A guide for homeowners doing renovations.

Specifically - Hiring Contractors, How to Save Money and Disaster Prevention.

Showing posts with label Pitfalls. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pitfalls. Show all posts


Quite often, a hurdle many clients have is recognizing what their real priorities are.  Priorities that will lead to not just a completed project but a successful one - in which they are the happiest they can get.

Trying to decide on your priorities takes knowledge and experience input from your contractor.  Your contractor should inform you of some simple, obvious priorities but the number one priority is always the project cost.  Everything else comes secondary.  Usually I find that because this is at the forefront of everyone's mind, it triggers an "I don't know where to begin" issue.  Someone will want an addition but they don't know what it will cost and so they don't know what can be designed.  It's a classic issue.

In terms of a big reno, really, the first step is finding out what you're approved for and then vetting and finding a contractor you can trust who will help with the design process.

The fact that there's a looming, forced changes to building code that is going to happen, should be secondary on everyone's mind, but too often I'm finding that builders/contractors are building spec which doesn't address a client's future needs/priorities, but simply based on past market trends.

Aside from the changing building code and the shift to cleaner, greener, energy efficient buildings, here are some other priorities often missed.

Classic Examples of poorly planned priorities

Example One: The Pergola or Roof over a deck without adequate footings.

I often show up to bid on a pergola only to find out that the deck footings/structure was never planned for the load bearing roof/structure load despite either knowing the request from the beginning and not sharing it with the contractor or not thinking about the extra features and instead having a "we'll discuss that afterwards".  

Example Two: A newly designed basement,  home office or den without thought going into storage space.

I understand how it happens which is why I always ask what the priorities are because sometimes clients will realize they really wanted their clutter out of the way or out of sight or they want to be organized.  What sometimes happen is you get a newly renovated space that looks like a plain box with some nice paint, a floor and some trim.  It's usually neglected that there could have been a nice set of shelves "built-in" for optimal space or perhaps a simple storage room or storage under the stairs.

Example Three: Your bathroom isn't as easy to clean as you realized you wanted.  

So now you have a bathroom or ensuite.  It's what you've been waiting for but after awhile the novelty quickly fades away.  You've discovered that your dream bathroom is hard to keep clean.  Everything is just a little too tight, the grout is getting discolored and it shows because the grout lines are too big.  The vanity is just off the floor enough to trap dust and hair under it but you can't get under it easily to clean.  The toilet is too close to the vanity and tub and you can't get behind or around that either.  Your shower doors are really bad.  You realize the door style you chose is very hard to keep clean and the caulking is hard to access to re-caulk.
Really, the majority of these issues can be addressed early on.  It's only after you've started and ordered fixtures and decided on a floor plan that it starts to bleed money to make the changes.

Example Four: Realizing the priority that you didn't know you had is actually the top priority.

So you start your project.  You love the floor; it looks amazing.  The counters are incredible, and they're quartz!  The bar feature is everything you had dreamed of.  The only thing is that you are now at 75% of your budget but only 50% of the floorplan is completed.   So now, you need to cut down everything in that remaining bathroom just to be able to come in 10% over budget.  But if your budget is maxed out then your left with either an incomplete room or you end up with one "gold room" and one "bronze" room when maybe you should have just had one "silver room" however 100% completed and on budget.  

The moral of these stories is sometimes you shouldn't go with what you want because it looks good or it's cheap but choose more according to your priorities because your priorities are much more important for the longevity of your reno and in some cases resale!

Thank you for reading!

-The Bird with the Hammer


If you're like every homeowner, you probably think that you need to get 3 quotes and decide from there.
I'm here to tell you that you're going to have a really hard time deciding accurately between all the quotes.  They're NEVER apples to apples.   In fact, it's more like comparing apples to grapes to watermelons.

