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Banka: How to avoid common home renovation pitfalls
Continuing along the topic of taking advantage of the B.C. renovation tax credit from my previous column, here are some tips and things to watch out for when hiring a renovation contractor from any segment of the construction industry.
First, have a detailed list of the items that you want included in your renovation.
For example, if you are having your kitchen or bathroom countertops replaced, do you want your sinks reinstalled up and your appliances reinstalled up or are you doing that yourself? Or having someone else come in to do that?
Get more than one quote. Make sure that you are present when the contractor(s) come to your home to look at the job.
That way you can have a conversation to make sure that all items on your list are covered and understood by the contractor(s).
During the meeting with the contractor(s) you should determine if they are licensed, have a business number and can provide a couple of references to you.
If the work can be seen from the outside, such as a roof, or landscaping, some contractors will tell you to take a drive by ‘such and such’ address.
You can do that, but also go up to the door to confirm that it was actually that contractor that did the work.
Some contractors have been known to send potential customers to view work that was actually completed by a different contractor.
You want to ask if the work will comply with a building code and determine if the code is known and understood. Who will be responsible for the building permit, if necessary?
Another question to ask is who will actually be doing the work?
Would it be the contractor, him or herself, or a staff member?
If a staff member, how much experience do they have in the field?
Beware of ‘under the table’ deals to avoid taxes.
If the contractor is ripping off the government, there is a good chance you might be next.
Ask for a written quote. When you receive the quote make sure that all items that were discussed are listed in detail on the quote as well as how long it will be to complete the job.
Many contractors provide a standard quote sheet that has several check boxes on it and don’t write down the details discussed.
Then after the job is started they claim to not have quoted on that particular item and if you want it done, then it will cost more.
Sometimes the cheapest quote is not always the best.
Choose your contractor based on your initial feelings when you first met the contractor, the time that it will take to complete the work, the results of the reference checks that you have performed and the details included in the quote.
To seal the deal, some contractors will require a partial payment up front indicating good faith towards job completion.
You should always sign the quote indicating that you agree with the items as quoted. Make sure you are given a copy of your signed document.
When you accept the quote, be sure to ask for an expected ‘start date’ so that you can prepare the site, if necessary.
Sometimes construction can be invasive, so it is better to be prepared for when it happens.
Perhaps the work is to be completed indoors and will require someone at home to open the door which may require time off work, or cancelled appointments.
If the contractor does not start on the expected start date, and does not contact you to reschedule, perhaps that might be the first warning sign that things are not going to go well with this job.
Another warning sign is when the contractor arrives to start your job and then leaves to quote another job, or leaves the work with someone that looks like a child while he/she goes to quote another job.
If there appears to be frustration by the person completing the work, then perhaps they are not experienced enough and the company should be contacted.
When the work is complete, the contractor should again meet with you to go over the work that was completed and any extra work that was agreed to.
If there is extra work, the quote should be amended to indicate that you have agreed to the contractor performing this extra work for you.
The amendment should be signed by both you and the contractor.
Finally, if you feel dissatisfied, there are only two forms of recourse and both are tedious and take a long time to get resolved.
One is through the small claims court and the other is through the Better Business Bureau.