Friday, January 18, 2008

Underground Contractor’s Low Price?

Everyone loves a bargain. But when it comes to hiring a contractor to work on your home, a “special cash price” can mean a lot of extra risks.

It’s no secret that some contractors offer to do work for unrealistically low prices. Part of the “deal” involves paying them in cash without a written contract or receipts for money paid.

Homeowners who get involved in cash deals usually assume the contractor is cheating on taxes in order to offer the low price. They also assume that the contractor is the one who runs all the risks—after all it is the contractor, not the customer, who ends up not declaring the income on their tax return.

In reality, underground cash deals involve a lot more than evading taxes—and considerably more risk than homeowners imagine.

Whether it involves new home building, a cottage, a major renovation or something less substantial like roofing replacement or kitchen remodeling, residential construction is a fairly complex business.

• Building codes, permits and inspections make sure things are done the right way.
• Labour regulations govern the health and safety of workers as well as hazards related to equipment and chemical use.
• Workers’ Compensation programs protect workers injured on the job.
• Contractor liability insurance protects customers in the event of an accident, damage to the home during construction, or damage or injury to third-parties such as the homeowner’s family and neighbours.
• A written contract sets out what the contractor will do, the work schedule, the price you will pay and the terms of payment.
• Provincial lien regulations limit the homeowners’ liability in the event that the contractor fails to pay suppliers and sub-contracts.
• A written warranty provides customers with some assurance that they will get what they pay for.

Taken together, these measures serve to protect customers. They reduce the chance that serious mistakes will be made. And they provide protection for the customer in the event that something does go wrong.

However, all of these measures also require “paperwork” and records—something underground contractors must avoid for fear of being caught for cheating on taxes. And that is the real secret behind the underground contractor’s low price—there is a lot more than taxes being evaded.

When underground contractors offer low-priced cash deals, they don’t explain that some very serious risks are being passed on to the customer in order to make the low price possible. Because if they did, their low price wouldn’t look like such a great deal—it would look like the potential consumer nightmare it really is.

If you are hiring a contractor to work on your home, don’t fall for the underground contractor’s cash deal. Make certain that you and your family are properly protected. Insist on a written contract covering all aspects of the work or project. And insist that this contract includes proof of contractor liability insurance, Workers’ Compensation coverage (or equivalent private disability coverage for exempt workers), a lien holdback and responsibility for compliance with building codes.

Also be sure to talk with your own insurance company before the work begins—many homeowner policies don’t automatically cover construction-related risks.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Why you should hire a Expert

So you stand in the doorway of your bathroom and you look at your shower stall, your toilet, your sink and vanity, and your walls and you think to yourself that you can do your own bathroom renovation.

Before you tackle your own bathroom renovation there are a few things to consider especially if you have absolutely no experience in doing any kind of bathroom renovation project at all. There are good reasons why bathroom renovation experts are always busy and always expensive.

There is great danger in convincing yourself to do your own bathroom renovation with the inner question “How hard can it be?” ringing in your ears. Take the toilet for instance. The toilet seems easy enough to remove and install but are you certain you know how to properly seal a toilet when it is installed? If you think that running a bead of caulk around the bottom of the toilet is the way to do it then you need to hire an expert. If you need a bead of caulk to keep water from leaking out of the bottom of your toilet then it is not correctly sealed and you are asking for trouble.

Moving To The Shower

Hopefully you are convinced that properly installing a toilet is not as easy as it seems. If that is the case then maybe we should move this bathroom renovation to the shower. I know it looks easy but if you are not familiar with installing plumbing and using torches to weld pipes together then you may want to steer clear of the shower. The shower is the most expensive part of the bathroom to have installed and most of that cost for that particular bathroom renovation is labor. There are a lot of things to consider when installing a bathtub/shower and if you leave anything out you run the risk of having leaks you cannot see until it is way too late. Be smart and call an expert.

It is so tempting to puff your chest and think you can do a bathroom renovation yourself but the smart homeowner calls an expert to do the work in the bathroom. There is no shame in calling an expert and the results you will get will be well worth the price paid. So go ahead and plan your bathroom renovation but when it comes down to doing the work you may want to seriously consider calling in the experts.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Small kitchen need not be dull

Small kitchen need not be dull, drab and boxy. Even if there are building or budget restrictions, you can make your small kitchen not only more efficient but also make it look roomier. Here are a few tips to help you do that.

