Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Post the 9nth- What to Expect When You're Expecting : How Communication (or lack thereof) can impact the project at the beginning stages

It's not easy to see the finished product when nothing is there. Drawings, sketches, crayon-on-cardboard, can all help, but until all finished items are installed/painted/grouted/caulked etc, there's really no way to have the full visual impact. The last thing I ever want to hear from a client is: "I thought it would different, more like this",(then picture the client holding a picture taken from a magazine). This is why communication with your renovator, and vice-versa, is important right from the start (I will discuss Designers next post). A great renovator should be, from the very first visit, asking what overall "look" you'd like, an example of materials you'd enjoy, as well as how you'd like the space to function. This goes for bathrooms, kitchens, basements, decks, fences, etc. At the same end, you should have an idea of these same issues before you have quotes done. Take pictures, check out websites, rip out magazine pages, etc. Not only will this help to design the space/functionality, it will help in putting together an estimate, ie different materials can require different installation practices and materials, and all can have various costs associated. For example: ceramic 12x12 wall tiles for a shower is easier and cheaper to install than 12x24 granite brick-pattern tiles. A great renovator should also know current styles, general colours, and materials being used. I am not saying that they are designers, but a renovator that does more than one bathroom a year will be seeing trends and noting them for the next client.

The time to inquire, email, text, and meet with your renovator, is more important PRIOR to any work beginning, rather than during, or after. Samples of materials, colours, finishes, etc, should be discussed, on site, and decided.  What will go where, at what height, what pattern, how will things tie together, how to merge existing with the new, are all examples of things you should consider, and discuss, during the selection process.

Now, in saying all that, it's very difficult to have all the i's dotted and t's crossed when you are considering which renovator you will be hiring, or even during the project itself. So keeping in mind that materials and designs all impact the overall cost, makes it easier to drink that bottle wine if your renovator comes to you with an additional charge, because you decided on granite tiles vs ceramic, for example.  Ask why there would be an additional charge, so you can know what it is about that material/design that impacts the budget, so you can be prepared for the next renovation, or a change to the current one.

Changes are common, don't be afraid to inquire, but try and do so in opportune times, for example, before tiles have been grouted, or before drywall has been installed. You should be taking a walk-through everyday on your project to make sure it is what you want, and what you are paying for. Ask questions when you have them, learn about why processes go in which order, and know what the next phases are.

A renovators job is to be 5 steps ahead, and it is good practice for the client to be on the same page. You don't have to know every little detail, but you should have a general idea. For example, you should know that after the framing is the rough-in plumbing, so where the toilet and vanity will be situated should already be planned. You, however, should not have to worry about things like how far from the frame should the 4" sewer line be, or how high the supply lines for the vanity should be. That's for the renovator to worry about. If you are curious though, ask away.  It's our job to keep you informed, much as it is for you to keep us informed. If everyone is on the same page, the work environment is a very calm and manageable one for everyone :)

Remember to like, share, comment, follow, and tell all your friends! :)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Post The 8th - Sticky Situations

Post The REAL 8th
Sticky Situations - Is the Honeymoon Over?

Yes, it can feel that way sometimes, even for me, let's be honest, we're all human, we all make mistakes, I certainly have in the past. Maybe it was forgetting the proper tool needed, a general "what-else-is-going-to-go-wrong" bad day, Tim Hortons was closed, an unsatisfied employee who simply doesn't care anymore, or your toddler puked into your open tool bag that for some reason you left at the front door, and open.  For whatever reason, mistakes happen, however, the specifics of a mistake, in the end, is not the real issue: how the problem is dealt with, is the issue.

When you undertake a larger project, such as a kitchen renovation, there are an incredible amount of details, and only very seasoned renovators are experienced enough to handle one from start-to-finish. Sure, it sounds easy, you know, take out old cabinets and counters, install new ones, throw on a backsplash and you're done. Right? Definitely not. Proper space design, precise measurements, exact fixture location, incorporating new appliance specs, upgrading electrical, sizing venting requirements, are just the tip of the iceberg in a full kitchen reno. There are also, in conjunction, many ways to make mistakes, and one simple measurement flaw, can literally change everything.

