Home renovation project: research, planning and engaging contractor

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Posted by: from Mississauga
1/3/2016 at 8:50:24 PM

We want to start planning several home renovation projects - basement, kitchen, bathroom, and flooring (including stairs); older condo townhouse with 1300sq-ft in west Mississauga, Erin Mills. We wish to salvage nothing from the basement (poorly/half done, menagerie of nonsense) or kitchen which is just dated. We would like to hire a contractor to manage a project of this magnitude based on a well-defined and detailed contract; we are cost conscious consumers with a small family. We would like to be finished by November 2016 but realize research and planning might take 4-6 months; availability of an excellent contractor could also impact our proposed timeline. As well, we identified several problem areas that will require special attention, this includes - old brick fireplace, popcorn ceiling and wood staircase railing, total eye sores. Upon inspection a contractor might identify other concerns. To start we read Mike Holmes's book on renovations, which is one perspective.

Any thoughts on how my husband and I should start the research and planning process before engaging contractors for quotes or conjuring up wild design ideas? We want to get this right, sticking to plan, completion date and budget.

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Laith (Leo) from The A Team Renovation in Brampton
Date/Time1/3/2016 at 10:31:07 PM


I suggest you hire an inspector to check out the house and provide you with a report of all the major problems. Upon completing that you could hire a designer and discuss everything in details with them. You could then start looking for contractors and choose the one you find suitable.This suggestion may be a bit pricy and take more time. For a more affordable option ,you should hire contractors to take a look at the house and provide you with different design ideas and provide you with an estimate for the project.

If you have any other questions please let me know.



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Peter from Ace Renovations in Brampton
Date/Time1/3/2016 at 10:55:01 PM

Hi !

As an experienced contractor who has dealt with your situation many times, here are a few tips to start with:

1 - make a general list of what you want to accomplish and how far you want to go to achieve your final dream. Do you want to totally remove the brick fireplace veneer or just cover it over with drywall and a cheap mantle? One choice is obviously cheaper than the other. Make that decision for each project.

2 - decide on your budget for each project

3 - decide what materials and what quality level you can afford inside your budget. This is where you do most of your research.

4 - once you have decided on your choice of materials, style and scope of each project and have a pretty good idea of your total budget, then you can call in a contractor who can tell you from experience if your decisions are practical or wise and of course

if your budget is realistic. You can't buy a Caddy for a VW price.

A good contractor will be honest about what can be accomplished for the dollars you have to spend and may well give you alternative ways to reach the same end at a lower cost.

5 - Once you have an agreement with a contractor stick to the original plans. Minor changes will have little effect on your budget

but suddenly deciding to move a wall or add

another washroom can blow your budget to pieces. Be 99% sure of what you want before you start and save lots of headaches down the road.

6 - A good contractor will be booked weeks or even months ahead. So start looking for one as soon as you have your ideas and budget in good shape. Any suggestions from the contractor should not add a great amount of time to the starting date unless you are importing marble from India!

7- Most important of all, find a contractor with a long list of references, lots of liability insurance ( min. $ 2,000,000 ), an experienced crew, not a bunch of teenagers and a contractor you feel comfortable with on a personal level. He/she will be in your house

for perhaps months. You don't want to feel intimidated or afraid to bring up a new idea or point out a problem. Communication between both parties is very important for a smoothly run project. As for Mr. Overkill, don't believe everything you see on TV or the internet. You don't have to spend tons of money ripping a house to pieces to get what you want unless there is an obvious structural problem.

Hope this all helps! Good luck!

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Date/Time1/3/2016 at 11:27:01 PM

Hi Arlene,

It's hard not to echo what Leo and Peter have already mentioned. Their points are valid and spot on. You do need to figure out a budget that you can afford and add a little wiggle room for problems that pop up or are unforeseen.

I would also recommend interviewing several contractors and get 3 or 4 estimates for the work. But don't look at price alone as your objective. Look at references and see if they are a good fit to your personality. A contractor may do good work, but be a grumpy s.o.b. every day. This is a relationship you are building with your contractor. Also, it's true that good contractors are booked up several months in advance. I'm already working on estimates for the summer. So, I suggest revisiting your completion date and working with the contractor for a more accurate timeline.

Hope this helps.

Mike Duhacek

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Date/Time1/4/2016 at 12:13:52 AM

All very good responses from contractors who know their trade. If you follow the advice given, you will have your heart project completed with the least problems!

Good wishes,

Paul Ambridge-Consultant

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Date/Time1/4/2016 at 9:09:10 AM


I have never seen such comperhensive and helpfull bunch. I can definetly see that the contractors that have posted really know their craft.

Everything that has been said above is absolutely correct and should be followed in order to have a smooth and painless renovation experience.

The only thing that i can add is to ask for at least 5,000,000 insurance and ask your contractor for a WSIB clearance with every sumbitted invoice, and of course a solid contract in place something along the lines of CCDC 2 (Search it on the internet).

Best of luck with your Project


Able Contracting

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Date/Time1/4/2016 at 12:13:49 PM

Hi Arlene,

The best way to go about your project is to find a general contractor that will spend the time with you to share your thoughts and visions. then a contractor with experience will pass many suggestion to you folks. Will spend the time to discuss all the planned costs. And possible costs you will run into. Its a shame we moved to the Niagara region three and a half years ago, as I would have been happy to work with you folks.

Go by reputation, word of mouth. Ask friends who they have used in the past, and were they 100% happy with them. This site helps find contractors. But ask the contractor to give you past clients to call and talk to just to set yourself at ease.

I have always given new potential clients past clients they can call.

Good luck with the renovation.

James Fram

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Date/Time1/7/2016 at 9:12:04 PM

I will add just a bit of a different perspective... while we are not general contractors, we have seen just as many renovations as many general contractors have done and what I have seen is more about planning / decision-making verses all the great things the others have said about finding reputable contractor(s).

I always tell my clients (and friends) that are thinking about renovations is to consider working from the outside in and from the top down. What does that mean? Essentially it means that you need to first worry about the exterior envelope of your home; new roof, water-proofing, windows / doors, sewer lines, utilities, structure, etc. The second part is once you have a solid exterior / structure then you realize that in 99% of people's homes all services come from the basement. So if you need heat, water and electricity on the third floor, it is going to come from the basement, through the first two floors to the third floor and so on.

So many times I have seen people tear out a fairly recent renovation (usually a basement) or not do another renovation because they did not plan from the exterior to the interior and from the top to the basement.

In your budget, you may want to finish the 'main floor' first, but if the top floor lacks insulation / vapour barrier, heating / plumbing / electrical, you need to focus on that first, even if it is not the 'lipstick and mascara' stuff that most people only care about and ultimately see.

The last part I will mention that a couple have alluded to is function vs style. If budget becomes an issue (following the exterior to interior and top to bottom approach) plan to put in less expensive (noticed I did not say cheap) options or even wait. As an example instead of putting in granite now, spend the money on good cabinets and in a few years change out the countertop. Can't afford the backsplash you want right now... don't put one in... You need to make sure your budget (unfortunately) goes to many of those things you never see like a dry basement, modern electrical, plumbing and HVAC; fancy trim, light fixtures and countertops can always be done later.

John Kuehnl-Cadwell

Master Electrician

Datawise Solutions Inc

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Richard from Delta links Corp. in Etobicoke
Date/Time1/8/2016 at 6:42:59 PM

Hi Arlene,

The best way is to find Design & Build experience to home renovation industry, in house interior designer the charge will be include the renovation.

Hope this helps.


Richard Ghoss

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