1. Have as many cabinets in the kitchen as possible. This way, the appliances or dishes which you use less often can be stored in them. Countertop will have more space.

2. Counter surfaces should be free of clutter. There is no need to put your toaster, coffeemaker and such things on the counter. A movable industrial cart or pantry cupboard will take care of them.

3. Look for alternative storage space. Basement or space under the stairway can be used to store cookware and dishes which you rarely use.

4. Use of glass can be a way of visually expanding your kitchen. When you can see through the objects, it gives a sense of space. Think of glass door cabinets or glass kitchen doors.

5. More light in the kitchen really helps. Hanging pendant lights on your eating area and incandescent lighting under upper cabinets will work for your kitchen.

6. Unify the look of your kitchen like same color and style of cabinet pulls and fixtures.

7. If you can afford it, use granite countertop which is more affordable in small kitchen. Also since the space is small, you can afford tumbled marble flooring which looks beautiful. All this creates a wonderful first impression.

8. Make good use of colors to enhance the look of your kitchen. Pastels, light colors and whites, all reflect light and space look bigger. But that doesn't mean you have to restrict yourself to light shades. Bold colors are also effective. Use of blue, green and red can also be used to give a style statement. Colorful cabinetry looks cool.

9. Use your kitchen only for its main purpose i.e. cooking. Don't try to do all things like mail, schoolwork and laundry in a small kitchen. Focus on appliances and work areas used foe meal preparation.

10. Keep the kitchen surfaces religiously clean. A neat, clean and uncluttered kitchen looks not only bigger but also looks far better than a large but cluttered and untidy kitchen

Home Improvement for the New Year

Home Improvement for the New Year: Kitchen Renovation
Author: Gary Nealon
The start of 2008 is a chance to finish old projects or begin new ones. A good project to focus on is the kitchen or more specifically kitchen cabinets. New kitchen cabinets will cost anywhere from $4,000 to $9,000 for any type of regular cabinets that you would buy in a retail store. Higher end cabinets will of course cost even more, but even the lower end cabinets (places like IKEA) can still cost you a couple thousand dollars. While a good rule of thumb is that you are getting what you pay for, even some of the higher end kitchen cabinets are not made of the best materials.

So the way I found to get a great kitchen and not have to pay the high retail prices is through the Internet. My kitchen cost me $2457. I priced this same kitchen at Lowes for a similar style cabinet and it would have cost me $5806. While it was the same kitchen cabinet style, it was made of a lower grade material. I then priced the same kitchen at a local building supply store. The most similar cabinet would have cost $5240 for the full kitchen. Also, I noted that the cabinets at these two stores did not have solid wood sides, only solid wood faces. Comparatively the kitchen cabinets I found online were made of solid wood faces, with ¾ inch plywood sides instead of fiberboard.

Most kitchen cabinets these days, unless custom built, are really RTA cabinets. This simply means ready to assemble. Whether you are buying these cabinets at a store or online, 90% of the manufacturers are mass-producing the parts and eventually have to be assembled. At a store, they (the store) will assemble the cabinets for you and charge you a high mark up or the manufacturer assembles them before shipping. Either way you are incurring the added expense of the labor required for the assembly, and the additional shipping costs of having them shipped assembled. However, buying the cabinets online allows you to avoid a retail mark up and enables you to build the cabinets yourself. Yes it is a little more work, but it is rather simple to put these cabinets together. And in the end if you’re cutting your cabinet costs in half, then it is a simple choice to choose RTA cabinets online.

Regardless of which type of cabinets you choose, new cabinets will help increase the value of your home and make it more appealing to potential buyers. Why not maximize the return on your investment by installing a great looking cabinet that is more durable and cost half the price?
Article Source:
About the Author:I was able to save thousands on my kitchen cabinets . Find out my secrets.... you to can save thousands on kitchen cabinets and bathroom vanities by following these easy steps