For example (and in my pursuit to be honest and transparent, this was a real-life examply), say your fridge is against a wall, and cabinets on the other side. It's not good enough to simply know the size of the fridge, you must also know the opening dimensions and angles, the size and depth of the handle, the interior drawer compartments and their function, swing of door, etc. It would be a terrible thing if you're so happy with the results, work had been smooth, everything looks amazing, the fridge is put into place as the finishing touch, and you come to the realization that when you open the fridge, the door only goes so far because you're hitting the wall. You can't open your vegetable drawer, and you can't take out your ice-maker fully to clean it. What now?  Who's to blame? Who screwed up? The contractor should have known to have had the foresight, the cabinet maker should have inquired, the client should have given the specs. The blame game can be played for years. If it makes you feel better blaming someone, then so be it, but that's not the healthy way to eat the problem.  Here's some tips:

1. Keep calm, take a deep breath, and realize that the fact that your fridge door doesn't open enough to function 100% is a First-World-Country problem and we should all be so lucky that this is the type of problem we deal with in our life. I know, it sounds cynical, but it's true. Only having a $100,000 budget but wanting $120,000 worth of work is really not a problem we should ever be stressing about.
2. A meeting between the cabinet maker, the contractor, and yourself is key, made in a time where all 3 parties can devote more than 10 minutes of uninterrupted discussion (I know, sounds easier than it is, but it's important). Being on-site allows measurements to be made, and full-impact decisions to the rest of the space.
3. Be open to all suggestions. Discuss each option fully (if there is more than one). Most likely, it is the renovator and/or cabinet maker that will foot the bill for at least the labour portion, so try not to go overboard with ideas that could cause a larger change to other areas, don't take advantage.
4. Remember that you are a part of the solution too, as it's you that has to live with it, so be firm in your decision, and make sure you won't be losing functionality elsewhere.
5. Be creative, and open to creativity. In the end, you may actually get something better.
6. Be nice. Renovators and trades deal with amazing amounts of anxieties and stress, it's a very mentally challenging career. The one thing that I value most in a client is the WAY they communicate, much less with WHAT they communicate. This leads to WANTING to solve the problem, rather than HAVING to solve the problem.
7. In business, the adage is that all relationships end the way they begin, regardless of the middle, so how a problem is initially approached, is how the solution will feel for you when complete.
8. It is my job to solve problems and fix things. That's what I do. If everything went perfectly all the time I would be sitting on a beach in Cannes year-round. A great renovator is one that understands that. When issues do arise, it it very hard sometimes to stay calm and cool, so keep in mind we're putting in great effort to have a smile to keep you happy, so it's good to try and do the same in kind.
9. Most important: focus on the solving of the issue as a separate entity from the overall project. There may have been little glitches along the way that you may still remember. Just like in a marriage, one of the worst things you can do during an argument is bring up past problems or feelings that are most likely unrelated to the current argument.  It doesn't solve anything and will make it worse.

Here's how the real-life issue came to a very happy ending:
When the cabinets were installed, the new fridge had been in the living room. It was designed to have the fridge at the end, with a wall on the left, and cabinets on the right. It was the clients who brought to my attention that they had a concern with how far the fridge door would swing against that wall, and what affect it would have. They were correct, that although the door would open 90 degrees, the storage shelves on the door made it difficult to take out the vegetable door or ice-maker to clean properly. So we met with the cabinet maker to discuss options. The solution was to shift the cabinets 6" to the right, which would now allow the fridge door to open farther to achieve the goal.  But now we'd have a 6" gap, what to do? Just put in a filler piece? Sure, that would work, but now there's 6" of wasted space, and in a kitchen, that's a mile. Now, because of the layout, there was not much option to have a nice storage space for flat baking trays and cookie-sheets. So instead of a filler piece, we built a 6" wide pull-out pantry style cabinet, floor to ceiling, that had enough room on the inside to place as many sheets as one would have. This was not the first idea or solution offered, but after a few days of review, this was the best one all-around. The important aspect of the entire process was that the clients approached me in an amazingly calm and relaxed way. At no point did anyone feel stressed about the situation, which lead to a very good, creative meeting which made the cabinet maker and I WANT to solve the problem, which is why the pantry idea came to fruition. This was a perfect representation of numbers 4,5, and 6 above.

