10 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Hiring a Contactor

ten questions before hiring a contractor

Any type of construction or re-model around the house is a big financial and emotional investment. And it almost always means putting your trust in a professional contractor. Knowing what to look for in a contractor—and what to expect once you’ve hired one—will help you prepare for the whole construction project. Here’s ten questions you should be able to answer before asking a contractor to begin your home renovation project:

  1. Do You Like Your Contractor?

    Your contractor will quite likely be in and around your home and family for weeks or even months, so pay attention to any “bad vibes” you might get and don’t hire them if you don’t like them. Trust is a huge factor in getting along with your contractor, so be on the look out for exaggerations, embellishments or evasiveness and make your decision accordingly. Apart from technical competence, comfort should play a big role in the decision to hire a contractor because the single most important factor in choosing a contractor is how well you’ll be able to communicate with him or her.

  2. Is Your Contractor Licensed, Bonded and Insured?

    Contractors that are licenced and insurance bespeaks their level of knowledge and creditability. A licence demonstrates that they have passed an exam and know local building codes and construction methods and so minimizes the likelihood of homeowners getting ripped off (because licenses can be revoked for unsafe or shoddy workmanship). Don’t be hesitant to ask for the contractor’s license number.

    If a worker gets hurt during the construction process or if an accident causes damage to a neighbour’s property, your contractor’s insurance will cover the cost of the damage. But if the contractor has no insurance, you could be liable for the cost of any accident. So, be sure to get proof of insurance.

  3. Does Your Contractor Specialize in the Type of Work You’re Doing?

    Because a lot of modern construction or renovation projects are closely regulated by building codes, it’s important to know that your contractor has lots of experience in your type of project so that they know all the details of what is involved. Professional contractors often do lots of research and keep up with the latest best practices by taking classes in specific types of projects, which allows them to be experts in their field. This means they can anticipate problems and complete the work using the latest best practices.

  4. Does Your Contractor Provide a Detailed Contract Before Work Starts?

    A contract is really a detailed set of upfront expectations that spells out everything that will be executed so there’s no surprises for any parties involved. Such a contract should state the approximate start and end dates for the work, list the brands or quality of all items being installed, detail the costs of labour, materials and furnishings and include a comprehensive set of blue prints and drawings complete with written specifications. If a particular part or brand hasn’t been decided on, the contract should indicate a maximum budget for that item. No level of detail is too much.

  5. Who is Actually Performing the Work?

    Will the contractor you hire perform the work himself or will it be sub-contracted out to someone else? Large jobs–like major room renovation or adding an edition to the house–will usually involve many sub-contractors. This is a good thing because plumbing, electrical, roofing and siding are best left to specialists in those fields. But find out who the subcontractors are, if any, because they’ll be showing up at your door, too. A trustworthy contractor will have trustworthy sub-contractors.

  6. Does Your Contractor Know Your Guidelines for Working in and Around Your Home?

    If you don’t want work to begin before 10am and be over by 4pm, be sure to tell your contractor upfront because that could increase costs and lengthen finish dates. Will you be home during the construction process? Are there children in the home? Can the workers use the bathrooms? In short, your contractor should know what your limits and expectations are so he can better assess the job based on your parameters.

  7. What are Your Responsibilities?

    It’s more than likely that furniture will have to be relocated during any construction or remodeling project. Sometimes fences need to be removed so construction vehicles can gain access to the backyard. Some contractors don’t move furniture for fear of damaging the items and instead recommend furniture movers. Removing fences can lead to the loss of the family pet. It’s important to set down all of these expectations in writing before the work begins.

  8. Did You Look at Examples of the Contractor’s Work?

    Most contractors are proud of their work and are only too happy to let you see it, even if it means getting permission from homeowners they’ve worked for in the past. Real world examples have much more value than references because they let you actually see the contractor’s handiwork, quality and variety of work, design, creativity and can even ignite ideas for your own project.

  9. Is Your Contractor Local?

    If a contractor didn’t do good work in your area, chances are they wouldn’t still be around. Local contractors who have been in business for a long time are usually good, reliable bets for projects because word travels fast in communities. It also means the contractor is involved in the area, the workers are probably local and that any problems that arise after the work is finished are more likely to be dealt with in a timely and satisfactory manner. A contractor doesn’t want to lose his local good reputation.