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Renovation Refinance Loans

Owning a house is a dream with which every American lives. However, many times borrowers find their dreams getting into jeopardy due to subprime mortgage loans. Mortgage refinancing is an effective means to get over such financial crisis. However, it is not only subprime borrowers who can make use of mortgage refinancing option. Mortgage refinancing is the most preferred choice for getting finances in order to make amendments in the house. Apart from mortgage refinancing, lenders are now providing loans for home improvement through renovation refinance loans.
Real estate markets are constantly changing. Homes that are fitted with latest amenities, and are well-maintained, well-furnished and aptly decorated, are being greatly preference. Renovation refinance loans provide financial assistance in situations where one had already used most of the equity built up over the years on the home.
There are certain factors that influence the loan amount in renovation refinance loans. The foremost factor is the loan amount required for making amendments. However, the lender should be convinced that the home value would increase if the desired improvements are made in the home. Refinance renovation loans are offered at slightly higher interest rates.
Some of the basic documents that need to be presented to the lending agency or bank include a complete plan about the renovations, architectural drawings showing the renovations, income values, credit reports and employment records. The loan amount is disbursed in six equal installments. Accordingly, the borrower is required to divide the entire construction into six equal stages. Before disbursing each installment amount, the work completed till that stage is completely reviewed by the bank authorities. One advantage of these loans is that interest for the first six months is folded into overall loan. Hence, the borrower is not required to make any mortgage monthly payments during the initial six months.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Kitchen Plumbing

If you are planning a major kitchen renovation, than you may eventually need a plumber. Kitchen plumbing may need to take place throughout the renovating process. Be sure to work closely with your plumber and ensure that he sees the final floor plan before the remodel begins. This way he or she can forewarn you of any potential problems. Let him or her know where the pipes and outlets are. This will make their job easier and make it cheaper for you if you are paying by the hour.

Also, schedule a meeting and discuss the use of alternative systems such as hot water services that are solar based and taps that help save water. After you have all structural work done, call your plumber and have him install or move any pipes. At the very end of the kitchen renovation, have your plumber put in any major appliances, such as dishwashers and sinks.

Kitchen Sinks

The kitchen sink is probably the most used piece of equipment in the entire kitchen. It must be durable, but it can still be stylish and beautiful. There are many available styles and it should be little trouble to find one that matches seamlessly with the rest of the decor in your kitchen. There are a couple of things that you will need to take into consideration, namely, whether or not you would like to make your kitchen sink a focal point or rather jast have it blend in with the rest of the kitchen? You will also need to consider if what type of material will meet both your aesthetic and practical needs.

To begin, you will want to consider your family size and how often you use the kitchen. If you or your family are in the kitchen quite a bit, preparing meals or entertaining, you may want to consider purchasing a kitchen sink that is very large and durable. A double-sided, or even a sink with three bowls might work best. On the other hand, i f you would rather eat out then spend one more minute than is absolutely necessary in the kitchen, or if you have a small family, you have the option of choosing something that is more trendy, stylish, and less durable. A single bowl sink might work just fine.

Another decision that must be made when choosing the right kitchen sink is whether or not you would like a standard sized (shallow) sink or a deep one. A shallow sink is seven inches deep and works well for individuals who do not cook much. However, for those who do enjoy being in the kitchen, a deep sink is recommended. A deep sink is 10 inches deep and allows you to hold more dishes and prepare bigger foods such as turkey and chicken.
When you are designing your new kitchen, remember the "sink rule". Sinks are generally laid out to have thirty-six inches of counter area on one side and about half of that or eighteen inches on the other side. Consider this when you are renovating your kitchen.
Lastly, you should consider the type of material you want your sink made out of. Stainless steel, enameled steel and cast iron are the most common ones. However, you can also choose fire clay, slate, soapstone, brass and copper amongst others.
Choosing the right kitchen sink is vital in regards to durability and beautification. There are many types and styles to choose from. It should not be difficult finding the perfect one. You can visit local stores or save the physical trip and search virtually. With the many available options, you should be able to find the perfect kitchen sink in no time.

Just a few things we did't think about

We recently did a full kitchen renovation with new flooring, cabinets, granite,
copper sink, etc. I should have been prepared, but when you're working on your own home you see things a little differently. Besides removing the old and installing the new stuff, we also moved a wall to make the kitchen open to a family room and extended a doorway to make a larger opening to the dining room. These two things sound simple on paper, but made an already long process take even longer. I didn't realize moving a wall meant reinforcing the beams in the attic, moving electrical, patching and retexturing the ceiling and reframing behind the cabinets. Also, widening a doorway means repainting the other side, reframing the door, repairing moulding, etc. Another thing to be prepared for is that things will often come damaged, scratched, need to be modified and generally make you pull your hair out!

This reno took about 3 months total and we more or less stayed within budget. However, some things we forgot to consider are the inconvenience of living with drywall dust (having plastic from ceiling to floor did little to help), wasting so many paper cups/plates/utensils because there was no kitchen sink hooked up, and eating out for almost every meal for 3 months! The latter of which added a hefty amount that was not in the budget.