Hope this will help you in the future! Lots more to come! Remember to always comment, like, share, tell everyone you know! :)
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Sunday, April 14, 2013

Post The Seventh: Your Questions Answered Part Deux!!

Hi Everyone! Well, it's been around a year since we last spoke: Kids grew bigger, sleep got less, however Stanleigh Renovations grew much, much bigger, so things got quite busy for me, super apologies :). Thank you to everyone for the continued popularity and I will do my best to keep this updated :). So in my tribute to you, here are the second batch of questions you've asked (well, the more interesting ones)...and the answers! :)

1. "How did you start out, and how big are you now?"
After university I actually had hoped to be working in the music industry, and had a position lined up with a production company to oversee larger live performances. Unfortunately the contract was never solidified with the venues, so I was out of a job. I had a friend who worked for a reno company and asked if I'd like to come as a helper, so I did. It didn't take long for me to realize I was really the only employee after many had left, and when I realized those reasons, I too left. I was contacted by one of the companies' current clients and was asked to take over the project, so I did, and I haven't looked back. After a brief stint in Guelph I moved back to Toronto and business grew steadily over the years. Once you do one good project, it leads to another, and another, and soon you have 2-3 people calling at once. I decided I needed to take the leap and take on more work and hire more people if I ever wanted to be more than a small fish in a big pond. Trials and tribulations come with the territory, but with 6 different job sites ranging from Ensuite Bathrooms to a $150,000 underpin/basement renovation, 8 full-time employees, plus an electrician and plumber at my disposal, I feel I'm at the point where I originally wanted to be. Now I want double that in the next 5 years :)

2. "My main floor is oak hardwood, and after years of the dog and kid toys, there are many scratches and we're thinking of selling. Is there an easy way to "hide" the scratches?"

Easy way? Depends on if you're planning on tackling this or hiring someone. If the damage are surface scratches only, ie only in the clear layer of finish, then a couple top-coats of polyeurethyne can fill in these inconsistencies. If the scratches are deeper, ie in the wood itself, then they should be sanded and refinished properly. This extra investment of sanding and refinishing, in my opinion, is definitely worth it, as first impressions on your home last forever, especially with the new-age mindset of buyers. A great side-effect of refinishing your floors is that you are forced to move all your furniture, and if you are selling, this helps in getting rid of clutter and purging unnecessary items. See...I'm not just a great renovator, I can help with everything! ;)

3. "Do you have recommendations for paint brands? Everyone tells me Benjamin Moore is the top?"

Benjamin Moore (BM), in my opinion, is certainly not the top. Many designers like BM because they provide many great colours and colour pallets compared to other brands. However, with the colour-match technology that most retail outlets have now, coupled with an internal database of known brands/colours and their colourant codes, you can get pretty much any colour, from any brand, in any brand of paint. Personally, I use Lifemaster VOC-Free paint for most of my projects (ICI Paints carries it). It's not the cheapest, but there's a reason for that ;)

4. "Do you really need a permit for a deck? I mean, seriously, it's just a deck!"

Lol, yes and no :). You'll have to check with your local municipality for specifics (as I don't know the entire country!). Generally (just generally, may not be specific to your area), in Ontario, if it is under 108sqft, NOT attached to your home structure, and less than 18" off the ground, then you won't need a permit. If your deck is ANY ONE of the above, then you may require a permit. See my post on "Permits Are A Girls Best Friend" for why it is important for the homeowner to ensure they are available. Just because it may not require one, does not mean that you don't have to get a review from an inspector to ensure the job is being done properly and to code.

5. "When is the best time during a project to fire my contractor?"

Oy, before it's too late!! There's never a "good", however the most "ideal" time is as soon as possible, before things become too emotional for both parties, and when the project is at the point in the contract where deposits are up to date and you won't owe any money (see previous Posts for the importance of Payment Schedules). It is very easy for a contractor to have a Lien put on a property (topic for future Post, stay tuned!!), so make sure payments are up to date, as a Lien can be a long and expensive process to settle, even if you win.