  10. Did You Throw Out the Low-ball Bid?

    It’s always prudent to shop for a good value in a contractor, but that doesn’t mean the lowest price is always the best deal. You should be wary of a contractor who offers a price well below the nearest competitor because it often means he’s desperate for work or is willing to cut corners, neither of which is a good sign.

Budgeting and Planning for a Basement Renovation: We Show You the Money

Basement Renovation Costs

basement renovation

Thinking of a basement renovation? If your basement is cluttered with stuff you “might use, someday” or if it resembles a dark-paneled ’70s dive-bar festooned in red velvet it’s well worth remembering that a basement is a big area that runs most of the way beneath your entire house you could be utilizing.  A basement doesn’t have to be a subterranean man-cave anymore:  it can be a beautiful area of the house you (or a renter!) can actually utilize every day. Gone are the days when you could hang up some ultra-thin walnut-ish paneling and call it a “rec room”.  A truly modern and usable basement should meld with the rest of the house, without looking like an after-thought.  If your somewhat handy, you can still do some of the work yourself, but as homeowners demand more and more from their basements, often times the project will demand the experience of basement renovation professional.

As with any renovation project, before you begin you’ve got to consider budget considerations.  Here are five things that have the greatest influence on the cost of a basement renovation:

The 5 Biggest Influences on Basement Renovation Costs

What’s your basement square footage?

The square footage of the area of the basement to be renovated is the greatest factor influencing costs, from framing and drywall to flooring and lighting.  Most average residential basements are at least 1000 square feet; but, can get much bigger in larger homes. After you measure the square footage of your basement, compare it with these basic renovation costs for a 1000 square foot basement:

Framing – $2,000
Drywall – $4,000
Electrical – $3000
Flooring: – $5,000
Trim and Doors – $2,000
Paint –  $1,000

How’s your foundation?

Finishing your basement without first checking for water problems is obviously not a smart move: once wood and drywall get wet, you’ll be starting over from scratch.  Although older homes might be more famous for water issues, we’ve seen a lot of new homes (less than 10 years old) that are just as likely to have them.  You’ll want to check walls and floors for cracks, humps, wet spots or flaking, all of which can indicate damage or potential damage to come.  These issues MUST be addressed before any basement renovation is started.  Sometimes the issue can be rectified with a simple patch or water proofing from the inside, other times the foundation must be dug up and water-proofed from the outside, which could really scuttle your basement renovation budget. Be sure to have a professional inspect your foundation if you have the slightest doubt regarding its integrity.

Installing a bathroom or kitchen in your basement?

Plumbing for basement bathrooms or kitchens can really take a bite out of your budget.  Older homes may not have rough-ins for bathroom plumbing at all and even newer homes may not have the rough-ins where you want them.  Moving or installing drainage plumbing can often mean chipping up the basement floor; which, isn’t nearly as much fun as it sounds.  And, it goes without saying that cabinets, fixtures and counter tops will take you to new plateaus in basement budget planning but are essential if your basement renovation has renters in mind.

Do you need an escape window in your basement?

Many building codes require that there be some way to exit the basement other than the main staircase in case of fire.  This “escape route” could be a door that leads directly to the outside of the house or could be what is called a “egress” window.  An egress window  must have a minimum open area (minus framing and any immovable element) of no less than 15 inches in any dimension:  that is, someone has to be able to escape from it.  Although the window doesn’t have to be in a basement bedroom, inspectors are going to be especially on the look-out for a properly sized window if you do have a bedroom in the basement.  If you don’t have a proper egress window, digging out the foundation and blowing through the concrete to put one in can get pretty expensive.  Make sure you have either a second door or a big enough window no matter what your plans for your basement, but especially if you are planning for renters or have a basement bedroom.

What kind of flooring would you like in your basement?

Unless you want to paint your bare basement floor with shiny grey concrete paint, you’ll want to consider flooring as a major basement renovation budget element.  Simulated wood laminate is a step above concrete paint, but it won’t last as well as engineered wood or tile, which is more expensive. If you’re considering hardwood for the basement, keep in mind that wood is very susceptible to moisture–so make sure everything is sealed well and humidity levels are stable.  Also, hardwood can’t be nailed to a concrete floor, so either buy hardwood that “floats” over a sealed floor or consider hardwood that can be glued down (which is much more expensive to install or remove, but feels much more solid than floated hardwood). A common money saver–and one that adds warmth to the basement– is to install a good quality carpet.

