Renovation Dos and Don’ts!

So much to do, so little time. Where do you start, where do you go, who do you talk to? The questions are limitless when it comes to your home and making sure that your investment is protected.

With renovations there are no cookie-cutter plans that help you magically transform your home with a wave of a wand. However, what you can do is follow some very critical steps and make sure you end up with a finished product that lights your face up with a smile when it’s done, rather than make you cringe with regret.

“The world is full of people who try to scam homeowners thinking they can get away with it,” says Paul Pettipas, Nova Scotia Home Builders’ Association (NSHBA) CEO. “I have in the past likened this industry to the wild west as there are no regulations in place to make sure builders or renovators are licensed.”

Pettipas adds that it is people who try to rip off the homeowners that gives the industry a bad name.

“We have a group of highly skilled professionals who want to work with home-owners and provide them with a quality product and a positive experience, yet many remember only the few bad apples.”

To make sure you are prepared for your renovation there are a number of Dos and Don’ts that you can consider to protect your assets.


Please Do…

Make a priority list.

There is a major difference between wants and needs and you should determine what needs to be done first. If you have a leaky roof, there isn’t much point in putting in a new kitchen first. Take care of the necessary repairs first, then look at your space requirements and if there are any changes to your family’s lifestyle.

Set your budget before you begin.

Know how much you are able to spend before you begin your project and be sure you allow 10 – 15% for your contingency fund. You always want to leave that extra room when renovating because once you open the walls, you don’t know what you may find, or perhaps when choosing your finishes there is something you really want included that was outside of the original scope of work.

Ask questions before you hire a contractor.

Find out about the company’s history, the services they offer and if they have ever completed a renovation similar to the one you would like to have done to your home.

Get a written contract.

There isn’t a lot that can be done to protect either the contractor or the homeowner without the protection of a written contract. The contract should include a full description of the work, materials and products that will be used; the payment and work schedules; what warranty is provided; and a list of the responsibilities of the homeowner and the builder. Cover your assets and get it in writing.


Please Don’t…

Forget to check references.

Checking references is a great way to talk to past clients of the contractor and gain a better understanding of how the company interacted with other homeowners, the quality of the work and whether or not the contractor finished the renovation on time and budget. One key question to ask is whether that person would hire the
contractor to do future projects. The answer to this question can speak volumes.

Take the lowest price.

We all want to receive value for our dollar, however, basing a decision on price alone may result in missing a few key elements in your decision making process. If you have covered all of your bases and the lowest price is still the best option then fantastic – go for it. However, if the price is significantly lower than another quote, make sure you follow up and that you are certain all the elements of your project are included and that nothing is missing.

Assume the contractor knows what specific product or material you are suggesting.

Contractors are not mind readers. If you want a specific style, colour, product or design feature, show your contractor a specific example, don’t assume when you say the word red they understand the exact hue or tone you want. Communication is important to your renovation process, so talk to your contractor, bring a scrapbook of items and show them the products you are looking at, so they understand exactly what you mean. Using an online tool such as Pinterest, for example, is an excellent source for gathering ideas to share with your contractor as well.

With many considerations that can be the determining factor between a great renovation or not, the one thing you can be sure of is that planning ahead and doing your homework can help reduce the number of challenges that can arise once your renovation begins.

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Sherry Donovan

Sherry Donovan

Sherry Donovan is Communications Director for the Nova Scotia Home Builders' Association. She is a regular contributer to various local media and currently has columns appearing in Halifax Metro News and The Chronicle Herald's Homesetc publication.

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