Don’t gamble with your home

Why you need a RenoMark® renovator

By Patrick LangstonAll Things Home

You’ve met with a renovator. The price is right. The person seems honest. Maybe you’ve been offered a cash-only deal, saving you that onerous GST.

It’s true the renovator isn’t a member of RenoMark®, but does that mean your project will be a disaster? Maybe not. You might get lucky. But luck can turn on a dime, leaving you with a mess and a yawning hole in your bank account. Why take that kind of chance with your home?

How will sticking with a RenoMark® member protect you from a botched reno and wasted money?

Established in 2001, RenoMark® is a national program that identifies professional contractors who have signed a code of conduct that protects the homeowner.

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

Membership in the program means the renovator has gone through a verification system, says Lindsay Haley, chair of GOHBA’s Renovators’ Council and director of construction at Amsted Design-Build, which has been a RenoMark® member since the program launched.

“It ensures the renovator has all the proper business licences, insurance, certifications of education. There are a number of things in the verification program that help a homeowner understand they’re hiring a qualified contractor or renovator.”

RenoMark® members sign a code of conduct that 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.

Just as importantly, hiring a qualified renovator means permits will be obtained and there will be compliance with the building code. Those are crucial assurances in an industry that has its share of wild-west operators and no end of stories about shoddy workmanship, unfinished projects and outright fraud.

RenoMark® members must also provide a written contract with a clear scope of work so both the homeowner and the renovator understand what is expected and what the project will cost. Without that written contract, it’s your word against the renovator’s if the project goes south and you decide to prosecute.

The RenoMark® code of conduct also requires members to maintain a safe and organized work site (this is, after all, your home).

Haley sums it up this way: “These are renovators who care about quality, who stand above the rest, who don’t mind paying taxes and don’t want to be part of an underground industry.”

Tips if you have a reno in mind

  • Visit for a directory of local RenoMark® members and a five-step guide to successful renovations.
  • The guide — a must-read even for homeowners who have renovated before — includes advice on everything from establishing project priorities to deciding whether contractors will have access to your bathroom.
  • Interview at least three renovators. You’ll find a helpful interview checklist and suggested questions in the renovation section of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association’s website (
  • Request references and then check them out. Ask about their overall experience, including the quality of work, whether the project was on time and if the renovator stuck to the budget.
  • Ask: Was this a happy client?

Patrick Langston is the co-founder of All Things Home Inc. and a veteran journalist. He has written widely about the Ottawa housing industry since 2008.

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