Everyone has heard a story from a friend or family member about a renovation gone bad. I hear from a lot of homeowners about projects they’ve attempted to do themselves, or contractors that did not live up to their expectations. Of course, where there’s disappointment, there’s blame. One of the first things I do when I’m assessing a job that needs to be repaired is ask, “What happened!?” On most jobs, the blame usually falls on the tools, the material, the lack of instructions, or the contractor. No matter who’s at fault, there are three sides to every story — yours, theirs and the truth. Unfortunately, I’ve seen a lot of people sabotage their renovations. Whether you’re planning on DIY, or hiring a contractor to handle the job, here are a few tips to keep in mind before and during your renovation. Know what you want If you don’t know what you want, and you don’t have a realistic budget set aside, you’re not ready to hire a contractor let alone start tearing apart your home. Setting sail on a renovation without a detailed plan is a recipe for an expensive disaster. Depending on the size of the project you’re planning, you might want to bring in a designer or architect to walk you through some options and come up with plans that you can submit to the city to get permits if necessary.
Until you have plans and permits, you’re just kicking tires. Be realistic, with budget, design and timeline. Everyone knows you can’t get an exotic car for the price of a compact, yet many still expect skilled trades to work for $15 an hour and deliver flawless results almost instantly. If you’re not planning to DIY, make sure to do your research on which company you’re going to hire. Finding a contractor is a lot like online dating — you don’t know a lot about the person before meeting them but you expect a lot out of the relationship! Make sure they are licenced, insured and experienced, and be sure to follow up with their references. Bring in more than one contractor before making your decision, and remember that trust and communication are important parts of the equation. This is the reason we established the Baeumler Approved Network of Contractors (www.baeumlerapproved. com); all of our members must meet a strict criteria, provide references and documentation such as WSIB and insurance. Be patient Renovating your home isn’t like hitting the drive-thru for a burger — there’s a reason most fast food isn’t good for us. All the good things in life take time — wine, cheese, romance . . . you get the idea. You can’t decide today that you want to build an addition and get started on it tomorrow.
The design, planning and permit process can take anywhere from three to six months. Real quality takes time, and we all know that time is money. However, rushing the job or hiring the wrong person because the right one wasn’t available “tomorrow morning” usually takes longer and costs more in the long run. The goal of any reno is to have the job done properly and be pleased with the results, not to bang it off as quickly and cheaply as possible and be unhappy and have regrets. Clean up and clear out If you’re planning a major renovation, get out of the house! Renovating one room at a time while your family tip-toes around the chaos isn’t the most efficient or enjoyable way to spend your evenings. Job sites can be dirty, dangerous and stressful. Clear out all of the furniture and personal items and tape plastic over doorways that lead to unaffected areas of your home. It’s a lot easier to get to work when you’re day isn’t spent moving things out of the way, or worrying about creating a mess all over the house. Let the contractor work! Everyone appreciates a little social interaction, but if you chat with them for an hour a day about your dog, cat, vacation, or what you had for dinner last night, that’s an hour that you’re paying them. Make sure you’re happy with your design before the reno begins. Any changes that are made once the project has begun (moving a wall, changing a light location, moving a sink, etc.) will add more time and more money to your budget. The more detailed you are in the planning stages, the more stress you’ll avoid when the dust starts to fly. If you really want to ensure the job goes smoothly and get your hands on a few of those free “extras,” leave a plate of cookies and a cold glass of milk out for your contractor. Oh wait, that’s the other guy!
Bryan Baeumler is host of HGTV’s “House of Bryan”, “Disaster DIY” and “Leave it to Bryan”. He continues to do construction work in Burlington and area with Baeumler Construction, a custom home builder. Bryan has also recently launched Baeumler Approved, an association of pre-screened quality contractors, trades and services for homeowners visit www.baeumlerapproved.com to find pre-screened contractors and tradespeople.