• Dave Strang

A complete guide to starting a Home Renovation

Updated: Sep 19, 2019

Investing in your home is a prudent method of enhancing your financial assets. As the real estate market fluctuates, home renovations are a great way to add value to your home in the event that you decide to sell it somewhere down the line. However, some home renovations are long and drawn out projects. They involve stress and inconvenience on the part of the homeowner, not to mention a substantial financial investment. In theory, the long term value-add to the home makes the inconvenience worth it, but in a frustrating number of cases, there are many milestones and difficulties to be encountered before the final renovation is completed. But new innovations like Renoshield can help make the process go much more smoothly.


One of the most troubling difficulties that homeowners have to go through before the renovation even begins is finding a trustworthy contractor. According to a survey done in 2018 by Ipsos, nearly 2 out of 3 Canadians have problems finding a reliable contractor that they can trust. Whether it’s a bathroom renovation or a major home addon, it’s crucial that the process begins with a trusted professional who will walk you through the process. If you are thinking about renovating your home, these are some facts and tips that will give you the information you need to keep track of the project and allow it to go smoothly.


As stated above, embarking on a renovation project typically requires a substantial financial investment. According to Ipsos, Toronto saw the most renovation projects over the past few years. It also had the highest percentage of projects that were worth $100,000 or more. Montreal had the second-highest percentage of respondents who have had a renovation project in the previous 3 years, followed by Vancouver. Calgary was the only area to fall below the national average, with 64% of respondents saying that they had not done any renovation to their home for the previous 3 years.


Regardless of the budget in place for the project, homeowners are devoting a substantial amount of money to supplementing their home’s value. It’s a process that allows for personal financial growth in the long run, but the upfront investment is certainly an important factor to acknowledge. People are placing their trust in contractors by entering into these contracts, assuming that in the end, the work will be done and their investment will have a profitable payout. In reality, the process by which their home renovation takes place is much more complicated.



Of course, major home renovations naturally come with frustrations and problems, and it isn’t always the contractor's fault. There is any number of suppliers, employees, and third-party vendors that they are working with to complete the job, and in many cases slowdowns and project difficulties are unavoidable. In fact, on average 1 in 4 projects experienced an unexpected delay or late delivery.


In 1 in 5 cases on average, there were unexplained additional costs. Again, this is not necessarily the contractor’s fault directly. If they encounter a mitigating factor that prevents them from proceeding with the work as planned, it often requires a workaround that requires additional materials and manpower. However, beyond these 2 complaints, there are several more issues that are firmly within the contractor’s control which occur alarmingly often.


Bad finishing and sloppy work that has to be redone happen in nearly a third of all home renovations. Communication problems or a contractor failing to show up without any notification happen in around 20% of cases, nationwide. And in about 7% of cases, some kind of theft occurs.


Toronto had the highest percentage of deposit theft, followed closely by Montreal. In each case, the rate of deposit yet was in nearly 10% of renovation cases. Toronto was also most likely to have communication problems or an absent contractor. Within these survey results, it is very clear as to why Toronto and Vancouver are least likely to trust home contractors and most wary about entering into renovation projects with contractors.


How to Find a Reliable Contractor


These are a few ways to vet your options and find a reliable person to handle your home renovation. And if you’re looking for further support in finding a great contractor, Smart Reno can help find the perfect contractor for your unique home project.


First, decide what kind of renovation you want. If you go to contractors with only a vague idea of what you are looking for, it will be difficult for them to give you a quote- not to mention they might try to upsell you beyond what you are comfortable with! If you’re planning a bathroom renovation, list exactly what you want to be changed. If you are looking to add a patio or a backyard addition, decide on a budget and features that you need. Go into your first meeting with a clear-cut game plan.


Ask for references. Your friends and family who have had home renovations done are perfect resources for this. If they had a great experience, that’s a good place to start.