6. "I'm having my bathroom renovated, and after reading your advice I'm worried about permits, do I need them?"

You will require a permit for any electrical work that occurs (ESA), as well as a permit if current fixtures are significantly changing location, and/or you will be adding a new fixture. Of course, anything structural as in removing load-bearing walls or removing sections of joists to run plumbing. Check with your local municipality and contractor so you're comfortable you have the right info needed to move forward.

7. "I want my basement renovated, but I hear that my property taxes will increase if I get a permit, is that true?"

This is the most common question I'm asked when estimating projects, I would say 90% of all potential clients ask!

My first answer is this: so what if it does? Is a few hundred dollars extra per year is that large of an influence to have questionable work done on your largest investment that houses your family? Seriously? If you've been following my posts (which you have, of course), then hopefully I've changed your mind on the permit issue.

2nd answer: Possibly, but eventually, yes, but maybe not :). Here's the short version: MPAC does not sit around monitering each and every house 24/7. They assess larger neighbourhoods at one time, generally every 4 years, looking at many factors, including pulled permits for residential projects and what those projects were. If enough homes in one area pull permits for the same type of project, like basements, then the overall value of the entire area will increase, therefore your MPAC number will increase because your home is now worth more. So whether it was you that pulled a permit with your neighbours, or your neighbours pulled one and you didn't, your property taxes will go up.

8. "Why aren't you on tv?"

I have no freakin' idea!!! Even my license plate says "RENV8TE"!!

Thanks for reading, keep sending me comments and questions and I'll keep answering :). Stay tuned for the 8th Post: Sticky Situations (a MUST read!!).

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Post 6: Your Questions Answered!

Your Questions Answered! Yay!

I had previously (on another social media website, I can't say its name, but it starts with an "F", and ends in "acebook") asked you all to submit your questions (as I also do on my front page here but you're all too busy it seems), any question at all, and here are those questions for your reading pleasure! And the answers, of course.

"When hiring you, is it better to use your suppliers for materials, or buy on our own?"
Really, you're free to do whatever you'd like, but its a bit of both. Let's say its a bathroom renovation, which involves picking tiles for the main floor, shower floor, and walls, maybe countertop stone, toilets, tubs, vanities, and fixtures. I will recommend to you my favourite places (based on variety, price, and stock inventory), and I always give you my discounts whether you're paying or its part of the overall materials budget. I usually go with my clients as I also help out in the design, but sometimes availabilities cross and you are free to go on your own, I always tell you who to ask for so you'll be in good hands. Simply, for Tiles: you'll buy from a tile place, but I'll point you to who the better ones are. However, for tubs, toilets, etc, just let me know what you've found, wherever you found them, and you are free to purchase that through my suppliers as you will get the cheapest price that way.

"If a contractor is not insured and something gets damaged or burned, will my home insurance cover it?"
Seriously? The fact that you would even consider using an uninsured contractor is ridiculous. So my answer is: who cares!? If he/she is not insured, then he/she doesn't touch your house.

"Why does your pee smell after eating asparagus?"
Well, I'm no anesthesiologist, however, researchers believe that, during digestion, the vegetable's sulfurous amino acids break down into chemical components in all people. And because those components are airborne while urinating, the odor wafts upward as the urine leaves the body and can be detected as soon as 15 minutes after you eat this spring delicacy. But only about one-quarter of the population appears to have the special gene that allows them to smell those compounds. So the question isn't why your pee smells; it's whether you're able to smell it. If you smell a funny fragrance in your urine after you eat asparagus, you're not only normal, you have a good nose. Hope that helps.

"What's an average cost for a basement renovation?"
Well, that's hard to answer, as there are TONS of variables, some include size, design, or if there is a bathroom. However, a ballpark for research for you, around 1000 square feet will cost around $30,000, including pot lights, a full bathroom, permits, licensed trades, and completed in 6-8 weeks from drawings to the final passed inspection. I am always available for a firm estimate anytime, I love basements.

