We receive calls every day from people looking for contractors, and we get many of the same questions on each call. We thought we would share some of the most common questions (and our answers) from those first conversations, along with one question no client ever asks, but every client should:
1) “I want to renovate. Where do I begin?” If you are doing a small renovation project where changes are purely cosmetic, you can start by calling a contractor. An example would be a kitchen where you want new flooring, cabinets, counters, backsplash, sink, faucet, lighting, painting, etc, and all the fixtures are going back in relatively the same place. Once you add anything structural, (like removing a load-bearing wall or enlarging a window) you might want to start by getting drawings. Structural work includes any work where anything needs to be built or moved that is not purely cosmetic. Want an addition off your family room? You definitely need drawings. Want your basement dug down? A bathroom added where there is no bathroom? Stairs moved? Drawings, drawings, drawings. If you find a contractor who is willing to do structural work without a permit for cash, run far away! Generally, if your job is big enough to require a contractor and not a handy person, you probably need drawings from an architect or designer who can help you lay out the space and apply for permits. Obtain drawings from them and then approach a contractor for a quote. This will give the contractor enough detail to price out your quote with some degree of accuracy. That small investment at the beginning can save you thousands in the end.
2) “How much is an addition going to cost”? A contractor can likely give you a ballpark figure based on square footage but there are just so many factors that will affect this that without proper architectural drawings outlining the scope of work, this figure could be way off. Before you can get even a general quote, you’ll need to consider as many details as possible. Your architect or designer can help you do this, as they will consider added costs you may not think of, for example:
  • If building a back addition, is there access to get machinery to your backyard, or does equipment and material need to be craned over the house?
  • Does your current HVAC system have enough capacity to handle the newly expanded space, or do you need a larger or additional system?
  • What parts of the existing space will also need to be renovated at the same time to tie everything together?
  • What are the electrical and or plumbing upgrades that will need to be done in order to accommodate new appliances/fixtures… etc….

3) What will you do to keep my project on time and on budget? We do everything possible within our control to keep your reno on time and on budget. We have a constant stream of customers, so if your reno drags on, it puts us behind our entire schedule, and that affects our bottom line. We want your house to be magazine-worthy, because that’s good for our advertising. We want your budget to be respected because we want you to recommend us to your friends and family. We want you to know that it’s in our best interest to keep you happy! From our state-of-the-art software that tracks every detail to our focus on quality and customer service, to our vast experience and knowledge of everything reno related, we are experts at getting you into your home on time and on budget. BUT, nothing we do will keep your renovation on time OR on budget if you don’t ask the question nobody ever seems to ask us. Which is….
4) What can I do to keep my project on time and on budget? So glad you asked. The answer is…lots! There is so much that can happen during a reno that is out of anyone’s control. Permit issues, surprises behind the walls of older homes, interfering neighbors or condo boards, people getting COVID, these things are unavoidable. But many common delays and budget explosions can be completely avoided with a few shifts in customer expectations. What level of finishing you are considering and how flexible you are on design and materials will make all the difference to both your budget and schedule. Do you have your heart set on a specific imported marble countertop you saw on Houzz? What if it turns out to be $30,000 and that’s half of your reno budget? What if it’s on backorder in Spain? Will you consider a beautiful, $3,000 piece of quartz that’s in stock locally, can be installed in 10 days, and looks similar? If you can shift your expectations, you’re far more likely to have a stress-free experience. Many people come into a reno expecting finishings they saw online or in magazines, but they don’t think about the time and money it can take to get those materials here, to troubleshoot if there is a problem, or to install pieces that may not be compatible with existing plumbing, electrical or building codes. Not to mention that if something stunning is featured in a magazine, it’s safe to assume it is stunningly expensive. Our local suppliers have a huge variety of beautiful, quality materials and take care of our customers, regardless of budget. All of our suppliers have been vetted by us and our trades to ensure their products are easy to use and parts are accessible, compatible, and in stock. These suppliers know us well and value our business, so when we are in the middle of a job and need a part, they take care of us. No unnecessary waiting, no extra unexpected costs. So really this question is on you. If you can embrace quality finishings by trusted local suppliers who offer excellence at good prices and stand by their products, your reno timeline and your budget have a good chance of staying on track. If you absolutely must have that one-of-a-kind Phoenix Feather vanity handmade by 110-year-old craftspeople from Middle Earth that you saw on Houzz and that needs to be shipped by horse and cart, packed in 1,000 silk pillows and may or may not fit through your front door or connect to Canadian plumbing, and you want that to fit within your $10,000 renovation budget and be installed and ready to use in 3 weeks, then your reno will probably not stay on track or on budget. Actually, if that describes you, please don’t call us. 🙂 Renovating is a joint effort between the client and the contractor and the expectations of what a contractor can do for you should be realistic. If you need assistance laying out a new space or choosing your tiles, that’s what designers and architects are for. If you need to know if a wall is load-bearing and what to replace it with when removing it, that is what a structural engineer is for. Any good contractor will work with several of these people and can refer you. Ask your contractor a ton of questions and plan ahead. Planning is the best way to get what you want without getting blindsided by unexpected costs and unnecessary delays. Not sure where to begin? You can always email us: info@asktheguru.ca and we’ll do our best to help you directly or point you in the right direction. Good luck and happy renovating from the Guru Guys!