Defining some terms

  • Quotes are NOT Estimates.  Know the difference and we've explained them here.
  • Allowances:  Is a sum of money or "budget" included with a bid to allow for the purchase of materials, fixtures or some other aspect that may be uncertain at the point in time of the bid submission.  Generally, in a perfect world, all allowances across all quotes should be the same but they never are.
  • Quotes can be define as a "fixed" amount, therefore you should know the context.  Contexts can be from "lump sum", "cost by unit of measure -( ie: hourly rate or cost per sq.ft.)" and "fixed cost of labour" AKA "Quote on Labour".
  • Draw Schedule:  Is an schedule of payments you issues to your contractor, usually at a stage of completion or after a certain amount of time.  They are sometimes regular or irregular time frames.
  • Holdbacks: Withholding amount that you keep until the job is completed.  This is usually 10% of the job.
  • Deposit: Can range in terms of the size of the job.  This in some cases may be non-refundable if it's towards securing a schedule.  Deposits are a whole topic I will write an article on eventually.

Steps towards deciding on a quote

  1. Your first step for getting quotes is to identify the scope for your contractors to bid on.  The only best way for you to accomplish this is getting a set of plans for each contractor to quote on.
  2. The next step is to ensure that the project schedule is roughly the same across each quote.  What I mean by this is it needs to be able to be evaluated so that you can tell if you are paying a premium on the speed or a discount because it may take longer for example.  Example: 1 worker taking 4 weeks vs 4 workers taking 1 week.  Even though these add up to the same, they influence contractors risk assessment and scheduling difficulties.  The later scenario might be padded for overtime for example which could be unfair to you if your schedule is flexible.
  3. Now you need to do a little bit of homework.  Actually a lot.  You need to read this article on getting "smart quoted".   Ten minutes of reading might save you thousands of dollars.  
  4. Convert each quote to not include the "allowances".   You'll have to subtract the allowance amounts off of each.  Also, if you notice a big discrepancy on the allowance amounts then you might be getting "smart" quoted.  It might be a good idea to try and get a "budget" for allowances.
  5. The next few things you'll need to do are all things that you weigh according to what you're after.  Warranty.  Safety.  "The Basics".  Ideally, each quote should include the basics and you can use "finding a contractor you can trust" as another resource or way to help you make a final decision.
By the time you've gone through those 5 steps, you should have a pretty good idea of which contractor to choose from.  

The important thing to remember is try and put the quotes in the same terms, then see where the extra value is - or lack thereof!

I hope that helps you!




You're about to start your renovation but you have no idea about the cost. So what do most people do?  It's the worst way people get reno cost information.
*Hint*:  They might google it(and that's not always terrible but inconsistent) but aside from that?

As a contractor, it's probably one of the most frustrating problems in the industry because cost is usually priority #1.

I'm am sometimes already at a disadvantage because my potential clients have sought out finding the ballpark cost and that gives them false expectations.

Likely, saved budgets are on the edge of this false information.  When time comes to start the job, there's no contingency or room in the budget for doing things properly or getting that extra feature that really makes you happy.

Luckily I've found ways to get past that problem but 90% of other contractors I believe still follow bad practices and give low-balled information that's used as bait.


Everything is in theory until plans are drawn up.  In a perfect world WE KNOW, there's no red ink from your city's building department.

So the worst way to get information on "how much does a renovation cost" is to: "ask for an estimate".

So they get estimates.  And wrong ones.  Let me ask you this.

Aside from the main differences between quotes and estimates, which one do you think has more reliable information?

It's simple, a contractor is going to do a way better job of quoting because it's on them if it's wrong.  I "sweat bullets" sometimes when I give a quote - I certainly lose sleep on occasion.  I don't quote on imaginary blueprints either because the risk is on me and if I mitigate that risk, it just means you're going to be unhappy paying the extra costs.  And since I don't play at unethical "Smart Quoting" games, I sometimes lose jobs because low-balled estimates are used to bait homeowners.


So the best way to get information on your renovation cost, is to, and by far:

Develop a budget.

One thing I've learned over the years, is that I can strategically play "the game" very well but I choose not to and to operate differently and ethically.


Please "like" or "share" this post if you found it helpful and leave a comment if you like!


This is a giant money saver if I ever heard one.  So you might have ideas and a budget for your renovation - now what?  There's so much bad information out there it's no wonder there's a problem with the industry.