After you’ve considered the “big five” factors we’ve mentioned and thought about what you’d like to do with your basement, it’s a good time to call a professional.  He or she can advise you and help you get what you want out your basement while letting you know which projects you might be able to tackle yourself and which to leave to some one else.  Whatever you decide, just remember that a basement is a terrible thing to waste.

For your free basement quotation, email info@bellconinteriors.ca or call us at 416.420.6648.

Budgeting and Planning for a Bathroom Renovation: We Show You the Money

Bathroom Renovation Costs

bathroom renovation: budget and planningIn terms of valuation, a bathroom renovation is essential given that the bathroom is the second most influential room in your house. That means upgrading or re-modelling it to maintain a contemporary look can really pay-off– not just when it comes to selling your home but also for the day-to-day pleasures of using it. Whether renovating a bathroom yourself or having a professional do it for you, planning and budgeting are of absolutely fundamental importance. Here’s a by-the-numbers guide to get you started (price-ranges are dependent on materials, your location, cost of labor and the scope of your project):

What to expect for your bathroom renovation budget.

Figuring out how much you spend is the obvious first step and here’s what you can expect for your money.

The basic: $3000 (DIY) to $12,000: You probably won’t be able to move any plumbing or fixtures but you should be able to replace lighting and fixtures with big-box, off-the-shelf products, which–due to their lesser quality–may need repair or replacement in 5-7 years. You’ll want low-end granite countertops that can be offset with creative backsplashes to look more high-end. You won’t be able to tile the entire bathroom, but you could use ceramic tile in the shower/bathtub area. Except for backsplashes, the walls would probably be painted and cabinets could be replaced with off-the-shelf renditions or old ones could be replenished with paint. You can splurge on accessories to draw eyes away from run-of-the-mill cabinets or tile.

The mid range: $10,000 to $35, 000: At this range, you’ll be able to move some plumbing (but not the toilet) and get modern, efficient, low-flow fixtures with good quality internal parts. You might even be able to change the bathtub size (space allowing). Ceramic tiles are a good bet for walls, floors, shower and tub areas: they’ve come a long way in the last few years and–depending on the type you choose–they’re all but indistinguishable from natural stone, at least to the casual eye. Countertops can be a custom or remnant marble, granite or quartz with borders and accent tiles. You’ll be able to install better quality fixtures that have brass or bronze cores which last much longer than coated plastic. A frameless glass jetted shower enclosure is possible but  remember that you can easily blow $10,000 on just this part of the bathroom!

Movin’ on Up: $30,000 – $100,000: At this level, you’ll be doing a full gut, so you can put everything exactly where you want it, knocking out walls into an adjacent room to make the bathroom bigger or maybe even adding a sauna if there’s space. Custom cabinets can be solid wood with exquisite finishes, detailed trim and moulding. Lighting and beautiful accent pieces can be added. Plumbing fixtures will be high-end and options like heated flooring and steam showers abound. Walls, showers and floors can be natural marble, granite or limestone—which are more difficult to cut and require more maintenance, but have a singularly unique character and look.

Where to put your bathroom renovation money

No matter what you budget, according to the National Kitchen and Bathroom Association you’ll want to divide up your cost along these lines:

  • Design costs: 4%
  • Walls and ceilings: 5%
  • Lighting and ventilation: 5%
  • Fixtures: 15%
  • Cabinetry and hardware: 16%
  • Countertops: 7%
  • Flooring: 9%
  • Installation expenses: 20%
  • Doors and windows: 4%
  • Faucets and plumbing: 14%
  • Other: 1%

You should also remember to allow an additional 10-20% for unseen costs (like water damage etc.) that might arise along the way.

When to do your bathroom renovation

It’s possible to do your bathroom renovation anytime, but a common time to start is during winter or spring. Remember, you’ll need a back-up place to do your business and perform ablutions.

How long a bathroom renovation will take

Planning, researching, figuring out your budget and picking out materials often takes at least a couple of months and its not uncommon to go on for up to 6 months. Construction usually takes three to eight weeks, depending on the scope of your project.