In the end, it was definitely worth it, but I don't want to renovate anything for quite awhile! I love my copper sink and the extra counter space. My kids also hate eating out now so I guess it's a good thing we have our new kitchen...

Friday, January 4, 2008

Renovation spending to increase

Renovation spending to increase forecasts $40 billion for this year
Canadian homeowners are expected to spend $40.7 billion renovating their homes this year, according to a new report from Clayton Research.

"Dumpsters and bobcats will remain fixtures in your neighborhood this year and next as homeowners continue their love affair with the renovation," states the May issue of the Clayton Housing Report. Clayton forecasts that spending on renovations will surpass spending on the building of new homes this year.

The renovation sector is being boosted by low interest rates, a growing number of owner households, strong home sales, equity withdrawals from homes and need from a generally aging housing stock, according to the report. Contractors are doing two-thirds of renovation work while do-it-yourselfers are tackling one-third of the projects.

There was an eight per cent rise in spending on home improvements last year, with positive growth experienced in all provinces. A further seven per cent increase is forecast for this year and next.

A recent CIBC survey found that homeowners believe each $100 they put into major renovations will return them $140 in added value. "In reality, returns may be slimmer," Clayton Research reports. "A survey of its membership by the Appraisal Institute of Canada has found that while projects such as kitchen and bathroom renovations probably break even in terms of adding value to the home, others such as recreation rooms, new windows and flooring upgrades return little better than 50 cents on the dollar."

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Renovation Horror Stories in Toronto

TORONTO, — While renovation horror stories may make good cocktail party chatter, the reality is that 94 per cent of Canadians who have undertaken a major renovation in the last two years thought the finished look was as good or better than expected, and 71 per cent said the overall cost met their expectation.
A survey from RBC Financial Group shows that Canadian homeowners who have renovated in the last two years are level-headed about time, cost, quality, and inconvenience. When asked to indicate how these aspects went, recent renovators responded as follows:

As Expected/Better/Much Better Worse/Much Worse

Finished Look 94% 5%
Overall Cost 71% 28%
Time Until Completion 64% 36%
Quality of Workmanship 90% 10%
Inconvenience Involved 76% 24%
Contractors/Tradespeople 76% 23%

“Our survey shows that Canadian homeowners are a practical lot who are realistic about time and cost, and unlikely to go wildly over budget, or be overly influenced by television makeover shows,” said Catherine Adams, vice-president, Home Equity Financing Products. “It’s likely they are wisely doing their research, getting quotes, and learning about the most affordable and flexible ways to finance bigger projects.”

The RBC survey also asked experienced major renovators what one piece of advice they would give to prospective renovators and while the responses were varied, caution and practicality were overwhelming themes. Some of the most popular responses were:

Plan ahead/do your homework 17%
Shop around/get a few estimates 14%
Ask for references of tradespeople 11%
Use the best materials/contractors 9%
Add extra onto the estimate 6%
Allow for more time/unexpected delays 6%
Be patient/keep your sense of humour 2%

“In a nation where most of us spend the winter months indoors, keeping our homes inviting and well-maintained isn’t just a fact of life, it’s a necessity,” added Ms. Adams. “Unless they enjoy frequent moves, every responsible homeowner is bound to undertake a home improvement or renovation project at one time or another. If you do need to finance a reno, it’s important to understand in advance what you can afford to spend and how the financing will impact the monthly budget.”

RBC is the largest residential mortgage and home equity lender in Canada with more than $100 billion in loans outstanding and over 15 per cent of the Canadian mortgage market. It is Canada’s number one source of financial advice on homeownership and home financing.

These are the findings of an RBC Financial Group/Ipsos-Reid poll conducted from September 1 to September 2, 2005. For the survey, a representative randomly selected sample of 1,854 Canadian homeowners was interviewed online. The sample of homeowners that had experienced a major renovation in the past two years is 633. With a sample of this size, the results are considered accurate to within ± 3.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, of what they would have been had this entire population been polled. These data were weighted to ensure the sample’s regional and age/sex composition reflects that of the actual Canadian population according to the 2001 Census data. Please visit for more information.