Interview multiple contractors. Treat this process the same way you would an interview for a position at work. Look for contractors who have done similar projects and ask them how they would approach your renovation. Each of their approaches might be different and this will allow you to see multiple options and hear different approaches. In addition, it will be easier to tell which of the contractors is more professional and experienced based on the way they answer your questions.


Expect them to be too busy to start immediately. If your contractor says that they can start at once, that is a major red flag. The best contractors are constantly busy and would rarely have the availability to start a new project at once. Of course, there could be a unique situation, so it isn’t a dealbreaker, but it is definitely something to look into before you sign on the dotted line.


Ask about subcontractors. A single person cannot build an entire addition to your home. You want to make sure that they actually have the employees they say they have, that they have been vetted, and they won’t be hiring random people off of the street.


Check licenses and litigation history. General contractors and most subcontractors should be licensed and you can typically find those licenses online through their websites or through licensing boards. Check the disciplinary boards and local court records to see if they have been cited in any cases. You should have a copy of the contractor’s license and copies of the licenses of the major subcontractors who will work on the job for your records as well.


Check references and online reviews. If you can talk to current clients, that’s ideal, but past clients will work as well. Online reviews are a good source of information, but remember to take them with a grain of salt, especially if they are anonymous. You’ll want to make sure the people actually used the contractor. Online reviews are useful, but they aren’t a substitute for checking references and keep in mind that in some cases, the complaints people post on the internet might have been outside of the contractor’s control.


Get everything in writing. Read through your contract thoroughly and make sure everything is documented including exactly what work will be done, what deadlines the contractor is expected to meet, the building materials, and the supplier. Be sure to outline progress payments and if the project changes at any point, make sure you get a written copy of the change order that includes all of the details, including the new work order, materials, and cost of the addition.


Use a payment management tool. There are some fantastic methods for setting up a payment schedule that ensures that the contractor is held accountable and the project is kept on track. Our new service, Renoshield, holds the funds for the duration of the project and is dispersed at pre-determined milestones when both the homeowner and the contractor agree that the milestone was met. This is a great way to keep yourself apprised of progress and make sure that the funds you’ve devoted to the project are dispersed only when the work is completed. Additionally, you should never sign a contract that uses the entirety of your construction budget. No matter how good the contractor is, there are almost always unexpected costs that are unavoidable if you want high quality, long-lasting results. Be prepared for those additional costs by estimating a 10-15% increase in the price over the course of the project.


Lay down ground rules. Discuss with the contractor heading up the project which areas of the house are open to workers and which are off-limits. These might include letting them know which bathroom to use or which rooms they will have access to. Ask that these be conveyed clearly to subcontractors. It’s not a bad idea to remove any valuables such as jewelry boxes from the vicinity during the work either. It’s rare that people have items stolen, but by taking treasured valuables out of the equation there won’t be any confusion if an item does go missing later.


Keep in contact with your contractor. Particularly for large jobs, it’s important that you speak to your contractor basically every day. Anything that you see as a potential issue will be harder and harder to fix as time goes on and more progress is made. It’s important that you keep tabs on your timeline and make sure that everything is going according to plan, or that if it isn’t, there are plans in place to address the difficulties.


Don’t make the final payment until the job is fully complete. In the renovation industry, a common complaint against contractors is that they finish most of the job but move on before they get to the final details. Obviously, this is incredibly frustrating to homeowners. To combat this, you should not make your final payment until you are satisfied with all of the work that has been done. If you use Renoshield, the final payment will stay in the application until you agree to release it.


Home construction projects, from bathroom renovations to major home transforming projects are always a difficult process to navigate. This isn’t made any easier for homeowners by the constant problems they face when dealing with contractors. To protect clients against this problem, we at Renoshield have launched a new service that helps homeowners and contractors build a foundation of trust. Our service holds funds during renovations to be dispersed when both the client and the contractor agree that the milestone has been reached. This prevents the theft of homeowner deposits and enhances the crucial communication necessary to keep homeowner renovation projects moving smoothly. If you are looking for a way to protect your investment in your home renovation, contact us here! Our team of experts would love to work with you.

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