My fiancé and I renovated our kitchen this past summer. We took out the old one completely and replaced it. We had a reputable cabinet maker. We kept the same footprint. There was no new electrical or plumbing. The old kitchen was taken out on July 5th. We were told that the new one would take 4 days to install. 31/2 weeks later…
Our house is only 12 years old. We did not have to deal with the issues posed by much older houses. Since we started we have spoken with many people who have been through renovations of various kinds. Each one has a story to tell.
The rest of this article is a summary of the wisdom of those who have gone before, for those who are thinking about undertaking their own upgrades.
Hire a Reputable Contractor
Hiring a reputable contractor is THE single most important step in the whole process. There will be unforeseen challenges and you want a contractor who will stay the course, not cut and run at the first sniff of a problem.
You want a contractor who is reliable and stays on schedule; one who does 1 job at a time, not 6.
This contractor will likely not give you the lowest quotation. There is a price for quality and reliability.
Get references and be sure to check them out.
Get a Contract and Plans
Take your time putting together a proper contract and proper plans. They should be as detailed as possible.
Leave as little as possible to chance or interpretation. In almost every renovation, you will want to changes the plans after you start and insofar as possible you want to avoid being hit with charges for extras.
Consider including an efficient dispute resolution mechanism. Construction lien litigation is not a good solution to disagreements.
Budget to Go Over Budget
Whatever the budget, allow 10-15% more.
When you structure payments keep the Construction Liens Act in mind.
- Clearly define the work to be completed before a payment is made
- Remember that you should hold back 10% of each payment for 45 days in accordance with the Act and only release it after your lawyer has searched to make sure no liens have been registered.
Depending on the nature of the renovation, you may require a certificate of completion from an architect or a project monitor at each phase before making a payment.
Finally, make your payments by way of cheque. Proper records are worth their weight in gold.
Be Prepared for Surprises
Especially with older homes, no-one can know for sure what you will find when the contractor gets behind the walls. Be prepared. As an example, friends of ours encountered a serious mold problem that was invisible until the walls were removed.
Many renovation jobs require permits. If yours does, make sure that you or your contractor get all the necessary permits and that you understand the role of a building inspector. I have heard stories from contractors of jobs being halted by building inspectors and the challenges of completing them thereafter.
Check the Subcontractors
No matter how reputable your contractor is, he is only as good as the tradespeople who actually do the work. In our case, the cabinet maker sent in an installer who started well but ended badly. He caused most of the delay and his carelessness required a cabinet maker to build most of our kitchen twice.
Keep your sense of humour.
P.S. We love the kitchen!
The foregoing is intended for information purposes only and is not legal advice.