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The Complete Guide to Home Remodeling - Chapter 7

Keys To Project Success

Note: definitions for the underlined words in this chapter are found in the Glossary of Terms.

Understanding the structure of your home, defining the purpose for home alterations, carefully planning the project out, and taking the time to critique each contractor candidate before making a selection will all help ensure project success.

Other things that will help your project run smoothly include:

  • A realistic expectation as to project time involvement.

  • A realistic expectation in regards to the inconvenience to daily routine.

  • A realistic expectation about all costs that will be incurred; expect 10% to 20% in unforeseen expenses – over and above the full cost quote.

  • Give neighbors advance notice about the impending project if it will last more than a few weeks. They will appreciate the courtesy of being warned about increased noise, clutter, dirt, and activity created by the construction phase of the project.

  • If hiring more than one professional, get them together as early in the project as possible so they can begin working together as a team.

  • If there is a difference of opinion between service providers hired to complete your project, make sure differences are resolved before the project gets underway.

  • Be sure you have a full understanding of project needs before work begins.

  • Aside from checking out all contractor credentials and references before hiring, check with the Better Business Bureau to discover whether or not any complaints have been filed. If so, get as many details as possible to assess whether or not the complaint was fair.

  • Make sure you have full contact information for all contractors who will be working on your project; including company address and telephone number, and the contractor’s personal contact information. This includes home phone number, cell phone number, and physical home address ( not a post office box).

  • As mentioned before, get everything in writing. Verbal agreements and understandings are worthless; leaving room for later misunderstandings and “memory lapses.”

  • Make sure the materials list includes a detailed description of material specifics – including manufacturer, type, and grade; as well as acceptable alternate materials in the event of unavailability of a specified item.

  • The Construction Lien Act allows project owners to withhold 10-percent of the total cost of the project for 45 days beyond project completion. This helps protect the project owner from having a lien put on their property in the event the contractor fails to pay all subcontractors and suppliers.

  • Although a repeated theme in other areas of this book – make sure the contract clearly outlines all aspects of the project, including promises and agreements made by both the project owner and contractor. Do not sign the contract before you have carefully read all of it.

  • If the project has been financed by a loan, check before work begins as to whether or not the loan authority must approve any changes made once the contract has been signed. Find out who will be responsible to pay extra funds required, if any, as well as how funds will be paid.

  • Make sure you have a statement of all material warranties that include what is covered; for what period of time, as well as any restrictions.

  • Make sure terms of payments are clearly understood; for instance, whether or not a specific payment is contingent on completion of certain aspects of the project.

  • Get penalties, if any, in writing in the event the project is not completed on schedule.

  • Get in writing how many days each week the contractor plans to work on the project. If the contractor has a hired work crew, get in writing how often he will be on site overseeing the project.

  • Keep open communication with the contractor throughout the project – a vital element in avoiding conflicts and problems.

  • Visit the work site at intervals; discuss project progress with the contractor.

  • Remain flexible when minor changes occur that do not affect the appearance, function, or quality of the project; note all changes in writing.

Also, as previously mentioned, avoid the use of pre-printed contract forms. Each contract is as individual as the project and agreed upon terms. Again, if you do use a pre-printed form do the following:

  • Fill in every blank; “N/A” if not applicable, “NIL” if that item does not apply.

  • Clearly strike out aspects of the contract you do not agree with.

  • Attach an amendment, if necessary, signed by both parties.


Regardless how carefully you try to avoid conflicts and disagreements, they are sometimes unavoidable. If a disagreement between you and your contractor does develop, do the following:

  • Set a time free from distractions when you and your contractor can get together; avoid trying to resolve conflicts on site, in front of others.

  • Go over the contract together in an attempt to resolve the issue.

  • Remain calm; request that the contractor do the same.

  • Listen to the contractor’s side of the issue without interruption; request that the contractor do the same for you.

  • Try and be flexible when the difference in opinion does not affect the quality, function, appearance, timely completion of the project, or else unnecessarily add to the cost.

  • If the situation does not get resolved, seek the opinion from someone knowledgeable.

  • If the situation persists and is serious enough, discuss the situation with your lawyer.

The most common project problems that arise during the project include: unsatisfactory workmanship, delays, and misunderstandings. If the contractor is behind schedule due to a purposeful failure to honor the agreed upon work schedule (as outlined in the contract), insist they adhere to it.

If they refuse, and if permitted by your province, send them a registered letter threatening to cancel the contract and seek refund of the down payment. Note within the letter that a copy has been sent to the consumer protections department of your local government, and/or the contractor’s bonding company.

Poor workmanship can be reported to the government department from which the contractor obtained their license; if deemed appropriate, necessary action will be taken.

If you feel some aspects of the project are not being completed up to local or Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) standards, or America’s national or local building code requirements, report it in writing to the appropriate inspection department.

The contractor will be forced to make necessary corrections at their own expense if they are found to be in violation of code requirements.

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