"What is a good number of references to receive?"
What, haven't you been reading my blog?? A good number is any number that makes you feel comfortable, however, in my opinion, if they cannot come up with at least 5 that are relevant to your project (ie, don't accept 10 references from deck jobs when he's quoting on your kitchen reno), then they're probably not experienced enough to ensure your investment is protected with a great job in the end.

"Why do good things happen to bad people?"
I'm not sure, but I think it has something to do with me not being on TV.

"For a deck, screws or nails?"
Screws, period, for everything. The industry is just like any other, where progression and material advancement is necessary to continue to make things better, safer, and longer lasting. There's a reason screws were invented.

"Do screws make a project take longer than nails?"
A different person asked this question, it's great to see people thinking about details. Yes, screws take longer, maybe by a couple hours. Screws will make a fence or deck hold together for at least twice as long, so I'm pretty sure that you'll be just fine with waiting an extra 2 hours for your completed project.

Hope those helped, keep the questions coming and look out for Part Deux! :)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

#5 Permits Are a Girls Best Friend

Permits are a girls best friend! Now that you've married your Sheldon (if you've been following along at home), how can you tell his faithfulness to you?  

Why the analogy of a girls best friend? In my experience quoting jobs, it is because I usually meet with the woman of the household to quote a project, and it is her that tells me what she wants, and she is also the one that likes it when I say that I work with permits when required. Its the husband (or man of the household) that usually says its not necessary, normally because he's afraid it will be more expensive overall, and take too much time. They're also afraid of Inspectors snooping through the house looking for problems, but that's just not true, I don't care what your friend Jimmy told you about his friends' Dads' brothers' former room-mates' DIY reno-gone-wrong where they were finishing the basement and the Inspector made them tear the house down.  

Let's Discuss,
The issue of it taking more time: Using a basement as an example, generally a 4-6 week project, having the work inspected might add a day and a half to the overall time. If scheduled correctly, it actually won't make any difference, the day and a half extra is only because sometimes the inspector is not immediately available. Is 36 hours of a delay really worth the excuse to not get one for a 4-6 week project???

The issue of it being more expensive: A typical permit for a full basement renovation is less than $200, and an ESA (for all electrical) permit is less than $100. The drawings can be done by you or the contractor, you do not need an architect or an engineer (providing you're not taking out anything supportive) If the basement is costing $30,000, why wouldn't you want to ensure that the work being done is watched by a professional and up to code? For 0.33% of the budget?? That's too expensive!!??  
Whether the project is being inspected or not, the work should still be safe, made with the same materials, and made with the same care for your home and safety. If a contractor tells you it is significantly more expensive to work with permits and a pain-in-the-tuchas, then I would seriously question his daily work ethic...or simply turn and run.  

I often get calls from home-owners that did their own basements, bathrooms, etc, but need me in to check a leak, a plug that doesn't work, lights that flicker, etc. Sometimes easy, but often its an expensive repair, and they did the job without a permit, with an excuse of: "I didn't need one" or "I didn't think I needed one because I did it myself.". Now, you absolutely CAN do the work yourself, AND get the permits yourself. And again, permits are there to make sure you don't end up with unexplained leaks, plugs that don't work, and flickering lights. Inspectors make sure everything is Kosher, no matter who does it, and if they find something done incorrectly, they absolutely will give you the advice needed to correct it; inspectors are there to help you, not hinder you. Still have excuses to not get a permit? Read on.

 So what work requires a permit? Here's the link to the City of Toronto's residential building by-laws page for your review. It is important that you know your resources and understand what parts of your home need special attention by the City: http://www.toronto.ca/building/pop_permit.htm
What does not require a permit? Check it out, and read the paragraph at the bottom of the page ;). http://www.toronto.ca/building/pop_no_permit.htm

For YOUR Safety, Not For Our Profit

What do you get with a permit? You get a very experienced and licensed Inspector that works solely for the city (not independantly), coming to your home 3-4 times during a project, to inspect the demolition, the rough-ins, the installs, and the finish (called a Final Occupancy). He/she is there for as long it takes each visit to ensure the work is safe and up to current code requirements before it is allowed to move forward. This is done for YOU and for YOUR home and for YOUR safety and for YOUR future. An experienced contractor should never, ever, ever have an issue with getting or following through with permits.