Property Renovation secrets

Planning a property renovation can be so great fun and hard work at the same time. Thinking of the things you'd like to change about the property's layout or making a dingy room something beautiful and enjoyable can be very rewarding. Property renovations can be a big job, though, and plenty of people have great ideas but lots of questions about what they should and shouldn't do. These are some of the most common questions that come up often and the best answers about property renovation projects:
What's the best way to start a property renovation project?
Read. There are plenty of books out there on the market that will help with any property renovation, from painting and changing wallpaper to knocking down walls and wiring. Reading everything you can about the project you have in mind can save you time and money by giving you great tips on where to put your effort. There are also lots of how-to books in the stores that will help you with your project from start to finish, and knowing what you're doing will save you a lot of headaches or mistakes that end up costing you money.
Are there property renovation projects that can increase the value of a property?
Absolutely. When you're thinking of trying to do some property renovation to sell a property for a profit, invest your money in the more high-traffic areas, such as the living room, kitchen, and bathroom. Flooring is another good place to sink some money, and the choice of options as well as ease of changing flooring makes this area a nice project to undertake. Freshening up rooms with a little colour can help increase the appeal of your property. Bedrooms come in a close second for best renovation areas, but keep in mind that investing in updating the look of the kitchen will go a lot farther when you're trying to resell.
Finding ways to make money is important these days, and many people think that buying a run-down house to renovate and then resell is a good idea. Is renovating to turn a profit really worth it?
If you're not planning on moving soon, property renovations to increase value may not be worth the cost or effort. Also, if you're the kind of person that attaches emotion to things, then fixing up your living environment only to give it to someone else may be difficult to do. For those who don't mind living in construction material and partly-unfinished rooms, renovating may be a good idea, though making sure you have the time and money to carry out projects is a wise thing to do. Should you decide to renovation to turn a profit, choose projects that have a high rate of return, such as kitchen remodeling, changing a bathroom or adding a second one, or replacing windows for ones that are of better quality.
Is doing property renovation yourself a worthwhile undertaking?
Yes and no. Thinking about changes to a property and its potential can be fun and exciting, but there are some areas that are better left to professionals. Having a contractor come in and hear about your ideas is a good thing to do, as a professional can provide you with some proper plans and point out some areas of the project that you may not have considered, such as headspace or lighting.
A lot of people think it's not worthwhile to carry out property renovations. Are there good reasons for taking on property renovating?
Of course. It all depends on what your long term goals are. If you want to start out small and only carry our a couple of property renovations a year then you are going to be exerting a lot of effort for a relatively small return. However if you are looking at property renovation as a stepping stone to larger projects, ultimately leading to new build projects then it is a great place to start.
So you can see that property renovation can be a great way to earn a living, but it does carry it's own risks and challenges. Probably the most valuable piece of advice anyone can give a budding property developer is that research is the key. Research your property for renovation, research your plans, take time to research your team and you will be ready for anything. Good luck with your property renovation career.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Succesful Renovation