If it's a big job involving lots of trades, then option "A" is by far your best answer.
If it's a deck for example, a designer is your next best option.


Multi-Trades Involved Or Large Size/Scope

Hire a General Renovation Contractor first, who works with a Designer(BTW, Not an Architect or Engineer). 

Option: "B" (Not as good)

Not as good: find a designer (or worse yet on the wallet: an architect, engineer), get drawings, then find a contractor who will agree to follow them


  1. Research contract types:  "Fixed Price",  "Unit Price" & "Cost Plus" for example and understand which one you should use.
  2. Research General Contractors in your area for "The Basics" and read "How To Find A Contractor You Can Trust"
  3. Get an idea of how much designers typically cost - but don't hire them unless you're doing Option 2 above.  It's sometimes best to let your contractor pick the designer so you have an option to hire one that has one "in house" 


  1. Don't get an estimate period - it's just a good way to have false information.  
  2. Don't waste/frustrate contractors with back and forths with estimates or quotes when they don't have the job or plans.
  3. Don't get quotes UNLESS the job is a NOT multi-trade and you're hiring for say doing a deck structure.

If you found this helpful, please "like" or "share" or leave a comment below.




Literally whoever you hire, should have these basic requirements.  I mean, it's no wonder sometimes people get burned because this sort of criteria or lack thereof is a flag and, no offense, but if you did your homework, your chances of having a blown up project starts to go down.

"The Basics" Criteria

  • Insured
  • Bonded (Only commercial or bigger jobs like general contracting a home)
  • Writes a clear contract
  • Writes a clear pricing agreement
  • Asks for a reasonable deposit
  • Has a verifiable licence.  Red-Seal.  Don't over weigh experience, diversity counts for a lot.
  • Safety Record
Now there's a whole customer service basket you should look for too, but you only learn that after meeting with them.

Why isn't WorkSafe Coverage included in the basics?  Well it is but it matters more that they safe and the coverage clearance letter should be checked before the job starts.  This is a thing that depends a lot on the scale of the job and some trades - especially sub trades might not have WorkSafe because the general has agreed to pay for it.

"Extras" Criteria you should use to make your hiring decision

  • Check reviews.  The problem with this is that someone can have their friends and family all give them 5 star reviews.  Also, quite often the reviews won't be consolidated on one platform or they are repeated over several platforms.  Some reviewers are more harsh than others.
  • Check Relevant Experience.  There are major pitfalls with experience checks.  I'll list them in another article.  The point is, you need to make sure they are diverse, knowledge and experts.  Having done one kind of job doesn't mean they can't do another kind and vice versa.
  • Cost - but more importantly trust.  Don't get smart quoted.
  • Quality, 
  • Value,
  • Availability, 
  • Project Duration/Scheduling

Basically, make sure they have the basics, and check the big picture on the extras.  If they don't have the basics, that's a red flag!

If you liked this post, please like it and share!





It really drives me crazy sometimes when I hear "professionals" treat quotes like estimates or vice-versa; so much so, I decided to write about it.

What is a QUOTE?

A quote is a "fixed" price contract.  This essentially means, you can write me a check for the amount of my quote before I start the job.  Once the job is completed, you could give me the check without having to re-write it.

If I give you a quote, I take ALL the risk if something goes wrong during the scope of work as stated in the quote.  Sometimes, there may be clauses to mitigate certain risks.  For instance, I might put things in the quote like "not liable for damage to sprinkler heads".  Quotes can be high risk for certain kinds of jobs.

So what's an ESTIMATE?

An estimate is a flexible price.  It's purely a guess at the costs a project entails and ultimately you could pay more or less than an estimate when the job is completed.  One major thing to note, there's absolutely nothing to fall back on to determine what's actually going to be charged.  Some might say "customer service" is the only thing that you as a client has as leverage.  Quite often estimates create conflict between contractors and homeowners who use the terms quotes and estimates interchangeably.