What if there's a Problem?
So let's say permits are in place and the project is at the point where the first inspection is to take place (The Rough-In). Inspector comes, finds some issues related to the work performed, and won't let it pass until the issues are rectified. A little stressful, yes, but not your problem. Again, its the contractors (if you've hired Sheldon, which you should) responsibility to do the work up to code (its your responsibility to ensure permits are there, however, not necessarily to get them, but to ensure they're in place). And if the contractor says he needs more money because of this, tell him no way, he should have done it right to begin with.

Permits vs Cash Jobs: shouldn't make a difference. The loveliness of cash is so the contractor doesn't have to claim it, but that doesn't mean the work he does should be any different. Sure, when you get a permit there is a record of it, but Building Services don't talk to Revenue Canada! An inspector doesn't give a flying-hammer how the job is being paid for either, so don't let a contractor tell you that cash jobs don't come with permits.

Responsibility: it is those doing the work to ensure what they do is up to Code, however, don't think you as the client should just sit back. In the end, it is your home, your investment, and your project, and subsequently your final responsibility to make sure t's are crossed and I's are dotted. Let's say you're having your basement finished, and because you're afraid of time and money you agree with your contractor to do the work without permits. Let's say a neighbour is nosy and calls the city to check up on you. If no permit is filed, then a representative will come down and ask the job to cease immediately until a permit is applied for. If a penalty or fine is required, it is the homeowner that has to pay, not the contractor.   

"What if I ask for permits? How can I be assured my contractor got them and they've passed?" Great question you in the shirt, let me answer: some areas provide each permit with a large display code sign that has to be displayed at the street level of the house and in plain sight. If no sign is provided, actually either way, the permits are required to remain on site, during and after the renovation as they belong to the project and the house, not the contractor. So just ask to see them :). You can also call your local building service division and just ask nicely.

There's responsibility on both ends, and although you may think permits are a pain in the tuchas, if you've done your research on Sheldon...er...your contractor, you should be hiring him because of his experience and workmanship, and therefore, permits shouldn't even come up as a blip on the overall project radar.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Blog The 4th: Revenge of The Blog

The Contract (enter Darth Vador theme here)

We're past the 2nd date, You've found your "Sheldon", you've agreed to the marriage, you've finalized the details, you've finalized the price, now it's time to put pen to paper for the pre-nup.  This Blog is all about the contract itself.  I will explain how I do them, as over the years, I have found my way is straight forward, yet extremely detailed, and leaves no grey areas.  Not all contracts will be the same, however I believe the following information is an absolute must for both the contractor and the client to keep all on the same page.

1.  Header Info:  whether its letter-head or not, each page should have all contact info for the contractor:  full name, business name, email, phone, and website address if applicable.

2.  Work Line:  a simple line dictating the area of renovation:  Master Ensuite Renovation, Kitchen, Basement, etc.

3.  WDO:  now this is something I do that not many do, I call it the Work Detail Outline.  This is the bulk of the estimate/contract that explains, step by step, each part of the renovation, right down to the brand of drywall I'm using behind a shower, for example.  What I'm using as Sill Gaskets, what brand and R-Value insulation, copper lines, PEX lines, type of paint (always VOC Free for Stanleigh Renovations), fan brands, etc.  This way, you know exactly what's behind your walls, and you can use this as a check-list if you'd like to make sure your contractor isn't trying to pull a fast one on you.

4.  Time Estimate:  using bathrooms as an example, a typical 4-piece from demo to paint is 3-4 weeks, and maybe a another week waiting for the glass or stone vanity top if you've gone custom.  I've done in the area of 40 bathrooms so far, and I still can't tell you exactly how many days it takes, as every style and location creates their own timelines, so don't expect a firm time estimate from anyone, but keep on top of things, especially at the 2-week mark.

