You are renovating your home. This is where you and your family will live and spend most of your time. It’s also likely your largest asset so do you really want the lowest bidder on the job? If you don’t have the money to get what you want, either divide your scope of work into wants vs needs and cut back a little or you can do the renovation in phases to help spread things out soyou get everything you desire and don’t strap yourself with unwanted debt. Also, if you find a good contractor, they can help save you money by suggesting alternative finishings that can keep you on budget. For example a semi-custom kitchen costs less than a custom kitchen but can be built just as well or better if you find the right supplier. If you like Calacatta marble, you can find a Quartz alternative with the same look. The point is there are ways of getting a high quality renovation that is magazine worthy without having the budget of the rich and famous.
1) “I’m going to get 3 quotes and get back to you”.
Yes, you should shop around, but if you try to make your decision only on price, you will invariably pay more in the end to fix costly mistakes made because of cheap materials or untrained labour. Instead, shop for an experienced contractor who listens to what you want and communicates honestly about ways to keep your costs down while still ensuring your renovation is done safely and with attention to detail. Look for a contractor who has good reviews, answers your questions clearly, is knowledgeable about trades and materials, has experience troubleshooting, and most importantly, is fully licenced and insured. There are so many “fly by night” characters out there that if you look hard enough for a cheaper price, you will find one, but at what cost? Renovations are layered and complicated, and often full of unwelcome surprises (asbestos anyone?). A good contractor has a solid understanding of the industry, business acumen and a love of customer service. Price is obviously top of mind when we’re going into any large project, but what people often don’t realize is that price is mostly client driven. The scope of work and the choices the customer makes as finishings will all affect the price, so (within reason), the budget can be tailored to whatever you can afford. Someone asked me the other day how much extra it would cost to add a gas fireplace to their basement renovation. The answer could be $3,000 or $10,000 depending on the unit the customer chooses. The important thing is that you have a contractor who will help you ensure that whatever fireplace you choose will fit properly in your space, integrate with your new built-ins, be compatible with your electrical, run a gas line if necessary and make sure it’s installed correctly and safely.
2) Communicate often and clearly.
Don’t assume your contractor or anyone else for that matter knows what you are thinking unless you tell them. I know, obvious right? But most people just assume that others see things the same way they do. So to avoid costly changes and miscommunication, plan before you start. You don’t need to have your paint colours chosen on demo day but do have an idea of what you want and where you want it. “Winging it” is a sure way to create unnecessary stress and go way over budget. Try to have a fairly solid plan, be prepared for changes if things are uncovered during demolition (structural issues, asbestos, infestations, etc.) and have a contingency budget to deal with any unforeseen things that can arise. Contractors do not have X-ray vision and if you happen to live in an older home, things can and will arise. We’ve pretty much seen it all at this point and it’s all fixable, but every remedy comes with a cost so a contingency budget is a must.
3) Enjoy the process!
This is supposed to be exciting! Focus on the fun of building your dream home, not the mess. You will be back in your cozy bed soon enough and the mess will be cleaned up and your new home will bring you an immense amount of joy. Renovations take time and care to do properly and with Covid among us, things are taking longer. Some products or materials take longer to get and any conscientious contractor will only have a limited amount of workers on site to keep everyone safe. Having a Covid outbreak on a job site means shutting down completely, so sometimes slow and steady wins the race.
In closing, there is one other item that helps us and that is an understanding of a client’s budget. An honest contractor won’t abuse that information. This means that if a job costs $50,000 and your budget was actually $65,000 they won’t just charge you $65,000 because you have it. The reason knowing a client’s budget is helpful is that we can better guide them and direct them to products and solutions that they can afford so they don’t have to cut out things they really want.
When you were a kid and you had $1.00 to spend at the candy store, you spent it all! Sometimes you got a stomach ache after eating it all but you never came home with change. This is the mentality that we grew up with but you don’t have to spend it all and this is exactly why you need to shop for a contractor based on personality and not on price!
Good luck and happy renovating from the Guru Guys!