If doing it yourself, your level of skill and knowledge should be the guiding factors in making this decision.
Do you have what’s required? Do you understand permits? Are you familiar with codes?
If your project is of a ‘cosmetic’ nature, has no element of structure, electrical, plumbing, and you are skilled, you’re probably safe to do it yourself. If the project is of a size and nature that requires some building design, permits, sub-trade work, you’re better off hiring a professional.
When seeking a professional, talk to friends, family, neighbors about their renovations. Ask about their experiences. Contact the Canadian Home Builders Association and/or Better Business Bureau to obtain member recommendations. Check online to review company’s websites – do they speak to their processes, do they provide written agreements, do they specialize in renovations? Stop in at a job site to view their work and talk to the carpenters.
Assemble a list of 3 or 4 companies to interview. Book an on-site meeting with each of them to determine their competence, professionalism, compatibility, and experience. Review: did they return your call promptly, show up on time for the meeting, provide you with a client referral list? Did they ask probing questions like what time frame you’re looking at, what your investment in the project is, what you want the project to look like? Did they ask questions or tell you what you should do?
You’re interviewing the company to see if they fit for you but they’re also interviewing you to see if you fit with them. Whoever you choose – it’s a partnership – so you need to be confident that they hold your best interest and can do the job for you. They’ll be in your home for a period of time so you need to establish a good, trusting relationship.
People believe it’s best to get 3 quotes for their project, but if the job is of substantial size, for you to get 3 quotes based on the same criteria, you’d need to provide each company with that criteria (drawings, scope of work, and specs). Most homeowners aren’t equipped to provide this information. At the interview stage, a professional renovator should be able to provide you with a reasonable budget range for your project. At this point, it can only be a range as there is much work to be done by both parties to set the building design, scope of work, and specs which are required for a comprehensive cost estimate.
That’s why we suggest picking your renovator first then work through the design process, set the scope of work, and the specifications together while considering your budget and time frame. This will ensure that everything flows together well from design to the build.
When checking references – and please DO check references – a phone call is good but an actual site visit to look at the workmanship and chat with the homeowner about their experience is the best.
You are now able to make an informed choice.