1. Planning Renovations
Any project will be more successful, given well-defined goals. In every household project, the following three points can be applied:
FORM: What do you want it to look like?
FUNCTION: What do you want it to do for you?
COMPATIBILITY: What factors exist that might limit what you can do, and will the finished product look good on your house?
Once you've completed this part of your homework, it's time to decide if you'll built it yourself, hire a contractor, or be your own contractor and perhaps sub-contract some of the work. Sub-contracting may sometimes seem to over-complicate things and even look wasteful, but just remember - some jobs can look deceivingly simple until you actual get into the nitty-gritty of them. A general contractor's job is to co-ordinate and orchestrate the whole schmozzle to completion.
2. Finding A Contractor
My card...The process of finding a good contractor is essentially the same, whether you decide to hire a general contractor, or one or more sub-contractors. The best reference for a contractor is word of mouth from a satisfied client. If you don't know anyone who has had renovations or repairs done in the area you need, look for work trucks or signs in your neighborhood. Knock on doors, and ask the homeowners if they are satisfied with the work being done. Once you contact a contractor, ask for references, and follow through by calling their previous clients with a set of questions that will give you the information you are looking for.
The following are samples of questions that could be asked of any reference:
1. Did the job come in at the ,?
2. Did the job come in on time?
3. Was the work site left clean each day?
4. Was the quality of the workmanship satisfactory?
5. Was the quality of the materials used satisfactory?
It is always recommended that you talk to more than one company, so that you have a basis for comparison. Listen to their technical information, and note their customer relation skills. If the contractor doesn't do a very good job of communicating with you before you hire him or her, there may be a higher likelihood of miscommunications during the work.
Sometimes the best companies will be very busy and you will have to wait for their services. Other times, good companies may have time slots between large projects that smaller jobs can fit into. Ask what the company's schedule has been like for the past 6 months to a year. Reputable companies are usually busy all year round in any economic situation.
3. The Estimate, or Quote
Meeting the Contractors
Remember that the contractor you choose could be spending a lot of time in your home, so look for someone you feel at ease with. You should meet individually with each potential contractor. Be prepared to discuss products and designs; know what you want and how much you can spend. Take note if the contractors are on time, if they listen and answer questions, willingly give information about their company and their customers; and if they seem to have any aversion to your ideas.
The Estimate
This is where you'll likely make your choice of contractor. Each potential contractor will present a proposal, including design and cost information. Review the estimates, ensuring that they accurately relfect your wishes, and make comments and/or any changes that are required.
How Are Jobs Estimated?
Work that involves structural changes to the home, custom designs, or enlargement of some of the mechanical systems is typically quoted by the job. It can be very difficult for a contractor to know exactly how much time an intricate custom job will take, particulary if a number of trades are required, and the different parts of the job are interdependent.
Get it in writing!Simpler, straightforward jobs are often quoted by the square foot. Examples are laying sod, painting, roofing, drywall or refinishing floors. The quoted price will typically be set to include everything (ie. labour, materials, travel, etc.).
Smaller jobs may also be quoted buy the hour, and if the job is fairly routine, such as installing addtional electrical outlets or drywalling, the figures are typically in line. In this situation you will pay the tradesperson for time, plus the cost of the materials used in the project.
The Final Design and Quote
If you have a contractor with good references and the estimate looks good, you now need to get a firm quote, including final designs. The design should include detailed specifications for the work and the materials to be used.
(Another option is to have an architect or designer produce the plans and ask the contractors to bid on the job, based on these plans.)
Make sure the final specs are accurate and reflect your wishes, and make your final comments and changes. After you accept the final quote, the cost of further changes will likely be added to the job. Ask how long the stages of the work will take, so that you can monitor progress.
4. The Paperwork
Cash is King, however...
... take care, lest the cash deal of the century turn into the mistake of a lifetime! One reason for cash payment is the avoidance of paperwork and taxes. Taxes and other legalities aside, the absence of contracts and permits can be extremely risky.
Ooh, I love to save money!Cash contractors often don't pay Workers' Compensation fees, and you could be held legally responsible for any worker injured on your property. If the contractor gives you the product warranty cards, you'll be covered for defective materials provided they were properly installed, but don't expect good follow-up service on a cash deal. You would also have difficulty supporting any legal actions without any paperwork. The overall quality of a project may be compromised in the absence of paperwork, and cash paid in advance (rather than by cheque) will be all but impossible to retrieve if things go sour.
Building, plumbing and electrical codes may require that all or parts of your project be performed by licensed tradespeople, and sometimes licenses are required to obtain the permits. If the tradespeople aren't licensed, the contractor probably isn't insured. And if your contractor isn't insured, then depending on the nature of the job, neither is your house while he works on it.
The Contract
Agreements in writing are less vulnerable to miscommunications, than are verbal ones, and far easier to enforce. Some of the points included in a good contract are:
1. Full job description, including all aspects of the work; demolition, renovation, reconstruction and finishing.
2. Material specifications, including type, model, number, color, and size where applicable, and who's supplying what.
3. Start and finish dates.
4. Payment schedule; 40/40/20 is generally acceptable.
5. Permits, and who's responsible for obtaining them.
6. Clean-up and trash removal.
7. On site behaviour.
8. Change order clause: Have any changes to the original job specifications in writing with a requirement that you "sign off" any change before the work is performed.
9. Arbitration: Aree how disagreements will be handled before the work begins.
10. Contractor's insurer and policy number.
5. The Work MORE POWER!
Problem Avoidance: If you've carefully chosen your contractor, and made adequate preparations (including making the site ready for the trades people and workers), this part should be easy! The actual work should closely follow what was written into the contract, however you still need to monitor the ongoing project, and in some cases you'll be required to make additional decisions. There are often unforseen difficulties, or you may simply wish to ask for changes as the work proceeds.
Site Preparation: Remove furniture and stored articles from the work area, and cover carpets and other items that may not be moveable. It is in your own best interest to make arrangements for storage, clean-up and refuse areas convenient to the work area.
Project Coordination: Effective communication is the greatest secret to successfully completing any project. Maintain regular contact with your contractor(s) so that the unexpected can be dealt with expediently.
Hidden Conditions: A thorough inspection performed in conjuction with estimation should preclude any major changes, however there are structural and mechanical conditions initially hidden from view, which even the most experienced renovator may not be able to predict. Be prepared to negotiate changes for "hidden conditions".
What to do if a problem develops:
1. Bring all problems, perceived and real, to the attention of your contractor(s).
2. Is it major or minor? If minor, and the contractor is present at the time, discuss it and negotiate a resolution. If it's minor, and/or looks like it can wait, start a list of minor observations that you can bring to his or her attention when appropriate.
3. Major problems should be dealt with immediately. If your contractor is not present at the time, make every effort to contact him or her as soon as possible. This may avert furtherance of the problem.
4. Given that your contractor responds satisfactorily, carry on. If not, try again and if necessary, write a letter. If you still don't get satisfaction, look to a third party such as the Ontario Renovators Council or the Ontario Home Builders Association. These agencies should be approached only if you are certain that a resolution cannot be achieved with the contractor. Legal counsel should be an absolute last resort. There's no use making a mountain out of a molehill, and thereby delaying succesful completion of the project.
THE BOTTOM LINE:careful contractor selection + a good contract = successful job