In Summary:

Complicated, unpredictable jobs should never use estimates or quotes for the contract. (There are other more appropriate contracts out there).

Jobs like a framing a deck or doing a foundation are jobs that can be quoted as there are specs/drawings that show all the necessary information.

Estimates should never be used for "the contract" but instead for determining a "budget" where your actual contract should be "time & materials" or a "mark up".




It's not enough that you can trust them(ie: your contractor)  which is why I think this article will save you thousands of dollars.  It's applicable to all combinations of renovations involving bathrooms, kitchens or multiple trades.  Any time you're selecting from materials or look to make changes "on the fly".

Let's start with a given project...say a bathroom renovation - because they're among the 

Take your time, work with your contractor on a budget and a plan.



The first question you're going to ask yourself is:  

On average, how much does a bathroom renovation cost?  

You'd probably ask the same thing if it were a kitchen, garage, addition or house.

It's next to impossible to answer.  I've done a lot of bathrooms and they're all different - but that's only part of the problem.

"It's not like picking a car with features to select from, bathrooms are more like picking vehicle parts and seeing what kind of vehicle you can get."

Make sure you have a budget
AND plans.


The problem is there are TOO MANY VARIABLES

 Contractors can't predict:

  1. What is in the walls 
  2. If "Smoke & Mirrors" by a previous owner/contractor was used to do terrible work
  3. If you are going to want to change your mind and when.
  4. What it is YOU want unless they spend a ton of time with you. 

To mitigate this we use what's called "padding" on our quotes to cover contingency funds.  This is standard. 

HOWEVER, with bathrooms and other multi-trade projects, this isn't ideal.  If you add all the padding up and it to your costs, then the price, or quote, might not be competitive compared to contractors who are using proper methods.  


If you do think you are getting a good price, you are likely getting "Smart Quoted".  

If you aren't getting "smart quoted" and you trust your contractor, then it's only a matter of time before the quoting will catch up with them.  Arguments, tension and unpleasantness will ultimately be associate with your reno.  Unless you're really lucky or they are really lucky.

Why quoting is a terrible idea

Bathrooms and other multi-trade projects are prone to problems and none of them you're going to be able to mitigate.

  • They use up contingency funds (unless you're lucky)
  • Multi-trade jobs are highly susceptible to trade cost fluctuations
  • They are prone to having warranty issues.
  • Price creeping happens with the selection of fixtures and materials.
  • Don't scale well.
  • Therefore, are extremely prone to going over-budget
I would say you have a 90% chance of going over your budget! 

OR not getting what you want. OR not getting your job finished and that's if you hire a contractor.  It will be even worse for YOU if they smart quoted you or if you decided to do the project management yourself.  

Problematic Scenarios

Part of the problem is if you want to change your mind on the fly(maybe you see a deal) on a counter top or floor (or whatever it may be).  This is when it will hit you and discover that you should have done more research.  You'll realize that things get messy fast.  And your contractor is going to put up a resistance to any changes that are expensive OR they will be thrilled that they charged you a change-order hourly rate - better hope it was low! (hint: it never is because change orders are also inefficient)

Now, let's talk about project management.  
There's 5 scenarios you will have to choose from.

Scenario 1 
General Contractor Provides You With a Quote

We just went over it. You're going to be over budget or bad things are very likely to happen.

Scenario 2
Sit down, have a chat, and discuss your ideas.
Check if you and them are a good fit.
General Contractor Provides You With a Proper Contract

You know how to price shop and compare apples to apples. (A different article)

Scenario 3
The Sub-Trade General Contracts
And sometimes they'll share that burden with you - that's worse.

You get the plumber or the HVAC guy or the electrician to project manage.  This is bad for you.
It's bad for scheduling, it's bad for the warranties that might come up later, it's bad for quality control and most of all, it's bad for your budget.  It's all of THEM vs YOU.  Let me ask you this.  Does the electrician know or care about what counter tops you are going to chose?  Or how waterproof your bathroom floor needs to be?  Are they going to care how much another trade is going to cost? Probably not as long as they get paid first.  Construction phases overlapping and re-work are going to be prone.  This is very bad for you!  Even if you trust them, and they trust each other.  It only goes well until something goes wrong, once.

