Spring is a great time for performing maintenance tasks and taking care of other home improvements you may need or want. While home renovation projects are exciting, they can also be overwhelming - it's important to ensure that you are in good hands.
We have developed eight key steps to getting repairs successfully completed around your home.
- Know what you want done.
If you are repairing a roof with a leaking valley flashing, for example, decide whether you want the valley flashing replaced, or just patched to last a few years until the whole roof needs reshingling.
If you know what you want done, you can compare apples to apples when reviewing quotations. Otherwise it will be very hard to compare various quotes if every contractor has a different repair strategy.
- Find at least three experienced, reputable contractors who are capable of the work you need completed.
While personal referrals from people you trust are a great starting point, take them with a grain of salt. Former customers of contractors are not usually in a position to comment on the quality of the installation of a furnace, for example. Also, be sure the type of work you are planning to have done is similar (in size and scope) to the work done for the person providing the referral. Many contractors who are geared to do major renovations are not well-suited to do minor repairs, and vice versa.
- Obtain three written estimates.
Our experience has shown that contractors' quotes can vary as much as 300% on any given job. This is sometimes due to different perceptions of what needs to be done. Be prepared to do your research and stick to your guns - many contractors will tell you that the job is much bigger, much harder, or must be done their way (for a variety of reasons). As Home Inspectors, we are often faced with contractor opinions that differ drastically from the recommendations in our reports. In many of these cases, the contractor is proposing unnecessary work.
- Get three references from each contractor.
Better than three references is a list of the recent clients that the contractor has worked for. That way you get to choose who you would like to select as a reference. Follow up with these references, bearing in mind the requirements we advised you on, in regards to your personal references. While you are at it, ensure that the contractor has appropriate licenses and insurance.
- Choose the contractor.
Don't base your choice on price alone; look carefully at what has been included in the estimates. Strongly consider choosing the contractor with the best reputation, provided that the price for the job is fair. Avoid paying cash - the benefit of a cash deal is typically far greater for the contractor than it is for the homeowner.
- Have both parties sign a contract.
The contract should include a complete description of the work. It should also include details such as whose responsibility it is to obtain permits. (If there is any doubt regarding the necessity of a permit, contact your local building department).
The contract should have a start date and a completion date. (On larger contracts, sometimes a penalty clause is included for each day the job extends beyond the completion date).
The contract must also contain a payment schedule. The schedule should not demand very much money up front and the payment should be based on the stages of completion as opposed to pre-determined dates.
Remember to hold back 10% of each payment for 45 days after the completion of the job to determine whether any liens have been placed on the property (as a result of the contractor not paying his sub-contractors).
Also, don't expect much in the way of a guarantee if you are asking a contractor to undertake band-aid repairs. Many contractors will not simply patch a damaged valley flashing, for example, even if they are 95% sure that the repair will work. This is because there is still a 5% chance that they will get complaints to fix a subsequent leak. In fairness, the leakage is not their fault. They just do not want the hassles. Consequently, many contractors will suggest repairs which are overkill (replacing the entire side of the roof, for example) to reduce the potential for complaints. A significantly lower price can be obtained if you explain to the contractor that you expect them to do their best, but you aren't going to make them responsible for the future of the entire roof based on a $300 repair.
- Expect delays.
Any type of home repair seems to take longer than was first predicted.
- Have a contingency fund.
Many home repairs end up unearthing something else that requires repairing. While this is very common, ask lots of questions if you contractor is proposing additional work.
At Carson Dunlop we recognize that a great Home Inspection is just one part of the homeownership process - which is why we promise to stand by our clients for as long as they own their home. We have developed tools and resources to help in every stage of the homeownership journey, like the Carson Dunlop Homeowners Association, our not-for-profit benefits program which gives clients access to exclusive discounts and savings with partners like Canadian Tire and Perkopolis. To learn more about the Association, please click here.
Interested in doing more research before taking on your home renovation projects? Check out our articles on Home Systems' Life Cycles and Home Improvement Costs. In addition, with our Home Reference Book, learning about your home has never been easier. To find out more about the value of this text, please click here.