What should people be looking for when they're hiring a renovating team or contractor?
Clear communication. Communication from the very first point of contact is an important part of making sure the entire renovation process goes as smoothly as possible. Look for a web presence, such as an up-to-date website, Facebook page, Twitter account, or LinkedIn. A good contractor practices professional conduct, answers the phone professionally, returns calls promptly and uses contracts and written quotes. A contractor who wants to start too quickly could be a red flag. In-depth planning for a renovation project is one of the most overlooked steps. Plan and then execute. Before getting started, always confirm they have proper insurance and are in good standing with WCB.
Say I've moved into a fixer-upper but cannot afford to tackle the entire home at once. What are areas you'd advise people start with?
That's a tricky question, as each home is different. Generally, safety should be the first concern. This includes code violations, mould, ventilation or structural issues. Once we get past those concerns, we'd start with protecting the interior from the exterior elements, your home's outer shell. This includes the roof, windows, doors and siding. The next step is to take care of any necessary mechanical upgrades or changes. Then move on to addressing any planned structural changes and removing and adding walls. Finally, the fun part: Design! Begin making your selections for new floors, kitchens, bathrooms, paint and fixtures.
As an extension of that question, should people live in a house first
It's nice to have everything done before you move in or as soon as you move in. But it's ideal to live in the house for awhile and get a feel for how you use the space, what it's lacking, what can be improved, and separating wants and needs. Consider how a renovation would impact your day-to-day life.
What are details that homeowners should never skimp or cheap out on?
Experienced and skilled labour. Whether it's a tile-setter, roofer, carpenter or painter, don't take a short cut and hire a cheap contractor just so you can splurge on the more expensive building material.
We live in an age where pretty much anything has a YouTube tutorial. Are there any projects you would recommend people don't attempt DIYing without a professional?
We definitely have a list of DDIYs, Don't Do It Yourself. Any project involving water—plumbing—electricity, the building envelope which protects you from mother nature (roofing, siding, windows and doors) and any structural changes or repairs should all be handled by the professionals.
Chris McMullin is a co-founder of i love renovations, a construction company that’s been transforming and upgrading homes since 2013. 902-488-5683, iloverenovations.ca