Scenario 4
You hire the carpenter

This is your next best option.  It's not ideal, but the good news is: you're probably going to get your bathroom completed.  Budget, warranty and scheduling are all going to be iffy though.  A well rounded carpenter is the only trade that's going to be able to salvage a mess but depending on your contract it could cost you or them.

Scenario 5
You are the General Contractor

Don't ever try and project manage a bathroom yourself unless:
 (and i stress that you shouldn't)

  1.  It's your bathroom.
  2.  You have deep pockets.
  3.  You have a lot of time
  4.  You don't care about warranty
  5.  You are well connected.  (this is dangerous because you might be falling into scenario 3)
  6.  You are a carpenter.
  7.  You aren't doing much for upgrades.
  8.  You have a bail-out plan.

Follow this simple checklist of tips

  • If they give you a quote, that's a flag- you're being smart quoted or one/both parties are going to be unhappy.
  • If they are sub-trades other than MAYBE a Carpenter. that's a flag.
  • If they aren't doing a budget, that's a huge flag.
  • If they are cheap - might be a bad choice. (check if we have an article on finding the best prices)
  • Finally, if you DON'T have ONE CONTRACT for the whole job, you need to find someone else.
Thanks for reading and I wish you luck!


I've coined it the "Smart Quote".

In its simplest terms: "a quote that is designed to fool you". 

I've learned that some people call it "bid low, invoice high" which in their mind, they are "out-smarting" their competition at the cost of deceiving their customers intentionally or not.

Here's how it works and how you can tell if you might be getting smart quoted.

Let's say you are getting your bathroom renovated and you've gotten some quotes.  We'll say you have 3 quotes to select from.  (By the way, you shouldn't be getting quotes on bathrooms, I'll be writing another article on why)

Scenario "A" is the lowest quote.  "B" is the middle & "C" is the highest quote.  Most people toss away the "C" quote and decide between "A" & "B".  We won't get into how to choose the best quote.  For the sake of the argument, we'll say "A" & "B" are the two you're going to seriously consider.

Now we will use a job scope which is designed to make the point.

  • Replace the bathtub & shower unit
  • Replace a toilet.
  • Replace a vanity.
Now in the world of residential construction, the paperwork is a big indicator on the vulnerability of homeowners.

If the job scope items aren't specified, you're at higher risk of getting "smart quoted".

Contractor "A" says $4,000 (and I'm just throwing numbers at this)
Contractor "B" says $5,000.
Contractor "C" says $6,000.

Contractor "A" says to make changes, then the hourly rate factors in at $150/hr (again throwing numbers at this)

Contractor "B" doesn't say anything about if you want to change your mind AND you think you know what you want.  They, however, throw something in called an allowance though. The allowance schedule shows a breakdown of each fixture and how much they will cost, but if you want to change the fixture and it's more or less then the actual amount you pay is adjusted accordingly.
- "Some people call that clever, 
some call it strategic bidding. 
I think it's deceiving."

You chose an option and here's what happens.

The job has started.  The vanity has been purchased and installed and the tub/shower is on order.  A toilet is brought in and then the plumber says the drain is too close to the vanity or won't fit.  Now what.  We need to replace the vanity(but the contractor doesn't want to pay for a custom vanity OR move the drain.  If you decided to project manage yourself, you're in big trouble.

If you chose contractor "B"... They knew the drain was going to need to be moved but didn't include it in their price.  Despite you not know their hourly rate, they say it's going to cost $1,000 to move the toilet at $100/hr for 10 hours.

If you chose contractor "A"... well they predicted the drain was going to need to be moved, inflated their hourly rate to compensate for their lower price and didn't include it in the scope of work.  They told you their umbrella hourly rate and unless you want things to go sour right now, you need to pay: 10 hours at $150 = 1500 extra.  Some people call that clever, some strategic bidding, I think it's

So updated new "out of pocket" amounts are:

"A" $5,500
"B" $6,000
"C" $6,000

Now that the floors have been jack-hammered, there's a small amount of flooring that needs to be replaced.