5.  THE Estimate:  here's your number, and aside from unforseen circumstances that are out of anyones hands, this number should remain absolutely firm from start to finish, no exceptions, especially in regards to labour costs.  Time is money, if a contractor estimates 2-3 weeks, and it takes him 4 while no issues arise, then that's his problem.
Some estimates will include all materials, and some won't, and then there's Sheldon:  I include all "non-variable" cost items such as framing, electrical, plumbing, trim, doors, paint, plaster, drywall, permit costs, engineering costs, labour costs, etc.  "Variable" cost items are materials that have great cost ranges, things like tiles, custom glass, vanities, carpet, faucets, toilets, etc.  Its impossible to figure this out as tiles, for example, range from 50 cents to $100/sq.ft.  So make sure that any costs that will be your responsibility are clearly and fully detailed, and noted in the estimate.  If you don't see this, inquire, however you'll never have to because you're using me anyway ;)

6.   Payment Schedule:  Have one, it's that simple, I don't work without them, they are just as important for me to keep the job running smoothly, as they are for you to make sure you don't give a dime until certain job milestones are met.  Any job lasting over 5 days should have at least 3 payments, the number and percentage of the payment after this is dependant on the amount materials and labour required at certain points in the project, so it can vary greatly depending on the size and type of project.  Here's a typical Stanleigh Renovations basement payment schedule:
First Deposit:  20% of the Estimate, due 10 business days prior to beginning the project.
2nd Payment:  20%, due upon completion of the framing and plumbing
3rd Payment:  25%, due upon completion of electrical, insulation, vapour barrier, and full passed Rough-In Inspections by the city and the ESA.
4th Payment:  25% due upon completion of the drywall installation and all plasterwork
5th Payment:  10% due upon all passed Final Occupancy Inspections, and clients full satisfaction.
(The importance and necessity of the dreaded Permits is the next Blog)

7.  Warranty Information:  what is covered, to what depth, and for how long?  Pretty simple, make sure there's a warranty.  Cosmetics such as nail-pops and seam cracks are usually only 1-2 years as they are typical in new construction and renovations in settling homes.  Items such as plumbing and electrical, especially when inspected, should be at least 5 years.  Personally, I give 5-10 year warranties, but I use Master tradesmen, and I know how to build to make things last.

8.  Signatures:  make sure the contractor and yourself print your names, give signatures, and dates.  Have a PAID/DATE column that you both can initial or sign every time a payment is made.

9.  Additional Info:  really its miscellaneous and generally a little blip about the company itself, but here's where things that can make the client more comfortable and get to know a little deeper.  For example, I list the names of all my trades and labourmen and what they do, so the client never has strangers in their house and everyday they know who is there with me.

10.  And we're done! :)  Stay tuned for the next one,  Blog #5:  Permits Are A Girls Best Friend

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Blog 3: The Threequel

The Second Date With Your Suitor

So the first date went great, good conversation, nice candle-light discussion of where to place the bidet, and how to improve the flush on your toilet.  You've talked to your friends, you checked the references, possibly have seen some work first hand, and the numbers given jive.
Now, not every contractor is like me, in fact, most just want money and don't give a flying-framing-hammer about your house or creating a relationship with you outside of your bank account.  But that's what the previous Blog was about:  making sure you do work AND relationship checks on your suitors (I'm assuming you have somewhat of a good judge of character).  I love what I do, I adore every second with my tools and your home, and I also love the fact that I get paid to do it.  To me, this is not a job, its a life-long hobby that fills me with great satisfaction, while filling my fridge with food and my bank with enough to pay the bills.  And knowing that when its all over, people all around Toronto and the GTA can enjoy what my hands have given...my little mark in this life if you will.  This Blog is how to keep me happy :)

A Few Simple Rules For Dating Your Contractor

1.  Can I Have Some Money Now?
Have the funds available for the entire project BEFORE it begins.  Renovations are expensive and the money goes out in a very short amount of time.  I always send my clients the payment schedule and contract well in advance of requiring the first deposit, that way they are fully prepared and there are no surprises.  Please do not hope that coming paycheques will time perfectly with milestone contract payments.  I've been there many times, and stopping a job because the client cannot pay instantly decreases my faith in any future relationship with that client.  Unforseen circumstances that decrease cash flow can happen as well, such as vehicle repairs, medical bills, property damages, etc.  I would rather go through all the motions with you knowing you need to save the money, than get a first deposit just to find that you never had the rest.

