15 questions you need answered before settling on a renovation contractor
It’s decided then! After surviving lockdowns, working from home, and being with the kids 24/7, your down-the-road renovation project can’t be put off any longer – we hear you! Challenges posed by the pandemic have caused many households to take a hard look at their home environment. Some have moved to find a house that better suits their needs. Others are attached to their city or neighbourhood but think their house needs a serious makeover to provide a better home base.
The solution is to renovate. But what is involved and where do you start? Here are nine tips to prepare for a successful major renovation.
This first step is often overlooked or poorly documented. Making a list of what you want to improve will not only help guide your choices but also help establish what you like about your house (i.e., the features and rooms you want to keep as is).
What major renos are you thinking about undertaking? An extension or floor addition? Do you want to finish your basement or renovate your kitchen? Talk about your needs and how you envision your new and improved home.
What’s your style? Do some research, get inspired by the latest trends, and make a note of what catches your eye.
There are huge costs associated with a major renovation so it’s important to get the biggest bang for your buck. Where will you be in 10 years? If the kids are leaving the nest in three years, perhaps it’s not necessary to build them a study area just because they took over the kitchen table during the last lockdown! This type of analysis is key to determining your needs.
Think about your neighbourhood’s ability to handle your renovation. For example, if houses in your area are selling for around $300k, make sure that your home will not cost $750k after renovations are completed. You don’t want to have the most expensive house on the block! Well, not unless you can afford it and plan to live there for the next 20 years. It’s up to you.
The feasibility of your project must be assessed once your needs have been determined. You should contact a residential architecture expert, such as an architect or architectural technologist, who can develop a renovation plan.
How do you go about finding a professional to help? Some companies offer a turnkey service where the architect comes to your home to study the project and provide you with a feasibility assessment plus a ballpark idea of costs involved. This is the case for Drummond House Plans, a company with branches across Quebec.
A residential architecture expert will examine your home, its structure, and its ability to integrate your renovations. They will produce a survey of your home and add changes to it, developing a first draft of your plan.
With your draft plan in hand, you can contact renovation contractors to request quotes.
Note that most contractors will provide you with a flat rate estimate of the work. If the project has complex parts or some that will be subcontracted (work done by an electrician, for example), those parts could be separately added to the contract, sometimes with an hourly rate.
Major renovations can sometimes reveal surprises and unexpected issues. Indeed, a contractor can stumble across structural problems to fix, weakened or damaged beams, plumbing pipes to move, water infiltration, or even discover the electrical system is not up to code. These changes will be discussed along the way but could impact the time spent on the job, as well as the final bill.
After you’ve received your quotes, it’s time to make some tough decisions as quotes are often higher than initially expected. You could incorporate some changes to stay within your budget. When you are satisfied with your choices, send these changes to your renovation expert. They will adjust the final layout.
It is strongly recommended that your contractor and renovation expert work together. Their exchanges could generate excellent ideas based on their respective experiences and strengthen a connection that could prove to be useful throughout the project.
One of the most important aspects of a renovation project is to include a safety net of at least 20% in your budget for surprises and spur-of-the-moment decisions. Most renovation projects experience cost overruns, so be prepared!
Remember to ask your contractor a lot of questions. Talk about how you want to be informed about unexpected issues that arise and add the agreed-upon process to the contract.
Meet with a financial advisor who can help establish your budget and discuss available financing options.
It also doesn’t hurt to research available grants. You may be eligible for a grant such as the Canada Greener Homes Grant if renos will increase the energy efficiency of your home or you could take advantage of beneficial rates through a program such as the Desjardins Green Home Program.
It is highly recommended not to remain in your home during major renovations (kitchen, bathroom, moving walls, etc.). Noise, dust, early arrival time of workers on site, constant comings and goings, water or electricity shutoff, washing dishes in the bathtub, clothes scattered around because closets were taken out, bathroom without working shower… you get the idea!
It is therefore advisable to live offsite (e.g., rent a house or apartment, camp out) while the work is being done.
Think about your stuff: will you need to store the contents of certain rooms while work is being carried out? Plan to rent a storage unit or ask a close friend or family member with a big basement or spacious shed to store your belongings!
Contact your insurance provider to update your home insurance file. The premium could be adjusted while your project is ongoing if there is any likelihood that renovations will cause damage.
Furthermore, the insurance may be revised to reflect the value of your home after renovations are completed.
Major renovations can disrupt daily life, generate expenses, require decision-making, and certainly trigger stress levels. Remember it won’t last forever and keep in mind that it’s for your long-term comfort. So, relax and think about how good life will be in your newly renovated home.
Author : Yves Carignan
President & CEO, Drummond House Plans
Originally from Windsor, ON, Yves Carignan has a degree in business administration with a specialization in marketing from the University of Sherbrooke. In 1997, he started at Drummond House Plans in network development. In 2002, he and his wife Marie-France Roger purchased the company and have been managing it ever since. Yves is a father of three and spends his free time practicing hockey, golf, and cycling. He also enjoys going on walks and taking trips.
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