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:
What does not require a permit? Check it out, and read the paragraph at the bottom of the page ;).

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 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 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 Contract:  your best friend

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Blog 2: The Sequel

When people have contractors over to “bid” on a project, they’re looking for the cheapest price, I don’t care what you say, you can’t defend yourself here because it’s true.  When you have contractors over to “look” at your project, then we’re talking!  NOW you’re looking for the right PERSON vs the right PRICE.  When I’m doing these blogs I’m assuming that the homeowner has a realistic budget in mind, and they are looking for the right person.  Like I said before, if you want the cheapest guy ‘cause you think it’ll save you money and it’ll give you the same rate of return on your investment as the most expensive, then A you’re wrong, and B just stop reading because this advice is for people who give a crap about their houses and they’re money.
The Good, The Bad, and then there’s Sheldon
How do you determine who is the right renovator/contractor for you?  How did you find him/her in the first place?  Both great questions, but really, the only thing you need to know is the following:  I, Sheldon Stanleigh, will always be the right one for you ;). So let's go on a journey to find out how I came to be taking your money and turning it into your dream ;)
Where to Look and Don't Get Fooled
Yellowpages?  Phonebook?  Magazine Ads?  Online Ads?  Radio?  TV?  All advertising, and all provide a different audience size, with an exponential increase in cost to use.  So does the best use the best?  Simply:  No (generally, obviously there's exceptions).  Advertising has changed multiple times over since its inception, and the way advertisers reach their markets continuously evolves, tack on a healthy dose of Social Media and you've blown the door open to the possibilities.  The best guys don't really spend much on advertising, aside from truck logos and business cards.  Word-of-Mouth is the best way, hands down, and the cheapest (although terrible to use as a write-off).     You'll find the reno companies that advertise consistently and spend the most $ are generally one of two things:  niche specific (ie strictly decks and fences) that need volume, or they are a Franchise friendly company, and sometimes both.  Ever see a Mike Holmes billboard 15 years ago?  Ever see Brian Baumeler on the TV when he was strictly a renovator?  Neither did I.  The best guys are great at what they do, extremely personable, go from one job to the next, and benefit from their clients singing their praises, maybe a truck decal, a sign on the lawn, and a cell phone.  Now, I'm not saying don't pay attention to advertising (coming from the guy with a degree in Media and Culture Communications), however, in my experience, the best person for you is someone you already have a relationship with, whether you know it or not.  If you don't know anyone who has had a reno before, then you start with the ads and call as many people as you feel comfortable with, but start with your friends otherwise.  Your friends or family are the ones with whom you've begun you're relationship to contractor with.
Who Ya Gonna Call?
Family and Friends first.  Do you know anyone who recently had a renovation similar to your project (don't call your brothers window guy to do your flooring)?  What was their experience?  Would they use him/her again without thinking?  This information is also great way to compare a finished product in person with what you would like, in order to help determine a realistic budget.  Listen, would you rather open the phonebook randomly, or take a name/number from someone who knows how many people you've slept with??  Trust is key, if you know your source, then the contact should be credible (SHOULD be, hey, its not a perfect world and there's more reno crooks than there are good ones like me).  Now, in saying that, I always encourage getting as many quotes as possible (even at risk of myself losing jobs), so here's where you'll need that phone book or online resource, if for nothing else, but to compare estimates to make sure your family/friends' guy isn't taking advantage of your relationship and over-charging, thinking he/she is a shoe-in for the job.
Welcome Home, Bidder 1, I’m Burning Star 4
So you've got some potential "bidders" on your project coming to take a look (not all at once!).  If you've been following along at home, you should have read my previous Blog, and should have your list of needs and wants.  The next part is up to you, make sure you discuss what you'd like to do, and definitely what you don't want, ensure you are comfortable that the contractor understands what you are looking for.  And remember, unless its against Code, here's Stanleigh Renovations' mantra:  "Nothing is impossible, it all depends on how much you want to spend!".  So don't let them tell you that what you want is impossible, after all, you're first quote will be the one with all the Bells and Whistles.
"So this guy seems nice, he listens to what I'm saying without making faces, has a real interest in my vision, and takes his time with looking at the project". Where do you go from here?  Generally, after the first visit, you're waiting for the estimate.  While you're waiting, you're checking on references, pictures if provided in person, and if possible a website.  How many references should you ask for?  Enough to make you want to conclude he's Mr. Awesome (I'm using "he" as an example, no offence to the "she"s).  Generally you'd like between 5 and 10 related project references, and recent (within the last 2-5 years).  Something I do is to take potential clients to previous and current clients' projects so they see the work in person....I wish more contractors wait....don't do this.....bad idea ;)
Show Me The Money
So we're this far now, and the quotes come in.  You may get everyone within the same rough range, and you may get a huge price difference.  What's important here is to look at the number of the contractor you liked the best in person, had the best references, and the best examples of previous work.  If the number he gave is competitive and within your budget, this is the guy you hire, no matter what the other numbers are, it's that simple.  Sheldon"He" is the best person for the job.  If his numbers are a little over your budget, and higher than the average, then you know there may be negotiating room, or some room to cut out some things not needed to help reduce the cost.
Back To The Future
So what’s the moral of the story here?  After a good amount of research, you should be able to come up with the right person for your project.  Add one more thing to the mix:  would you go through the future with this person?  You know when you meet someone if you like them, the majority of the time, first impressions are the right ones, and last forever.  If today is a bathroom, and tomorrow is a kitchen, will he be back in the morning?  I know it’s hard to tell without the job actually underway and being completed, but sometimes you can just tell that right one has come along.
Next Blog
What happens  on the second date:  Negotiations, Contracts, and Deposits Oh My.

