Tag Archives: Reno Advice

Reno Advice: No Permit, No Way!

No permit? No way

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No permit? No way

Would you have someone fix your brakes without knowing if that person was qualified to do so? Would you be fine with driving off without knowing if the job was properly inspected? Well, if you’re thinking about doing a renovation without a building permit, hit the brakes. It’s a car crash waiting to happen.

Short-sighted savings

No permit? No problem. That’s what some people believe. They couldn’t be more wrong. It’s a costly disaster in the making. Permits exist to protect you and your biggest investment – your home. A permit is your insurance and peace of mind. It is not something to be avoided.

People may sidestep the permit process thinking they will save time and money. That couldn’t be further from the truth. If a neighbour or unhappy tenant complains and an inspector shows up, redoing the work will be way more costly and time-consuming. Or worse, a fire starts because electrical work wasn’t done to code. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen scenarios like this play out first-hand, since my company is often called in to remedy this complicated mess.

Keep it above board

Don’t do it. And don’t trust a contractor that would. Anyone with a sound reputation as a builder would never risk doing a job this way. Only a fly-by-night outfit would even consider doing a job without a building permit. Besides, they – and you – are breaking the law. Would you have faith in someone willing to do that? Would you entrust that person to do your renovation properly? I didn’t think so.

Proper measures protect your property

Building according to code and standards is also civically responsible. Permits protect property owners, but moreover, maintain the integrity of our world-class city. Safe, sustainable buildings are the very foundation of vibrant communities.

The last word

Here’s another cautionary tale I know all too well. We’ve seen this movie before. Think about what will happen when you want to sell your house. A home inspector will surely point out any building infractions or discrepancies. This will undoubtedly lead to a slew of unwelcome surprises like untold expenses, delays and stress, at a time when you are likely making a critical life move and expecting to reap the benefits of the equity you’ve worked so hard to build. Forget the open house, you’ve just opened up a can of worms. The very things you’re trying to save – time and money – can come back to haunt you tenfold in the form of a dreaded redo. Building without a permit is saving pennies today only to lose dollars tomorrow.

GUY SOLOMON is the founder and CEO of Penguin Basements.


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The five quotes trap

The five quotes trap

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The five quotes trap

Avoid the risk, fallacy, and the utter waste of time of getting five quotes on a renovation job. It’s just plain wrong.

Yes, you read that right.

It may sound prudent, but inviting a parade of salespeople into your home to quote up a storm is about as impractical and misguided as you can get. Believe it or not, you are actually exposing yourself to risk, while being under the impression that you’re mitigating it. More quotes do not equal more savings, or getting a better handle on the project. Rather, they equal more uncertainty with no way of knowing which sales rep – a trained master manipulator – is being straight with you.

The con-testants and the con-test

So, let’s imagine this contractor contest for a moment. There’s the doorbell. Bring in the first contestant. Now you’re the judge. How do you know who is telling the truth? What’s the real scope of the work? When you eliminate the lowest quote, do you legitimize the second lowest? How do you know you’ll get quality service and labour? Do you have the expertise to know the answers to any of these questions? Or do you just feel lucky?

Consider the source

Oh sure, you’ve read reviews online. Plenty. Do you know these people? Can you trust them? Are they even real? Have you seen the work they’re glorifying? You get where this is going.

Let’s look at it another way. Would you look for five quotes if you needed dental work? Based on reviews you have no way of vetting? No, you would seek out a credible recommendation from someone you know and trust.

More than words

So let’s break down why getting multiple renovation quotes makes no sense.

For starters, quotes and salespeople will tell you what you can easily find out yourself, the material costs. Just ask Mr. Google. You’ll get the same numbers.

What about labour? How can a quote guarantee the competency, professionalism and skills of the labourers? Let alone confirm things like criminal background checks or WSIB (Workplace Safety and Insurance Board) clearance. It can’t.

As for service, these master manipulators will promise you the moon. What happens in practice may be an entirely different story. There are no guarantees.

Bet on your lead horse

So, the five quotes odyssey is really an exercise in futility. Don’t go down this path, it’s a crapshoot. The greatest risk you run is not having a bona fide referral. When you have that, you have your lead horse. Not a shady sales merchant competition. In a fraction of the time it would take to form a list of renovation outfits to quote and meet with, you can ask people you know and trust to point you in the right direction. That’s time well-spent.

A qualified referral from a trusted friend or acquaintance is priceless.

So, focus your energy on getting the winning referral. You’re not after a quote – you need a contractor with a reputation built on a long-standing track record, one that executes a consistent process, with scale and provides a proven systematic method of accountability. You’re not going to find this with online roulette.

So, word to the wise – keep the master manipulators out of your home. Go with a lead-horse strategy recommended by a trusted source and tilt the odds in your favour. Beware of the five quotes.

GUY SOLOMON is the founder and CEO of Penguin Basements.


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