TIPS + TOOLS

Before hiring a renovator, check these items off your list

November 19, 2018

Committing to a renovation is not something done lightly; after all, this is your home, your hard-earned dollars and your lifestyle at stake, which means you need to be prepared. With that in mind, here are 7 things to know and check off your list before hiring a renovator.

1. What’s your why?

The first thing you need to do is figure out why you want to renovate. What are the problems you’re trying to solve? Not enough space? Maybe you have space but it doesn’t function very well? Or maybe your home is outdated and needs a refresh? Whatever the reason, determining your why is key.

2. What’s your wish list?

Write a description of the work you want done, with as much detail as possible, but don’t think you have to design the space — leave that to the pros. Make sure you and your partner are on the same page. And try to figure out what is a must-have versus what is a want-to-have. That will help you prioritize if concessions need to be made.

3. What’s your budget?

Establish your budgetary threshold, keeping in mind that renovations can easily go over budget and it’s always a good idea to keep up to 25% of your budget in reserve for unexpected complications. With renovations, we never know what we’ll find when we open up the walls and if we uncover elements that are no longer up to code, we’re obligated to fix them whether they were part of the original budget and plan or not.

4. How do I know what kind of contractor to hire?

There are a variety of different options out there, and selecting the best fit is really based on how big or small the job is, your comfort level with construction, and how much time you’d like to invest.

If you’re changing just a single aspect, like plumbing, electrical or windows, that’s someone you can hire directly. But when the project is bigger, requiring more than one trade, then there are options.

You might want to consult an architect or designer and get plans drawn up, then look at hiring a project manager or general contractor. Going this route will require more involvement on your part, as well as a certain amount of knowledge regarding the renovation process.

Our favourite choice, of course, is opting for the design-build route, which puts everything under one roof, making the process simpler and streamlined.

5. Do I really need a contract?

The short answer is, YES!

The renovation industry is an interesting one: You actually don’t need any accreditation to become a renovator. We have over 1,900 renovators in Ottawa alone!

We go by the 10/80/10 rule when looking at choices of renovators:

  • 10% are the bottom of the barrel; they’re no good, out to steal your money.
  • 10% are the top of the heap: they’re organized companies that will ensure your project runs smoothly, on time and on budget.
  • 80% are in the middle; they’re probably good guys, but just in over their heads. This is often where we see the cash deals.

Bottom line: You have no legal recourse without a contract. A standard reno contract should include:

  • Start and completion dates.
  • Payment schedule.
  • Warranty details.
  • Proof of all required insurance, WSIB, permits, etc.
  • Detailed scope of work and drawings.

To keep yourself safe, avoid cash deals and always get it in writing!

6. How do I find a good contractor?

  • Ask family, friends and neighbours who have had similar work done for recommendations.
  • Visit the Greater Ottawa Home Builders’ Association, specifically checking their RenoMark certified renovators. RenoMark contractors are part of a national program that requires members to abide by a code of conduct that includes providing a detailed, written contract and offering a minimum two-year warranty.
  • Interview companies. You can download worksheets at com.
  • Ask for references from past customers — and contact them! Read reviews and testimonials on Houzz, GuildQuality, etc.

A good renovator will be responsible for:

  • Public liability and property damage insurance.
  • Identifying any necessary permits and ensuring all legal requirements are satisfied.
  • Worker’s compensation for all employees of the renovator or subcontractors (WSIB).
  • Removal of construction debris when the job is finished.
  • Warranties on all renovator-supplied work and materials (in addition to manufacturer’s warranties) for at least a year.

7. The secret ingredient

It’s not always mentioned, but a key thing to keep in mind when hiring a renovator is the relationship. It’s important to make sure that the company and key personnel you will be dealing with will be a good fit. After all, you’ll be working closely together for an extended period, on something that is deeply personal to you — your home. If the relationship is not a good fit, you won’t enjoy the process, there could easily be miscommunication and your needs might not be met.

So be sure to hire someone you trust!