The First! Focusing on Beginnings

Well, since this is the first Blog of what will hopefully be many for years to come (not to mention the first to help launch the best selling book, the magazine, and movie rights...possibly t-shirts, mugs, tape measures....), I guess I should say “Welcome”!!! Thank you for reading, enjoying, and not throwing anything until your finished. As being the first, I would like to start at the beginning of the journey for all home-owners taking the plunge to deciding on their renovation(s), and hiring a contractor/renovator (yes, there is a difference between the two, we’ll save that for a different

Part 1 Focusing on Your Renovation

The first thing to do is focus on your needs. Let’s assume you’re renovating for you, and not to fix up to sell (that’s a whole different situation and future Blog). So you already know you want a new bathroom, for example, but what is it about the current bathroom that is not working for you? Is the tub too small? Too shallow? Wrong location? Does the bathroom need to be bigger? Two sinks or one? Etc. Those you will focus on first as they will be the priority. The next is what will be required for usability and for future-proofing (expanding the family, renovating in a desirable neighbourhood, future design considerations for other rooms are things you’ll want to think about). Just like the little graphic on the TV shows, write a list of what you need and what you want, and have that ready when meeting with potential contractors. Don’t think you’ll be able to answer all the questions yourself, and don’t get overwhelmed, as the right contractor for you will be one that can help you figure this out. Although I can’t tell you what you want, and in the end the decisions are yours, I always help to define the best decision, and keep you up to date on current trends, long lasting designs, and where to focus certain percentages of your budget. It’s important to have your potential client feel like they are the boss, as well as the student at the same time.

The second part of focusing is on your budget. This can get complicated depending on your situation, but let me try and keep it simple: are you looking for quality? Long lasting? Comes with a warranty longer than 2 years? Then please be prepared to spend some money. And I’ll be perfectly honest here: if you didn’t put a checkmark beside each of those 3 details, then don’t renovate, you’ll waste your effort, time, and your investment dollars. Keeping with the bathroom theme, a Powder Room will start at $3500-$4000 including materials. A Main Bath will start at $8500. These are starting points, for simple tear-outs and re-build, nothing structural. If you want high quality, long lasting, and full warranties this is where you’ll begin. Remember that bathrooms done well will be giving you at least 150% of your investment back, so a $10,000 Master Ensuite will increase your home value by $15,000. Not bad for an investment that takes 3-4 weeks.

What if you can’t afford it but REALLY want it? The easy answer is wait until you can afford it, and at risk of losing work, is the advice I usually give, as you will end up cutting things out of the budget that are expensive but necessary. However, there are options if you’re willing to take on a bit of credit. An example is taking a Line of Credit, normally offered around the 4% annual area. If you’re doing a $10,000 renovation, you will make $5000, well worth the 4% annual interest rate on the original investment.

The third part is focusing on your time: when is the right time for you? Do you have a vacation coming up? How available are you on a daily basis? Is it a major renovation? Need it done for holidays, a party? When is your contractor available? Will you need to have temporary accommodations? These will determine the best time for you as only you can answer these questions. However, if you’ve found the right contractor, generally you will be worked into his/her schedule, so you may not have a choice at risk of waiting too long and losing their time! I’ve lost potential contracts from people that wanted it done right away and I wasn’t available, as well as people that have said they would wait for me, and after warning it may be 4-6 months, still lost them over waiting too long.

Thanks for reading the first!!! Send me comments, questions, virtual high-fives, and smiles J

Next Blog: Part 2 - The Right Contractor