2.  Get a contract damnit!  Do not hand over a dime until pen hits the paper. Next Blog will focus on the details of the contract itself, stay tuned.  The contract makes sure you know exactly what to expect and when, and on our end, makes sure you know exactly when to have payments ready, so please read it before signing, and review it daily.

3.  If no official start date has been set, for whatever reason, but you have said "yes" and want commitment in return, then expect to pay a deposit anywhere from 1 to 5%.  This secures his time, his trades' time, and helps give a little towards doing extra things like multiple meetings, completing drawings, obtaining permits, etc.  Just you saying "yes" is not a commitment, in fact, in our world, its absolutely meaningless.  Contractors get screwed more times than you think (just this past year for me, and 4 times over 15 years), so we tread lightly in deep waters, after all, it's us that needs to earn your trust and jump the hoops to gain you as a client. So how do we know that we can trust you?  Would you let us do a background check on you?  Would you provide bank statements to show us you actually have the funds to complete the project?  Probably not, so really it is the contractor taking the leap of faith in the relationship, as you have all the tools you need to research someone properly.  Therefore, you need to  commit, and in this industry, $ is the only proven symbol.  My family does not have shelter or food from good intentions and pleasant conversations.

4.  Always Kiss On The First Date!
If a firm date has been set, then expect to pay anywhere from 10 to 30% of the contract.  30% sounds like a large amount, and it is, and if it's a $10,000 bathroom, for example, that's a $3000 payment before any work actually begins.
Daunting, scary, downright frightful, but here's why it can be so much and why it needs to be paid:  in a typical bathroom renovation, 20% of the reno budget is spent the first day! Plumbers and Electricians are the most expensive trades and you need both day one, and usually they're there for the day, along with general labour for demo, and disposal fees.  As mentioned before, Contractors get screwed often, so the daily budget requirements need to be available in order to keep the project moving forward at all times.

5.  However you've discussed the payment schedule is how it should remain, on both sides.  He should not ask for money until ready, and you should not give it until satisfied.  However, don't be relaxed on it:  if he requests the next payment at the end of the day, make the effort to get it to him, as most of the time that money is needed to pay for labour and pick up materials for the following morning.  There are many contractors that will not continue until they've received the next deposit, and based on some experiences I've had, I don't blame them.  Personally, most of the time I keep progressing anyway, as there's always something booked in after, so I'm always on a deadline.

6.  Ch-Ch-ch-changes.  If you've added work, or an unforeseen issue needs to be brought up to code, it should be handled with a Change Order, or a written amendment to the contract, ask for this.  Generally we like to see these payments taken care of immediately so they don't get muddled and confused with the original contract, or forgotten about altogether.  If you'd like to make it a cash deal (oh don't be so prude) then make sure its not a code issue:  pay for those on the books so there's recourse just in case something happens.

7.  Ending with a Smile, and showing your contractor why he should work for you Again.
Legally you should be holding at least 10% of the contract as the final payment.    This Payment is given at the end of the project on your satisfaction.  A couple days before the projected completion date, your contractor should go through the finishing details with you.  This is where you will create the Deficiency List (a whole other Blog coming soon):  the items required in order to gain your full satisfaction, and subsequently the final payment.  Generally they are items such as paint touch ups, maybe a little ding in the wall,  etc.  Because you have already made a list, these items should be completed on the last day with no problems.  Make sure that when you put the list together you are specific and cover everything, so when the last day comes and he wants his money, you're not springing anything on him.  Nothing is more frustrating to a contractor than a client that continues to make lists, especially at the last day or the night before, and surprises it on him (also a Blog to come).  So be as good to your contractor as he is to you, and create a long lasting relationship.  You prefer to use the same mechanic for your vehicle, right?  So apply those reasons to your contractor and your home :)

Next Blog:  The Prenup....er....The Contract:  your best friend