Where to go from here with your bathroom renovation

You should begin by determining which of the three levels of renovation your remodels falls into. Then, begin looking at what other people have done by looking at pictures. That way, you’ll be able to firm-up what style, materials, features and amenities you’d like. Don’t take the planning too far, though: get together with a professional designer after you’ve decided on the basics because they can quickly assess your budget and goals and use their experience and expertise to guide you toward what’s best for you.

For your free bathroom quotation, email info@bellconinteriors.ca or call us at 416.420.6648.

Budgeting and Planning for a Kitchen Renovation: We Show You the Money

Kitchen Renovation Costs

kitchen renovationThe kitchen is probably the most important room in your house—from both a functional and financial point of view. A kitchen renovation typically returns 50-80% of your investment in the form of increased home value and can add years of enjoyment for anyone that likes to cook, eat or just hang out and admire the countertops. After you’ve decided what you want out of your kitchen—how it looks and functions–its time to consider budgeting. Here’s a breakdown of what you can expect for your money:

What to expect for your kitchen renovation budget.

Small/Condo Kitchens- $10,000-$20,000: You probably won’t be able to do many structural changes to the kitchen and you may need to do a lot of the work yourself. You’ll be able to update to LED lighting (perhaps under-counter) or pot lights and replace faucets with low-flow models. Instead of replacing cabinets, you can increase kitchen storage efficiency by installing roll-out trays, lazy susans, pull-out shelving and other tiered racking systems. Instead of replacing counter-tops, contractors could install counter extensions that pull out or flip down when you need that extra space for food prep. You could probably replace one or two appliances with more efficient models, just don’t expect that they’ll be super-snazzy top of line stainless steel.

Small/Medium Kitchens- $20,000-$30,000: In this range you’ll still have to do a little of the work yourself and call in the contractors for the bigger stuff. You should be able to upgrade your kitchen sink and faucet, add a tile backsplash and replace your countertops with vinyl, laminate or tile. You could re-face or refinish your cabinets or replace them with big-box stock units and you can paint your walls and ceilings. Appliances can be upgraded and new energy efficient lighting could be installed under-cabinet or in the ceiling.

Medium + Kitchens- $30,000 to $50,000: You’ll be able to leave more work to the professionals. You should be able to re-face or re-finish existing cabinets or install some new semi-custom cabinets. If your willing to compromise in other areas, you might be able to replace countertops with higher-quality materials such as wood, Corian, Formica, metal or stone. Again, if you’re willing to compromise somewhere else, a new kitchen island could be installed. New recessed lighting may be installed and some new electrical work could be done. Walls and ceilings could be painted, flooring may be replaced and appliances could be updated to lower-high-end models.

Larger Kitchens and Complete Re-models- $50,000-$120,000: When you spend upwards of $50,000 on a kitchen, you really should consult with a kitchen designer but you’ll be able to do pretty much anything you want, within reason. You’ll be able knock out walls, re-arrange plumbing and electrical and install the highest-end EnergyStar appliances and faucets. Natural stone countertops and high end hardwood flooring can complement custom cabinetry with exotic finishes. Modern overhead and under-cabinet lighting are also good options, along with pot-fillers, second stoves, wet bars, super-sleek exhaust fans and marble-topped kitchen islands with stools.

Where to put your kitchen renovation money

No matter what you budget, according to the National Kitchen and Bathroom Association you’ll want to divide up your cost along these lines:

  • Design fees: 4%
  • Walls & Ceilings: 5%
  • Doors & Windows: 4%
  • Lighting: 5%
  • Appliances & Ventilation: 14%
  • Countertops: 10%
  • Cabinetry & Hardware: 29%
  • Faucets & Plumbing: 4%
  • Flooring: 7%
  • Installation: 17%
  • Other: 1%

Where to Go from Here with your kitchen renovation

Spend a few months thinking about what you want from a kitchen and look at plenty of pictures of what others have done. Decide on a budget level that’s right for you that includes an assessment of your ability to perform some of the work yourself. For all but the smallest renovations, be sure to consult a kitchen design expert. Professional designers have the connections, experience and examples and can make time-and-money saving suggestions that fit in with your plan so you don’t spend needlessly, while still delivering a gorgeous kitchen you’ll be thrilled with.