Basement Renovation - Managing the Project

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Posted by: from Ottawa
1/11/2013 at 1:17:30 PM

Is it better to hire a contractor to handle all the aspects of building the basement or do that myself and hire individual trades to do each part i.e. framing/drywall, electrician, plumber, painter, etc?

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Date/Time1/11/2013 at 2:08:51 PM

In my experience, homeowners tend to pay too much for the trades, as they do not know what the going rates for trades. The other common problem is doing the project in the correct sequence. I have seen, for instance, the flooring installed before the painting is complete. This just slows down the project, and adds to the cost. The other issue is knowing the building codes, for instance, true code for bedroom windows, and there minimum size.

Also, good contractors know the good quality trades, and as they have a long term relationship with them, will get better quality work from them.

I hope this helps.

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Danny from Do-All Painting in Ottawa
Date/Time1/11/2013 at 2:18:34 PM

If you had the time, manage it yourself.

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Date/Time1/11/2013 at 2:19:17 PM

Two biggest questions to ask yourself:

1: your experience and knowledge of the construction process. Will you know if something is not done right.

2: time- do you have the time to coordinate the trades? This can lead to drawn out schedule and additional costs.

The other thing to consider is when using a General Contractor I pass on my "trade pricing" savings to my client.

Hope this helps.

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Paul in Ottawa
Date/Time1/11/2013 at 2:19:34 PM

Thanks Murray.

The reason I asked this is to save costs. Contractor managing the project might not pass on the savings to the customer.

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Joj in Mississauga
Date/Time1/11/2013 at 2:19:44 PM

You better to hire one Renovator to do the project. That way you have more control and less.


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Phil from Braga in Milton
Date/Time1/11/2013 at 2:19:49 PM


In my experience its better to hire a contractor to manage the project for several reasons, you won't have to go through the stress if hiring every different trade and also a contractor will save you money as they have already built relationships with the trades they use so they get better pricing then you would and they also know the trades they use provide quality work as there name is behind them.

Also a good contractor makes sure things are done on time and done right.

Unless you have a complete understanding of how to finish a basement, have a lot of extra time to take care of everything then I would hire someone.

Hope this helps.

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Date/Time1/11/2013 at 2:20:41 PM

Hi paul

The first question you must ask yourself is Do I feel lucky? Because your asking the wrong question of us. If you lack the confidence to supervise this construction project you've already been given the answer to the first question.

Now you must have a set of plans for a GC to follow. Do you have someone who is experienced in this capacity? What is you budget for this project? Etc etc Once you've got some ballpark numbers you will be able to begin to foinalize your details and move to thew next logical steps.

I have gone thru several preliminary steps with people only to have them change their priorities before beginning the project. They decided to buy a cottage instead, but have detailed plans for the basement job, when or if they want to foinish that project.

I hope this is helpful information. Good Luck.


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Date/Time1/11/2013 at 2:22:46 PM

Of course I will say hire a contractor as that's what I do. But honestly, less headache for homeowner.

We deal with the trades all time so we are use to the stress, delays and surprises. Furthermore as we

deal with the sub trades all the time we get a better price and that savings is passed down to you.



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Garrett from GD Construction in Brantford
Date/Time1/11/2013 at 2:28:09 PM

I would say it depends on the reputation on the contractor.

Please note that many contractors are just hiring guys off kijiji that they have never worked with before.

Quotes are generally free. If you meet with a contractor and he says he uses the same companies every time to do his jobs, and he knows first hand that they do a great job I would go that way.

It may save you a bit of money to hire your own trades. However it is a lot of planning, this would be an ideal situation for you only if you knew of specific people to hire, through personal or recommendation. If you yourself do not know any trades that are reputable, and would just be taking a chance hiring off kijiji or whatever, it really is not worth the risk. A job poorly done can end up costing you more in the long run, or obviously leaving you unsatisfied for the money you did spend.

In conclusion, yes you may be able to say some pennies hiring things out, but you need to be aware of the headache and stress that is involved in seeking qualified tradesmen. On that note. Ask a lot of questions to a contractor if you do go that way,. Make sure he will not be pulling these trades out of a hat and that he has personally worked with each trade and seen how they preform.

I am a contractor and I ONLY use trade to which I have seen first hand the quality of craftsmanship. Do not be afraid to ask a lot of questions. We expect it. Also remember cheaper is not better.


Garrett DeVries


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Date/Time1/11/2013 at 2:30:36 PM

I would hire a contractor : if you need permits etc ..the contractor can handle all that for you and

they are also in a better position for scheduling each step of your project.

If you do it all on your own you have to worry about each indivdual sub - contractor - your costs

will probably go up also. Dealing with one person is always better than dealing with 10.

Hope it helps

Frank's Painting Company

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Date/Time1/11/2013 at 2:33:48 PM

Hi Paul,

I have to agree with Phil from Braga, and please if you are going to manage the project yourself make sure all your trades are WCB covered and have liability insurance and please Do NOT hire anybody by the HOUR...