Energize Your Kitchen With Color

Energize Your Kitchen With Color by Eric Badgely
Somehow, once the rush of Christmas is over, we have time on our hands. But usually at this time of the year, it has to be indoor time, so how about a low-key face lift for your place, specifically to 'brighten' your kitchen?
Even if you are on a limited budget (like most of us after Christmas!) there are still ways to improve and really brighten up your kitchen. The biggest way to change the look of a kitchen (and give yourself an instant psychological lift) is to change the color scheme. Certain colors are known to give a cheery boost, particularly yellows, oranges, turquoises and pinks.
Now this need not mean change all your kitchen cabinets and appliances. You will have to work around the expensive items if you are on a budget. These days, most of us have replaced the avocado green stoves and mustard yellow fridges with white or almond appliances, and these neutral colors are easy to incorporate into most color schemes.
Before we get started, a word about kitchen cabinets, the two most popular choices are wood doors or laminate doors - usually white or cream. Ideally, for the sake of your wallet, you will want to stick with what you have got. Ensure that your choice of paintwork will complement the specific color of your wooden cabinet doors.
Kitchen cupboards are a very expensive outlay which can be cleverly avoided in most cases. They can be painted or revamped using an intense color stain gel. Also, many companies advertise that they will replace your cabinet doors (ONLY doors) for a very modest fee.
If you feel you have to have new doors, this is the most reasonable option. These new kitchen cabinet door fronts can be as reasonable a $20.00, although an oak door can start nearer to $30.00. This idea will considerably lower the cost of a new look for your kitchen.
However, this is about brightening up, not renovating, so back to the prime mood changer of your kitchen - the color. If you paint all the walls in one color, be sure that the color is not too intense. Four walls that are intensely or darkly colored will appear to reduce the size of your room.
If you want intense color, try to put it on one wall, preferably the wall that houses the window. This is because that wall will not reflect any light coming into the kitchen from that window.
As white walls or very pale walls will reflect the most incoming daylight, the direction of the sunlight should be taken into account if you are a 'natural light' buff!
If you have no sunlight coming into your kitchen, then be sure that your artificial lighting picks up on pale areas. Small under-the-cabinet fluorescent lights can be bought very cheaply, and are also extremely easy to install.
Another way to brighten your kitchen if you have no natural light is to hang a string of colored lights, perhaps along the top of your kitchen cabinets. These will not give light but will give an atmospheric glow.
Strings of little lights can be found these days in red or green chili peppers, or baby yellow pumpkins, of course, you can only add these if they go with your color scheme, or otherwise you are stuck with the cream-colored baby garlic bulb lights!
It is probably under $100.00. to treat yourself to a quick coat or two of paint, some inexpensive lighting and perhaps new drapes or blinds. If you feel really extravagant you can buy a new set of kitchen canisters, or paint the spice rack to match and feel cheery in your kitchen, even on a gray day!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

What To Look For In A Renovator

Finding a professional renovator is not as difficult as it can sometimes seem. It's best to begin with a list of the characteristics you should look for.

