August 23, 2015

Save or Sabotage: It's up to you!

(UPDATED-POST from Winter 2015)

After over 10 years of the hubby and his team renovating houses and condos in the GTA, here are some of our best SAVE or SABOTAGE tips for your future project.

1. Ask your contractor how you can SAVE ON LABOUR COSTS:

• A GREAT ATTITUDE: Easily the biggest cost saver when it comes to labour is a positive attitude and a display of trust. We know, there are some bad apples out there so it’s a good idea to keep an eye on your workers. BUT! If you see the hard work happening, a quick hello in the morning and a thank you at the end of day is all that’s needed to put a spring into our step...and maybe some coffee. A relaxed, appreciative work site is a fast work site.

• DEMOLITION: if you’re willing and able to do part, or all of the demolition, cleanup and waste removal yourself, WE, and any contracting team, will LOVE YOU FOREVER!

• PACK: Please, please pack up and store everything as far out of the away from the project as possible, and make a clear, unobstructed path for trades to go in and out of the workspace. If we have to pack, are constantly moving furniture around to create space, or have to constantly avoid breaking something, it will definitely slow us down and eat up your budget.

• PAINTING: If you KNOW you’re a GREAT painter, we’ll leave it up to you.

• PICK UP SUPPLIES: If you have access to a vehicle, contractors are happy confirm a list of things that you can pick up, and when we’ll need them. That way, we can keep working in the house instead of sitting in traffic picking up your tiles. Yes, you pay for that.

• ORDERING: This is a tricky one. Ask what will be helpful to order, and what is best left to the contractor.

• ASSEMBLING: If you’re handy, and go to couple’s therapy, assembling cupboards etc. on the weekend is great. We do recommend, however, that if you find you’re having any trouble to stop, leave it as is, and we’ll come to the rescue. It’s worth a shot, anyway. :)

• DAILY / WEEKLY MEETINGS: If meetings are in person: the best time to have a meeting with prepared questions and updates is right at the start, or end of day. That way, your contractor will let other trades or employees know to arrive or leave accordingly, avoiding any trades standing around waiting for orders. If you plan a phone meeting: ask when it is best to call and set a time that is convenient for you both.


• IF YOU BUY AHEAD: Ask your contractor about the measurements, power levels, weight, durability, and appropriateness of a certain product BEFORE you buy.
Time and time again, people say, “we’ve already bought _____________ ” only to find out that it won’t actually FIT in their home (we’ve rebuilt costly stairwells as a result of that particular strategy), or can’t be supported by whatever plumbing or electrical set up you have existing in your home. In other cases, materials purchased that are not 100% suitable for the job inevitably cause complications that could have been avoided if approved before hand.

• DON’T UNPACK or USE: Many products cannot be returned if you open the box. This is especially true of flooring. Please, let your contractor advise you on what you can and can’t do with certain items.

• BUYING ON SALE: This is another tricky one. Sale items, often, can’t be returned so you’d better make sure it fits or will work with your space before making an investment.

• FREE STUFF: Just because it’s free doesn’t mean it won’t cost you anything. Often, the free stuff takes so much time and effort to customize, it becomes more expensive than if you had bought new.

• WORTHINESS: There are a lot of products out there that have fancy names and spectacular branding. Don’t be fooled. Ask your contractor before you invest in an unnecessarily expensive product what their history is with that item. Nine times out of ten, we will be able to let you know if that name brand is worth it, and if we can use a more cost efficient alternative.

• DISCOUNTS: Contractors often have discounts with suppliers in the city. If you can get the same item at a store where they have a discount, it’s ALWAYS worth it.

• BEST BUY: Some items may not come with a discount but, often we know which stores will have lower prices or better service.

3. Ask your contractor how you can SABOTAGE YOUR SAVINGS:

• MAKE CHANGES TO THE ORIGINAL PLAN: Every change, addition, 2nd guess, and “while we’re at it....” has a dollar sign attached to it.

• TIMING: Timing is HUGE in renovations. Everything needs to sync up if we’re going to stay on schedule. If you don’t ask your contractor “when will it be too late to make a change?” you might as well just toss your cash into the wind.

There is a deadline for every step in the process. If you change your mind about something, without warning, and the wall has just been closed up, or they have to call the plumber or electrician back to undo everything, the price tag $$$ will grow. Also, too much back tracking or indecision can cause trades (plumbers, electricians, gas guys) to let your contractor know that they’re not going to be a part of that job anymore if the client keeps changing their minds. Yup, it happens.

• COMMUNICATION WITH YOUR CONTRACTOR: The smoothest projects have ONE contact person. ONE person to relay questions, ONE person to receive the answers. This saves time and confusion. (YOU HAVE NO IDEA.) Also, ask what’s best method to contact your contractor. For sudden changes, please call or text. Emails, often, will not be checked until the end of day (because contractors are focussing on your home) and that may be too late.

• COMMUNICATION WITH YOUR PARTNER: Money + emotions + more than one person making design decisions can sometimes (always) amount to a good old fashioned show down about the best ____________ for your reno. BUT! You’ll save money if that heated “discussion” doesn’t happen in front of the crew, impeding their progress. Quite simply: tension = time wasted on a work site.

• PETS & CHILDREN: We LOVE your pets!!! Most contractors and trades have a soft spot for a cute dog, or a cat with an attitude, BUT! If they’re not used to your pet, and can’t spot them just as they’re about to be spooked by a power saw, both your workers & your animals could be seriously harmed.

• We love your kids TOO!!! But there have been times when curious kids have left their mark on a reno (cement!!!) or sneak up to see what’s going on, only to startle the person wearing ear plugs and running a massive blade through metal. The best place for BOTH is as far away from the reno as possible, 9-5. When we leave for the day, close off the area that is filled with tools and toxic materials. PERIOD. Safety first.

• USE of your NEW SPACE: Every once in a while clients get excited about the reno and start to use the space, or the materials before they’re ready. Some things need to be sealed. Some things need to settle. Some things need to dry. We’ll redo it if we have to, but if anything is damaged, and not by the team, the repair goes on your bill.

• KNOW YOUR LIMITS: I mentioned above some of the things you might like to help out with but, know your limitations. If you just spent $40,000 on a kitchen reno but you want to save $500 in labour for painting 4 walls...but you’ve never actually painted before... this is not the time to start counting pennies. Only help with the project if you know you can do the task REALLY WELL.

• TENSION: As we mentioned above, a relaxed, appreciative work site is a fast work site, and tension (always) = time wasted. Every problem has a solution and positive approach is the best way to prevent sabotaging your well-deserved savings.

Once you’ve chosen a contracting team, be honest with THEM, and YOURSELF, about your budget. Believe it or not, contractors want the reno to go just as fast as you do and don’t care if the materials are flashy or expensive, they just want to know that your choices fit into your home safely, to code, without fuss.