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Home Renovations

Updated on October 15, 2008

Before You Start Your Home Renovation Project

Before you do your home renovation project, do your homework!

Home Renovation Building Permits

Any time you do a home renovation (other than minor decorative things) you need a building permit to start with. You will also need permits to alter/add to:

  • plumbing
  • framing
  • electrical
  • foundations

To know if you need any additional permits, check with your city hall. Go get the permits yourself so you know what is required. Some contractors will say you don't need a permit or that they have got the permit when they have not. If you get the required permits yourself, you will know it has been done and when the building inspector will be coming to inspect the job. Securing the permits yourself, you will also be notified when the particular stage of the job has passed or failed inspection. Some permits are progressive. Failure of the plumbing and/or electrical inspection for example will delay the drywalling.

Get Contractor References & Check the Jobs Yourself

Ask each contractor you hire to provide at least 3 references of work similar to your project. Once you have these reference names, check out the jobs! Ask if the job went well. Were there deficiencies?

Check with the Better Business Bureau

Check with the local Better Business Bureau for any complaints about the contractors that will be working on your project.

Require a List of Sub Trades

Require as part of the contract with the General Contractor a list of the sub trades that will be working on your property (e.g. plumbing company, drywallers, painters, landscapers etc.) There are a couple of reasons to have this list:

  1. You know who is going to be on your property.
  2. You know who has a legal right to place a lean on your property.

If the General Contractor does not pay the sub trades, they have the legal right to place a lien on your property. With a lien on the property, you will have problems with your mortgage and selling the home.

Get Everything in Writing

Just because you discussed something with the Contractor it does not mean the work will be done. No matter how large or small the job is, if the tender for the project is vague, then ask that it be rewritten to include all the items you want done. A vague contract just causes problems, you think you are getting one thing but the Contractor will say it's not in the contract.

Home Renovation Extras

Extras are a killer to your budget. Have in the contract that all extras must be submitted in writing and must be signed by both parties before the work begins. This is protection for yourself to prevent cost overruns that the Contractor bills for. A good Contractor will refuse to do extra work unless they have it in writing that you approved the extra. Lots of paperwork, but its worth it.

Incorporate a Hold Back Clause in Home Renovation Contract

How this is handled will depend on where you live.

A Hold Back is where you hold a percentage of the monthly billing on the project. The money is held in trust until the end of the lien period. This is:

  1. Incentive for all the contractors on the job to fix all deficiencies noted regarding their work.
  2. Some protection for yourself if the General Contractor does not pay the sub trades.

Doing your homework and having your paperwork in order before you start renovations will help make the project go smoothly. A renovation can be a large expense, make it a happy experience.


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      RGC Renovation 7 years ago

      Thank you for posting these advices, it is better to have everything written down, than later to argue with the Contractor. Sometimes happens that if you don't check yourself every single step of the done work, it won't be finished right, this really upsets, so try to find the good Contractor and have your renovation project done in the proper way.

      Best regards...