Presentation - Real professional renovator operate in a businesslike manner. They respect your schedule and show up for appointments on time. They present themselves well, are organized and deal with your questions and concerns directly. They earn your confidence because they follow through on promises - if they say they will call you back tomorrow , they do. How a renovator deals with you before a contract is signed tells you a lot about how you can expect to be treated once the job begins.

Communication - Renovation is a "people business", and good renovators are good listeners and communicators. Professional renovators must "translate" your ideas and goals into a workable plan - this requires a solid working relationship and good rapport. If you're not comfortable with renovators you interview or don't feel you can communicate with them effectively, you should keep looking to find the right person for your job.

Skills and Experience - Renovating a home can be a far more complex task than building it in the first place. It takes years of experience in the business before most renovators are ready to manage a major project on their own. Professional renovators have this type of work history in the industry, and you should ask about it. When did they start in the business and who have they worked for in the past? Have they completed projects that are similar in nature and size to the one that you are planning? How long have they worked with the trades who would be involved in your project? Do they regularly take part in industry training programs?

Track Record- A renovation contractor's past customers are probably the most reliable source of information available to you. A professional renovator will be glad to provide you with a list of past customers who you can contact for personal references. Get this list and then follow through and make the calls.

There are a number of key questions you should always ask past customers :
Did the renovator deliver what was promised?

Did the work crew arrive on time with all the necessary materials?

Was the work site organized, and did they feel the renovator provided adequate direction and management to workers?

Were they able to maintain satisfactory communications with the renovator throughout the project?

If there were any problems, did the renovator take adequate steps to resolve them?

Was there any follow-up or warranty work required after the job was completed and, if so, was it done quickly, properly and agreeably?

If they were doing the job again, would they hire the same renovator?

If any renovators are unwilling to provide you with customers references, you should not consider hiring them.

Professional Reputation -Established renovators work with a network of other businesses in your community - banks, material suppliers and trades. You should ask a renovator for references to any of these people. Also, you should check with the local Better Business Bureau to find out if there have been any complaints filed against the renovator.

Your Local Home Builders' Association -Ask renovators is they are members in good standing of the Home Builders' Association in your area. Most Association members are established local firms with many years in business. The education and training programs offered through the Canadian Home Builders' Association network provide renovators the opportunity to keep up-to-date on building technology and practices. Association membership is a solid indication that a renovator is a committed member of the industry.

Be Clear About What You Want and Expect
It's hard to get what you want if you don't ask for it. In the home renovation business, the real professionals want to understand your expectations and needs. So don't hesitate to "speak your mind".

We know that not everyone finds this easy to do, but it is very important. If a renovator you talk with is not responsive to your questions, chances are you should choose someone else for your project.

The renovator should help you define and plan your project. One of the benefits provided by professional renovators is their knowledge and experience in planning projects. An important part of their service to you should be to help you finalize your renovation plans. You should expect renovators to offer suggestions about how best to achieve your renovation goals and what can be accomplished within your budget.

When there are things about a renovators proposal that you don't understand, ask questions. It's the renovator's job to explain things to your satisfaction. Good renovators want the opportunity to do this.

Balance price and value. A price that's "too good to be true" probably is. The range of price quotes you get will reflect differences in quality of materials, workmanship and management provided. There's no magic involved. If one renovator offers to do the job for substantially less than others, there will always be a reason. Compare quoted specifications, and the renovators' track records, very carefully. If a renovator's price seems out of line with others, ask for an explanation. Higher prices should reflect better-quality materials, finishing, features and service. The opposite is usually true when prices are lower than average. Make sure the price you choose will deliver the quality you want.

Ask the renovator how any hidden defects will be handled. With any renovation project, unanticipated problems can come up. For instance, the condition of wiring hidden in walls can't be known until the job is under way. If hidden defects are uncovered, you need to know how your renovators will handle these problems. What's important is that you are fully explained to you before extra charges are incurred.

Never agree to anything without a written contract. A written contract protects both you and the renovator from misunderstanding. The contract must include detailed project plan, specifications, a timetable and schedule of payments. As well, it will deal with practical issues such as the renovator's access to your home, and various legal requirements such ass GST payment, Workers' Compensation coverage and the renovator's liability insurance. A proper contract will also specify the warranty the renovator is providing on the work. If you are unsure about any part of the contract, have a lawyer review is before you sign.

Ask question about the renovator. We've provided some suggestions. You need to let renovators know that character and reputation matter to you. A real professional can meet this test and will respect you for asking these questions.