors. A key feature of the program is the RenoMark Code of Conduct by which all members agree to abide. It mandates that they provide written contracts for all jobs, have at least $2 million in liability insurance and offer a minimum of two years warranty on all work. Find a RenoMark professional at renomark.ca.

Bryan Tuckey is president and CEO of the Building Industry and Land Development Association and a land-use planner who has worked for municipal, regional and provincial governments.

Follow him on Twitter @bildgta, facebook.com/bildgta, and bildblogs.ca.


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