AdirA Construction Ltd

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Date/Time1/11/2013 at 2:38:09 PM

This is a great question. I would recommend that you hire a capable contractor who can do the job on and work with you on your budget. The contractor will more than likely have qualified plumbers, electricians and painters on staff, or they will know of quality companies who can do these jobs for you. A good contractor should take on all responsibilities of the work being done, by his company, and tradesmen(women) they bring in to do work. This is the main reason why I would recommend going with the contractor, if there are any issues, you only have to deal with the contractor.

If you decide to do it all yourself, by organizing the individual tradesmen(women), you will have to be very organized and very involved in the process. And scheduling may be a bit of a nightmare just getting individual trades lined up. And if their are issues, some trades may push the blame on other trades, and then you may find yourself stuck wondering who to go after for answers.

A contractor will organize the job, the trades and know when to bring them in at the right time. Going with the contractor, will save you time, money and stress.

Hope all goes well with your project.

Steve Rose

Rose Home Renovations

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Date/Time1/11/2013 at 3:12:44 PM

Unless you have contracted a renovation before it is not advisable. There are a lot of different skill sets that are involved and a contractor should trouble shoot most of that for you.

Also a contractor have built a relationship with their trades and has weeded out the good from the bad ones.

Knowing the proper procedures, requirements and limitations of products and trades is something that saves you time and money.

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Date/Time1/11/2013 at 3:15:22 PM

If you have experience in managing trades, the time to do it, and a network of trade contacts; then maybe. A good contractor will price your basement job with subcontractors included. The Contractor will have a network of trustworthy tradespeople that are dependable and able to complete your project on whatever budget you agree on.

My experience has proven over and over that when a homeowner hires separate trades, they will spend 10-15 percent more. This has to do with cost efficiencies with labour, work delays etc.

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Date/Time1/11/2013 at 3:28:10 PM

I strongly suggest you have a general contractor handle it for you. Unless your basement is small, or you are just finishing a small portion of it. And you have a decent amount of knowledge and experiance.

If on the other hand, the contract will require a number of sub-trades such as electrical, plumbing, Structural framing (this requires blue prints and permits from the city), drywall, plastering, sub-flooring, finish flooring, trim and doors. Gas work for fireplaces and heating. Duct work to move or correct heating and cooling duct work....the list goes on. Then no, hire a contractor that can handle this for you. Any decent general contractor has all of these sub-trades and works with good ones.

When my company name is associated with a job, I am carefull that my employees, and my sub-trades work reflects the care I have in my reputation. All the advertising in the world won't do you much good without word of mouth to back it up.

I suggest you find a contractor to run the basement finishing for you. Ask friends and collegues who have they used in their homes. Ask at Lowes, Rona or Home Depots contractor desk who they suggest. Remember, their reputation is important to them as well.

Good Luck and enjoy your new basement.

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Date/Time1/11/2013 at 3:43:22 PM

Hello and good luck with your decision to renovate your basement.

If you know the renovation/building industry well and what to look for and what is not to code, then manage your own project or perhaps consider a consultant.

I suggest you start with the plans and from there get quotes. Knowing what is allowed in the basement is imporant as each area of the lower mainland, gvrd, zoning is different.

You likely have a good idea for the basement but will find that a designer will know the cost saving tricks and how to work with light and how to spatial plan and incorporate storage in the most functional way.

If your upgrades/renos are not registered at city hall, likely you will not have insurance should you someday need it.

You want to be sure that you have home owners insurance and have the trades provide ticket #, and wcb.

The issues arrise in the overlap..painter blames drywaller for bad finish which results in poor paint finish, insulation was suppose to be put in and now the walls are drywalled and painted...and there is a draft...



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Paul in Ottawa
Date/Time1/11/2013 at 3:50:05 PM

Excellent replies. Given the work, headaches, scheduling, stress; it makes sense to hire someone to do this.

Thanks everyone for your input.

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John from JALS Corporation in Welland
Date/Time1/11/2013 at 3:56:57 PM


If you have the time and the no how then do it yourself. Like all the other respones the best way to get any job done is have one person in charge.

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Date/Time1/11/2013 at 4:27:44 PM


Good question.

I didn't see anyone else mention this. Once you become the 'contractor' (anyone who subs out work and manages trades on a project), you also take on all liability as far as insurance for those tradespeople on the site and the work being performed on the house.

Most good contractors will have insurance to cover any big probelms. If you don't carry insurance for a contractor, you as the homeowner may be out of pocket. Expenses can add up really quickly when renovating doesn't go according to plan, especially if there are defects.

Hire someone, because the 10 or 15 percent you think you'll save will be well worth spending to have a turnkey project delivered (headache free) to you.

If you are a project manager or similar in your daily job and you calculate paying the insurance premium to run a risk free job beats the price of a contractor, then you should go for it.

That said, as a homeowner you can, for example, take out electrical permits yourself to do the work and save paying a master electrician a fee or higher labour rate to complete the work.

