Renovating? Here’s what you need to know!

Renovating? Here’s what you need to know!

After improving and renovating hundreds of our client’s homes in preparation for sale, our Design Team knows the inside scoop to make sure your project and experience are amazing. Shannon, Samantha and Parris drop their knowledge for you right here!

Finding a Great Contractor

Great contractors are unfortunately a rare breed – here is how you can find yours!  

  • Personal referrals are the best – speak openly with friends and understand their experience.
  • Look for reoccurring signage for contractors in your neighborhood and ask the home owner how it’s going.
  • Ask any potential contractors for at least three local references with contact info – if they can’t produce that easily, it’s a red flag.
  • Ask your contractor how long his trades have been with him – good trades work for good contractors!
  • Talk to your trusted real estate agent for a recommendation!

Choosing Your Contractor

  • Share any work completion deadlines – this might eliminate some contractors who are already booked up well into the year.
  • Get an estimate from at least two contractors, preferably three.
  • Know your budget.  Even if you don’t know what you can get for your budget have at least a range in mind.  Don’t forget part of that budget may need to be reserved for furniture and décor.
  • Know what your scope of work is:  your need-to-haves and want-to-haves.
  • Share pictures of what you hope the end product will be like and know what quality of finishes you want (and for what) – budget, mid-range or high-end.
  • Get a written estimate – the quality of the estimate will give you an indication of their professionalism and organization.



There are multiple ways to quote and bill a project:



Fixed price vs. Time
This is very dependent on the scope of the project and personality of the client. A fixed price will be a total price based on a detailed scope of work. If the scope changes, there will be charges for extras. Some clients may want to be involved in the renovation and for some, an estimate of hours and billing as work is completed may be the way to go.


All-In vs. Cost Plus
This may be dependent on how the contractor typically runs their projects but you might have a preference and can ask them if they are open to options. All-in means that the cost of the labour and materials (with quoted material $ allowance) as well as the contractor’s profit is included in the overall estimate. Cost Plus could mean that you pay whatever the trade and materials are plus a % above the cost to the general contractor if the job is larger and they are managing multiple trades. You receive the invoices/cost of the trade.

Hiring the Contractor

Make sure the following information is in the contract:

  • The Contractor’s details  – address, contact information, etc.
  • HST information
  • Legalese (if this doesn’t exist, neither you, nor your contractor are protected) inclusive of contractor’s commitment to permits, quality standard, Workers Compensation, the contractors insurance, warranty on the project.
  • Detailed information on the agreed upon scope of work and if both materials AND labour are included. For example, not just “Renovate the Kitchen.”


It should read something like this:



  • Demo and disposal of existing kitchen
  • Install new electrical: 4 outlets, 6 pot lights
  • Install all new cabinetry and hardware
  • Install stone or quartz countertop
  • Paint ceiling, trim and walls
  • Install floor tile
  • Appliance installation


  • Payment draw schedule with amount details and at what phase of the project they will take place – these should be tied to milestones such as “upon completion of drywall.”
  • What your responsibilities are – i.e. selection of materials
  • Defined project material allowances for finish materials.
  • A clear understanding of what is considered extra.

Design & Sourcing

  • Start Pinterest boards as early as possible (in fact, we’re guessing you already have!) Set up groups by room for ideas and create specific boards for final material selections.
  • Understand your direction as to WHAT your style is – we all have varying degrees of what looks and feel we want – try to stick with one! Take notice of any themes you are attracted to such as dark vs. light kitchen cabinets.
  • Prepare your material selections in advance. It will always take longer than you think for material orders and sometimes things can be on back-order. Avoid disappointment and start shopping early.


Should you hire a designer?


First, be realistic about your personal ability. It’s not just about picking colours – one design decision can impact the next ten decisions and sometimes have costly consequences. If this is your first major reno then we strongly recommend it.


Second, be realistic about your time. Do you have a busy family and work schedule? If you can’t be on site at least every 2-3 days for an hour and commit to hours of design and sourcing then you will be the one jeopardizing your own project. Most people dramatically underestimate the time and commitment it takes.


An experienced designer will assist pulling together your look and feel, order materials and project manage your renovation. They are an excellent resource for individuals who want to achieve a beautiful home but do not have the time to communicate with all the trades and deal with the day to day items that may come up while the renovation is under way.

During the Renovation

  • If possible, MOVE OUT!!!! You might think that you can handle it but trust us, it’s worth moving in with the in-laws (sometimes) to avoid the mess.
  • Request at the beginning of the project that you have a weekly meeting on-site to troubleshoot problems, get decisions made, and confirm what is needed for the following week in terms of more decisions or materials.
  • Make the effort to introduce yourself (or ask your general contractor to make the intro) to any trades working in your home. It can go a long way when they know they are working for a friendly face. Bringing coffee or treats occasionally doesn’t hurt either! We once had a client who kept bringing cooked lunches over, so the trades never wanted to work on any other job site.
  • Ask your contractor to provide weekly budget updates.
  • If you’re doing your own design selection, ensure you complete a finishing schedule ahead of time. The finishing schedule (google has many) will define what product is being installed where, right down to product codes, layout etc.
  • If there are modifications being made to plans or the finishing schedule, make sure you use version codes so everyone knows they have the most recent version. Alternatively, keep your docs in the cloud so there is only the most recent version available to trades and any changes are visible immediately.

Near the End…

  • When the project is nearing completion, or when a trade is near wrapping up their part, make sure you do a complete and detailed walkthrough of the project to make sure that all deficiencies are identified.
  • It is very common for even the best contractors to have minor deficiencies that need to get wrapped up.
  • These typically include paint touch ups and small repairs but this is your opportunity to tell the contractor they need to rectify any quality issues (if they weren’t caught during weekly site meetings.)
  • Make a detailed list with the contractor before they leave the job and ensure you hold back a decent amount of any final payment until the entire list is completed.

Finishing Touches

  • Make sure you budget properly for décor. Most people forget to budget for proper window coverings (which are not cheap!).
  • If you don’t have budget left to decorate, don’t rush. Better to buy the right pieces at the quality you want than to fill your freshly renovated space with things that don’t live up to your vision.