Both "A" and "B" didn't reflect that in the job scope and you end up paying $1,000 more for the new bathroom floor.

Updated "out of pocket" amounts:

"A" $6,500
"B" $7,500
"C" $6,000

Now you're going to love this, it's not over!  The biggest part and easiest to control is allowances. Windows are bad for this.

The tub/shower unit shows up and guess what, it's so shallow you can barely get water on you after you fill it or it's uncomfortable, hard to clean, etc etc etc... You want to return it.

Well, contractor "A" says again, to replace this is going to cost $150/hour (say 5hrs) to change the valve accordingly and you need to wait 3-6 mores weeks for the new one to arrive but nothing was said about the cost to upgrade it.  Your contractor refuses to pay for the upgrade. (+ $250)  But now there's tension and conflict and the job isn't even finished because trim, drywall and paint still needs to get done.

Contractor "B" says, ok, $100/hr to replace the valve and the upgrade is reflected in your allowance so you'll have to pay more in this case as that was the deal.  It's not messy, just it costs more.

New updated "out of pocket" amounts are:

"A" $7,500
"B" $8,000
"C" $6,000
The intention is not necessarily to deceive the homeowner, but instead, just to win the bid against cut-throat competition and tradespeople working out of their truck.

At this point you realize you've been "smart-quoted".  Options "A" & "B" ARE going to get out of hand and option "C" might have been the right choice (in this case).

Option "C" is the more attractive quote! 

HOWEVER, this is still terrible for bathrooms and you're going to be disappointed!

Learn why Contractor "D"(the option you never knew you had) is the right choice for bathrooms in another article.



It's a huge industry.  No wonder these problems exist!

Renovations & new construction is a huge part of everyone's lives.  I feel like 1 person out of every 5 people I know is doing some sort of work on their home while a staggering 9 out of 10 people is either doing something OR knows someone who is at this point in time.

It's not surprising that with such demand in affordable housing there is this problematic and stressful problem homeowners face.  

Homeowners put their soul into their house, it's where most people spend the majority of their time.  It's where they feel safe and take care of their families.  The risks with hiring a bad contractor hit sensitive nerves for the homeowner. 

Have you heard about the stories below?

You might have heard this horror story if not from social media or the news, perhaps from a friend or family member.  

In a nutshell, some contractor ended up being caught on camera emptying his bladder into the kitchen sink.  Gross.

Maybe these stories: 

  • The family goes away only to return home to see their belongings are gone.
  • How about the renovation that never ends? 
  • The budget blown right up.
  • The no show.
  • The mess. 
The list goes on.
There's 1001 ways a renovation can go wrong and probably half of them for another reason I won't cover today.

You need a contractor that you can trust.

Question: So how do you know you can trust them?

Answer: Now there's exceptions to every rule however, you should have a really good chance of properly vetting someone by following the directions below.

The first and obvious is vetting by seeing or hearing someone else vouch for them.  In most cases, that would only give you a good character reference though unless that reference knows smoke & mirrors from solid good construction practices.

Sometimes organizations will vouch for a contractor, this is pretty good way to get a solid option however, sometimes price is another story.  Expect to pay a premium for the "auto-vetting" that took place.

Another option is slow incremental steps.  Hire them for something smaller, then see how they do.  It's a little riskier at first, but you can learn a lot about someone very quickly.

Here's the last way for vetting character.  You meet with them.  In person.  You ask about their family and look into their background as a person.  Ask about their education, their favorite things to do  and maybe where they like to dine.  Stay away from politics and religion though as that has no bearing whatsoever if they are a good fit towards getting your renovation completed.  Check their social media.  Does your dog like them?

Checking for qualifications is pretty straight forward.

Don't fall for the "I've been doing this 40 years".

