BEFORE YOU RENOVATE
Renovating your home should be an enjoyable and exciting experience. Whether it involves improvements to your kitchen or a major addition to your home, renovation is all about making your home more comfortable and satisfying to live in.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of Canadians undertake home renovation projects. Most projects are successful and the home owners are satisfied with the results. Unfortunately, there are also cases where things don’t work out as planned. This usually happens when home owners don’t get professional advice and assistance when they need it.
While any renovation project will bring a measure of disruption to your daily routine, we believe that renovating your home should be satisfying and deliver the results that you want.
What to Look For in a Renovator
Finding a professional renovator is not as difficult as it can sometimes seem. It’s the best to being with a list of the characteristics you should look for.
Presentation. Real professional renovators operate in a businesslike manner. They respect your schedule and show up for appointments on time. They present themselves well, are organized and deal with your questions and concerns directly. How a renovator deals with you before contract is signed tells you a lot about how you can expect to be treated once the job begins.
Communication. Renovation is a “people business”, and good renovators are good listeners and communicators. Professional renovators must “translate” your ideas and goals into a workable plan – this requires a solid working relationship and good rapport. If you’re not comfortable with renovators you interview, or don’t feel you can communicate with them effectively, you should keep looking to find the right person for your job.
Skill and Experience. Renovation can be a far more complex task than building a new home. It takes years of experience in the business before most renovators are ready to manage a major project on their own. Professional renovators have this type of work history in the industry and you should ask about it. When did they start the business and who have they worked for in the past? Have they completed projects that are similar in nature and size to the one you are planning? Do they regularly take part in industry training programs?
Track Record. A renovation contractor’s past customers are probably the most reliable source of information available to you. A professional renovator will be glad to provide a list of past customers who you can contact for personal references. Get this list and then follow through and make the calls.
Professional Reputation. Established renovators work with a network of other businesses within your community – banks, material suppliers and trades. You should ask a renovator for references to any of these people. Also, you should check with the local Better Business Bureau to find out if there have been any complaints filed against the renovator.
Your Local Home Builders’ Association. Ask renovators if they are members in good standing of the NSHBA. Most association members are established local firms with many years in business. Association membership is a good indication that a renovator is a committed professional. For a complete list of members in your area, please click here.
Be Clear About What You Want and Expect
It’s hard to get what you want if you don’t ask for it. In the home renovation business, the real professionals want to understand your expectations and needs. So don’t hesitate to “speak your mind”. If a renovator you talk with is not responsive to your questions, chances are you should choose someone else for your project.
- The renovator should help you define and plan your project. One of the benefits provided by professional renovators is their knowledge and experience in planning projects. You should expect renovators to offer suggestions about how to best achieve your renovation goals and what can be accomplished within your budget.
- When there are things about the renovator’s proposal that you don’t understand, ask questions. It’s the renovator’s job to explain things to your satisfaction. Good renovators want the opportunity to do this.
- Balance pride and value. A price that’s “too good to be true” probably is. The range of price quotes you get will reflect differences in the quality and materials, workmanship and management provided. If one renovator offers to do the job substantially less than other, there will always be a reason. If a renovator’s price seems out of line with others, ask for an explanation. Higher prices should reflect better-quality materials, finishing, features and service. The opposite is usually true when prices are lower than average. Make sure the price you choose will deliver the quality you want.
- Ask the renovator how hidden defects will be handled. With any renovation project, unanticipated problems will arise. For instance, the condition of wiring hidden in walls can’t be known until the job is under way. If hidden defects are uncovered, you need to know how your renovator will handle these problems. What’s important is that you are charged fairly and that any problem is fully explained to you before extra charges are incurred.
- Never agree to anything without a written contract. For more information on getting it in writing, please click here.
- Ask questions about the renovator. You need to let renovators know that character and reputation matter to you. A real professional can meet this test and will respect you for asking questions.
What if I Want to Do it Myself?
Do-it-yourself activities account for the vast majority of small renovations and home repair projects. For many home owners, these annual projects are a source of considerable enjoyment and pride. The only advice we offer is to consider your own skills and abilities when planning your projects – knowledge of building codes and good building practice is essential for many projects. Getting in “over your head” can end up costing more money than hiring a professional in the first place.
If you intend to carry out extensive renovations to you home in stages over a period of time, it is likely that some of this work is going to require professional assistance. Consider asking a renovator to look over your plans and provide advice and cost estimates on these portions of the work. A professional renovator will be glad to help you fine tune your plans.