Be protected

Don't take chances. Get it in writing.

By Patrick Langston
All Things Home

Does hiring a RenoMark® renovator mean your project will go flawlessly from start to finish? Probably not, because renovations can be complicated, but a RenoMark contractor remains one of the best assurances your project will not only be done properly in the end but is also backed up with a written guarantee.

Renovations are tricky, with everything from hidden structural problems to rising supply costs throwing a wrench into the works.

Complications have grown during the pandemic, when public health measures and material shortages have often increased the time it takes to get a renovation done even as families, confronted with working from home and online schooling, are desperate for improvements to their homes.

But if cost and time have you thinking you should hire that friend of a friend who says he can do the work quickly and save you money by making it a cash job, ask yourself if you want to put your home, and possibly your family’s safety, in the hands of a non-professional.

Instead, look into hiring a RenoMark contractor.

What is RenoMark®?

Established in 2001 by the Toronto-based Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD), RenoMark is now a cross-Canada program that identifies professional contractors who have signed on to a code of conduct that protects the homeowner.

The program is delivered in partnership with the Canadian Home Builders’ Association and local home builders’ associations, including the Greater Ottawa Home Builders’ Association (GOHBA).

That code of conduct — which includes providing a two-year warranty on work, carrying at least $2 million in liability insurance and a promise to return homeowners’ calls within two days — isn’t something a cut-rate cash-only renovator bothers with.

And in the wild west that has long been one aspect of the home improvement industry, that person calling themselves a renovator doesn’t have to possess any special qualifications.

“Anyone can call themselves a renovator — get a truck, get a ladder and go out and start renovating,” says Greg Simpson, chair of GOHBA’s Renovators Council and design manager at Urbacity Design Build. RenoMark is “bringing regulation to a fairly unregulated industry.”

Why hiring a RenoMark® renovator makes sense

Hiring that person with a truck, a ladder and a mile-wide smile can turn into a nightmare. No permits, no insurance, no oversight: the consequences for the homeowner can be frightening, from a dangerously botched wiring job to a jump in your own insurance rate following an on-site accident or property damage. The risks, including the potential dangers of hiring an uninsured contractor, aren’t worth the money you might save by hiring a cheaper but unqualified renovator.

Even if it’s just the classic case of the renovator who never bothers finishing the job once he’s been paid most of the money, the homeowner is left holding the bag. After all, if there’s no written contract with a clear scope of work — a requirement for RenoMark members — it’s your word against the renovator’s if you decide to prosecute.

The RenoMark code of conduct also requires members to be properly licensed, hire only subcontractors who have workplace safety and employers’ liability coverage, and maintain a safe and organized work site.

Hiring a RenoMark renovator means you “avoid the issues of the underground and bad renovators… the risk of losing (your) deposit or money (and of) non-code-compliant work,” says Steve Barkhouse, owner of Amsted Design-Build, which has been a RenoMark member since the program’s inception.

A RenoMark project is a “low-risk, peace-of-mind renovation, which is all that people care about after the reno is complete,” adds Barkhouse.

You can check out some of that completed work by RenoMark renovators, including Amsted, Lagois Design-Build-Renovate, RND Construction and Urbacity, in GOHBA’s 2021 Reno Tour (gohba.ca/reno-tour-2021).

Must-dos when hiring a renovator

RenoMark’s website is a valuable resource when contemplating a renovation. Its five-step guide to the renovation process, including advice on establishing project priorities, deciding whether contractors will have access to your bathroom and a reminder that price isn’t everything, is a must even for homeowners who have been through prior renovations.

When selecting a renovator, Simpson suggests three must-dos:

  • Discuss your proposed renovation with at least a couple of renovators and have a standard list of questions so you can compare apples with apples. “Compare the responses — you’re not just having a conversation.” The Canadian Home Builders’ Association has a helpful interview checklist and suggested questions as part of its renovation information.
  • Request and speak with three references “and make sure it’s not their mom,” Simpson says. Ask those homeowners pointed questions about how the renovator dealt with project problems and issues. “No renovation is ever a smooth sail from start to finish. There’s always going to be some kind of issue that comes up, and it’s how you deal with that issue that sets the OK guys apart from the great guys.”
  • When considering a renovator, ask if they have Workers’ Compensation and liability insurance coverage. And don’t just take their word for it, make sure you actually see the documents, says Simpson.

To find a RenoMark renovator in the Ottawa area, visit gohba.ca/renomark or Find a Renovator.

Patrick Langston is the co-founder of AllThingsHome.ca, Ottawa’s only comprehensive source of unbiased information on the local housing industry. The veteran journalist has written widely about the Ottawa housing industry since 2008.

 


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