You should check your home insurance policy also. I'm not sure if a commercial liability insurance policy allows you to work on your own residence. There may be competing clauses in each contract.

Good Luck

Pat Vale

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Dan from Valois Painting in Surrey
Date/Time1/11/2013 at 4:30:16 PM

Before the internet, contractors knew good painters. You were paying the contractor for his certainty/confidence of knowing a good painter.

Now, painters have websites. Painters come in, look at your project and give you a price.

You get to shop.

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Sam from SL Construction in Ottawa
Date/Time1/11/2013 at 4:39:40 PM

it is always a smart thing to hire a general contractor to handle all of the aspects of a basement or other renovations. Not only is it less work for the home owner but if your GC should have knowledge in all these aspects, he should have good sub-contractors and can oversee the work and make sure everything is up to code and well done.

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Erroll from MVP Construction in Surrey
Date/Time1/11/2013 at 5:05:00 PM

Unless your retired and got nothing better to do with your time, hire a pro. You can probably come out a head by using your time to make money at what u do best. And let the pro save you money by doing what he does best.

And if you are retired with nothing but time on your hands, the cost of you doing it yourself could still be higher than the pro for reasons stated in above comments.

Don't even get me started about the headaches and stress of dealing with sub trades.

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Date/Time1/11/2013 at 8:25:41 PM

Hi there,

Electric floor heating is quite low on energy consumption, not complicated to install. There are two type: heated mat very easy to install just lay out, and heated wire with that you are more flexible just takes a bit moretime to lay out.

Every heated floor has a thermostat mostly programmable so you can set at temperature you like for 7 days at different time. Will require a separate circuit from the panel by manufacture and Ontario electrical code book.

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Dave from 360renos in Navan
Date/Time1/11/2013 at 10:01:33 PM

Good evening Paul,

A couple of sites for you that will help in your decision making.

Plus a wealth of information if you decide to proceed with hiring a company to oversee your basement project.

Enjoy the week-end


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Date/Time1/11/2013 at 10:32:58 PM

First of all a basement must be finished right. Before you drive a nail seal all cracks in the floor and floor/wall abutment. (This is to stop the intrusion of Radon gas.)

Make sure all of your heating ducts are all metal taped to stop leaks as it will be your last chance.

Has there ever been moisture on the wall or efflorescence (white powder) you need to resolve those issues first. I recommend painting the walls with a water proof paint. I recommend spray foam insulation so have your studs away from the exterior walls about an inch so foam will get behind and in case the walls are not straight.

Before you spray foam I recommend using blue wood instead of conventional wood studs (they are mold and moisture resistant. Make sure that a sill gasket is used on the floor. Now is the time for any plumbing and electrical to be done. Spray foam now. How are the windows? If there is going to be a basement living area you must install an AFCI breaker.

If you are going to use pot lights do not use cheap ones as they overheat and you will be constantly changing bulbs.

I recommend using mold resistant drywall on all exterior walls, then you still have drywall to finish, prime, paint, trim, flooring.

As for getting a contractor make sure all this happens and that you get a permit ...regardless of what he/she says and get a date of completion on your contract...and make sure you read it!

You can contract out whatever you feel you can't do, but again...get a permit.

Hope this helps.

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Date/Time1/12/2013 at 9:12:56 AM

Doing things ur own is always good cos you take pride in what u do if u make mistake it will cost u but u have to take a risk. But in this case is not gonna be a cheap mistake.

I have done a few job in the past that I will do the rough in ie. Framing. Electrical plumbing get those done by contractors and u do the rest. But if u dont want headache leave everything to contractor. He or she will take care of everything from from zero to finish. All u have to do is sign the cheque.

Make sure u do ur homework looking for a good contractor.

Hope this help ease things up mind wise.



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Date/Time1/12/2013 at 9:01:47 PM

You will be much happier hiring a general contractor to manage your renovation project from scheduling, costing and dealing with various trades. They have relationships with their trades already.

Hope this helps

Thank you

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Date/Time1/13/2013 at 12:29:42 PM

Depends on the quality you want.

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Date/Time1/13/2013 at 5:10:29 PM

Depending on the complexity of the project you may or may not be able to PROPERLY complete the goals of the project according to regulations and standards.

I am not saying its impossible; however, it is advised that you hire a qualifed contractor to not only manage trades and suppliers; however, also the technical aspects of the project. The contractor can help you decide and make cost effective decisions for your project. In addition, hiring a contractor should also help you complete the project faster and can translate in decreased stress for yourself.

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Date/Time1/16/2013 at 7:55:21 PM

Hi Paul

If you have the expertise and knowledge and know people in the different trades then you would be able to handle the project yourself, however, if you are not sure of these aspects and don't have the connections then you may want to consider a general contractor.

Most GC's such as myself can do the framing, drywall, painting, ceramic tiles, trim, baseboard etc and have an electrician and plumber who we deal with on a regular basis. A general contractor also has discounts for materials which will normally be passed on to the client. Dealing with trades on a regular basis will usually result in a better price which will also be passed on to the client.

Hope this helps


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