What Are Common Renovation Mistakes Made By Homeowners?

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Posted by: from Carlisle
10/25/2014 at 9:20:20 PM

Hello Everyone! My husband and I are in the process of planning our first major renovation - a complete main floor overhaul - and are trying to gather as much information as possible to ensure we do it right the first time with minimal or no mistakes.

I typically read articles about what you should do but rarely do I find information on what not to do. We've got the basics covered like, get it in writing, never pay in full etc. but want to make sure we have all our bases covered before proceeding.

How should we interact with the contractor we select? How involved can we be without smothering the contractor? We want to make sure it's done right but don't want to be the nightmare client that makes him dread coming to work each day.

Since this renovation with involve a gutting and redoing our kitchen, bathroom and family room including removing walls and increasing ceiling height, should we employ the services of a designer, architect and engineer ourselves or rely on the general contractor we hire to do this?

What about material? Should we purchase the material ourselves or do contractors typically have relationships with the big box stores or other wholesalers that give them pricing cheaper than the general public?

And my last question; what about payments? Opinions seem to vary about this. How much of a deposit is required and should milestone payments be setup with the balance upon completion? If so, what's standard?

Thank you for reading my post - I know it's a little long winded and most of you probably have the same look on their face as my husband does when I talk too much:) Any advice you guys have would be so much appreciated!

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Date/Time10/25/2014 at 11:24:40 PM

Hi Gosia,

I operate out of Calgary, Alberta. I do however want to respond to your question.

Given the complexity of your renovation and your desire to raise your ceiling, I would advise that you speak to an architect before proceeding with the hiring of anyone. Your project will require the skills of several different trades and unless your wanting to replace old fixtures, simply with new, an architect or designer will need to specify your needs. You will save time and money and frustration by working through these hurdles before interviewing general contractors.

A general contractor will be able to provide you with options that suit your needs and budget. You will do yourself a great injustice by proceeding with anything except a well thought out plan.

Best of luck

Stan Laberge

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Date/Time10/26/2014 at 12:16:37 AM


Remember over and above everything else......this is your home.

Now, you are looking for a contractor with a great reputation. You can do that right here on this site. Five stars from every client and you know the folks he or she has completed work for is honest, efficient, detail oriented and in my case...picky.

If you have an engineer or architect who is a friend, by all means use them. If not, do business with an architect and engineer the contractor has experience with.

Be sure you have made all the structural and major design decisions prior to construction start..

Regarding the purchase of materials. I get better prices than the average person, so I suggest my clients let me purchase the vast majority of the materials. Studs, Foam underlay, Blue board, Screws, nails 22 caliber rounds and nails to anchor blue board to the concrete floor I pass all my discounted prices off to my clients in the initial quote.

Now there are products the client should shop for on there own at different locations. Such as bathroom vanities, Tubs, faucets, lighting, Shower glass walls. Floor tiles, And all shower tiles. There are more items. But again if any of these are purchased at Lowes, I pass on my price for these items. Often clients find something they love a different supplier. I still contact then trying to get a builders price for my client.

There is no such thing as smothering the contractor if you get along and trust each other. I have become friends with many past clients.

With my company the payment schedule works like a pay as we play. The first couple of weeks when we are in during tear out you give me about 4,000.00.

Then when we start buying material and combining construction week by week, I will ask for payment that reflects that work and those purchases for those weeks.


James Fram Construction and Design Ltd

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Date/Time10/26/2014 at 8:06:11 AM


Ask lot of questions. Ask for references - the more the better. Go and see some of the work the contractor has done. Talk to the home owner and never pay too much money up front. Never rely on smooth talk and a smiley face.

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Date/Time10/26/2014 at 3:34:04 PM

You will certainly need the knowledge and experience of a General Contractor (GC) for your project.

In most cases the GC will provide a timeline of milestones which connects to some sort of a payment schedule.

On the fear of sounding like Mike Holmes; be prepared to go to the studs when and where possible. By doing this you will be able to see additional problems that can be repaired immediately. The cost is not that much more (you still have to paint and patch) and you will be able to see the more important elements such as electrical, plumbing, structure, insulation, etc. For most trades it is less expensive to start at the studs then trying to retrofit items to save a ceiling or wall...

Be prepared to go into other parts of the home with your repairs. As an example, you may need to open part of another room to gain access to the area where work is required. This is particularly true for HVAC, Plumbing and Electrical.

I would plan to have a "hope for list" and a "settle with list". This applies to the finishes you expect. I can guarantee 100% there will be cost overruns that must be completed; that has to be paid for from somewhere out of the budget. While the law in Ontario requires a contractor to advise you of costs in excess of 10% of expected costs, 10% is often not enough of a contingency depending what is found and has to be fixed.

If you are on a tight budget and don't have a Hope / Settle for list, priorize the must haves, such as structural, plumbing, HVAC and electrical; fancy toilets, cabinets, etc can wait when money becomes available. Spend the money to make sure your basement does not leak, bathrooms don't get mouldy, bearing walls don't collapse, etc.



John Kuehnl-Cadwell

Master Electrician

Datawise Solutions Inc.

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Max in Carlisle
Date/Time10/26/2014 at 11:09:24 PM

WOW! You guys are fantastic. I wasn't expecting such detailed responses. The fact that you all took time out of your schedule to address my questions is really appreciated by both me and my husband.

Without pushing it, could you offer more information about the payment schedule? What would be considered reasonable for a deposit and should milestone payments be setup? Some say that if the contractor is reputable and successful a deposit should be required but milestone payments are pretty standard...what are your thoughts and advice?

P.S. those of you that are local and took the time to respond to my questions will not be forgotten once we're ready to move forward with hiring someone. For those of you out of our area, karma will find a way to reward you :)

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