Beware the billion years of experience though.  I've hired two 40+ years of experience workers/carpenters and let me tell you -- opposite ends of the spectrum.
You want a contractor that is diverse, knowledgeable, and has enough experience for you to know they can do the job well.  I would say 4-6 years as a carpenter is a good guideline and a few years as a contractor depending on the job but really, it just depends.  A good contractor will have a network of trades and reliable resources that provide aide in specialized scenarios.

Check for certifications(use this tool), insurance & workers' compensation clearance.  Ask them why they will or won't pull a permit.  Not pulling a permit when they should is an easy red flag. Check with your "city - buildings department" online or call them to find out or check if another contractor disagrees. (Although I've been the odd one out on occasion, I was 100% certain a permit should be pulled and one wasn't)  Don't listen to what you want to hear and be objective.

Another thing to consider is what trade they are in.  Let me tell you a few things about general contractors and sub-contractors.  Know the difference.

Make sure you hire a general contractor with a red-seal carpentry background.  In the last 15-20 years, qualified but "non-certified" contractors have been phased out due to retirement.  Any general contractor in today's world should ideally have their red-seal carpentry ticket plus any project management degrees or diplomas etc. for bigger jobs, especially commercial.  Building Science is now a relevant field as well.

The sub-trade saying they can project manage or "you can do that part" but they know the trades and can hook you up...that's a trap!!

Here's why:

Red-Seal Carpenters are prone to being very diverse.  

They know a whole lot about: 
  • concrete(maybe 30% curriculum), 
  • framing(mabye 20% curriculum), 
  • finishing,
  • building envelops,
  • blueprints,
  • And, most importantly  They also know a bit(enough, if not a lot) about all of the sub trades.
Those reasons are why carpenters make great general contractors in construction.

It's not uncommon for trade after trade to come in and find the previous trade had cut wires out of the way, or plumbing drains/lines to make way for ducting.  Dry-walling over receptacles, not know where another trade puts their stuff is almost never a problem for a carpenter since we're the ones that are usually called to frame chases or but a bunch of back framing bulkhead, or backing etc...Every site needs a multi-purpose carpenter and it's natural for that person to be the General Contractor.

Here's another MAJOR reason to pick a General Contractor over a Sub-Contractor that can hook you up:

General Contractors(and sometimes Carpenters) care and KNOW about the budget. They will know if a crane is going to be needed on site.  They know fans, drains, switches and have a pretty good idea of what it entails to make changes.  While a decorator, or architect, or designer might be familiar with sub-trades, they may not know from a practical stand point of what it's actually going to cost or how long it will take to get a specific job scope done. Do you think the electrician or plumber is going to care about how much the counters cost?  Or how water proofed something is?

The last few things are pretty easy flags to check for.  

Basically, it's their paperwork.  Know that prices are different from contracts.  Contracts and prices get determined BEFORE the job starts.  Everything should be in writing however brief it may be.

Bathrooms budgets are very vulnerable to being blown right up! 
In summation, here are the indicators you can use as a checklist.

  1. Check References, Testimonials or Reviews. (This is for character)
  2. Don't hire sub-trades to pose as project managers. Don't do the project managing yourself, let me explain why in person or another article.
  3. Check for Red-Seal Certification, Worker's Compensation Clearance Letters, Homeowner's Protection Licencing for new builds.
  4. Ask if they are going to pull a permit.
  5. Ask if they are going to have designs drawn up.
  6. Look at their paperwork(bid, contract, invoice, budgets, schedules etc.. for organization & thoroughness)
  7. Finally, meet them.  Twice.
Don't bother price checking until you have a roster of 3 contractors to chose from.  Price also won't be a factor at this stage however, I will post another article on how to determine if you are being what I call "Smart Quoted" or "Bid Low, Invoiced High".  A good contractor knows that a poor reputation will catch up with them and to place trust means to have good numbers. 

Best of luck!

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  1. Decide on a project priority
  2. Find some features you like
  3. Research the kind of contractor you need
  4. Research the kind of plan maker you need
  5. Consider finding & including a contractor in the designs for big projects
  6. Develop a budget from the concept designs
  7. Tweak your concept and budget until it's affordable
  8. Continue saving for more contingency until the project is ready to start!

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