How to make it perfect, perfect, perfect

Any contractor, renovator or designer will tell you how stressful a renovation can be. It upsets your everyday functioning. It throws your household (and your life) into a spin. It rattles your nerves. Of course it does. You’re spending a lot of money. This is your home, your investment, your future.

But there are ways to significantly minimize the stress in ways that will actually make your renovation calm, predictable, and fun.

It’s called doing your homework.

This is a bigger job than you might think. So take a deep breath. Get out your notebook. And then be prepared to dig in.

Ottawa Renovates asked two top experts in the field for advice.


Casey Grey, Cornelius Grey Construction, Inc.


Do your homework first


“A smooth renovation is all about organization and communication,” says Casey. “People get stressed when they have to make a lot of decisions or a significant decision in a short period of time. The more details and selections you nail down before a project starts, the smoother it will go.”


Casey offers these tips:

  • There are always going to be unexpected things that arise during a renovation. The more organized a project is at the beginning, the more time you will have to solve unexpected situations − and as a result the less stressful the renovation will be.
  • Communication is essential. The contractor should be communicating with you every day, whether it is good or bad news − even if it is just to give an update about how the day went.
  • Choose a contractor you feel you can trust and have a good professional relationship with. Contractors should know they are not just working on another house, but working on somebody’s home and therefore should treat it with the utmost respect.


Gerhard Linse, Gerhard Linse Design & Building Consultants

If love could only be this sweet

          You know that heady, thrilling time when you first meet someone and you know this is going to the love of your life?

That’s how it should feel with your renovator, says Gerhard. It should be  like an affair… intense, in-tune, magnificent. And it should end as the perfect marriage.

So how do you find true love in your renovator?

First, he says, know what questions to ask. Exciting as the experience can be, it’s still serious business.

Here are Gerhard’s suggestions:

  • Start a list of possible companies. Speak to friends. Get advice from a designer who has worked successfully with a number of renovators. Read stories in magazines and find the renovators you think might be candidates.
  • Narrow your list to two or three potential renovators, and be prepared to investigate each one thoroughly. Don’t look for the lowest price. If you have the right two or three in mind, they should be within the same ball park anyway – a difference of perhaps five to seven percent one way or the other.
  • Look for: personalities (how yours and theirs mesh); first-rate communication; thorough documentation; and reliable, consistent follow-up.
  • Ask for: length of experience (“If you’ve survived 10 years in this business, it means you’re doing something right”); references from at least six clients in three different categories: 1. current; 2.within the past six months to a year; 3. older.
  • Ask to see a current renovation. Meet the current client or clients. What you see and hear will tell you a good deal. You should see perfect organization and cleanliness on the job site, especially. A tidy site is a safe site.
  • Determine if the companies have been through litigation. Presumably they will tell you the truth, or you can get a lawyer to check. Remember, of course, that there are always two sides to every story; but if a company has been involved in more than a couple of litigations over the past 10 years, it should raise a flag.
  • Find out how they deal with difficult things like cost-overruns and extras. Get a real sense of who they are.

Finding the right renovator is not a simple process, says Gerhard. Besides asking the right questions, use your instinct, too. Get the “vibes”, especially when you’re making your preliminary, longer list (the one you will shorten back to two or three) − even when you’re just checking people out over the phone.

“It all boils down to communication,” he says, “to understandings and expectations.”