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Home renovations

From: Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada

Undertaking a renovation project can take time and effort. However, the more planning you do before starting the project, the better your chances of being happy with the work in the end.

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Types of home renovations

Lifestyle renovations help you meet your changing needs, like building a sunroom for pleasure, or converting unused attic space into a guest bedroom.

Retrofit projects focus on your home's shell or mechanical systems, like upgrading your insulation, replacing your furnace or putting on new siding.

Maintenance and repair renovations help keep your house comfortable and in good working order, like caulking windows or reshingling your roof.

Planning your home renovation

Take steps to prepare well for your home renovation:

Visit the Canadian Home Builders' Association's Planning, Design, and Budget page for tools to help plan your home renovation.

Choosing a contractor for your renovation

It's a good idea to meet at least three potential contractors and compare their quotes for the work.

You should ask potential contractors about:

Most tradespeople need to be certified (e.g., plumbers, electricians, etc.).

Review all the quotes carefully. Make sure potential contractors provide estimates using the same specifications so that they can be compared effectively. Check that the estimates include:

For more information on hiring a contractor, visit the Get It in Writing! website.

Home renovation contract

Once you choose the contractor, don't sign a contract until you have fully reviewed it, are satisfied with all the terms and are sure they can meet your needs. The more details that are contained in the contract, the less room there is for error.

The contract should include the following information:

Get the contractor to list specific information about products, manufacturers, size and colour of materials and equipment to be installed. It's a best practice to include product numbers for items such as carpeting, tile, countertops and hardwood floors, for example.

Never allow work to proceed until you have fully reviewed, understood, agreed to and signed the contract.

Contract for major home renovation projects

On major projects, it is a best practice to break down the work into phases. If additional jobs are added along the way, make sure the original contract is clearly amended. Include a list of the sections of work to be done and their completion dates.

Keep the number of payments to a minimum and check on construction liens legislation in your province or territory. The law may require you to hold back a percentage of the payment until the date when the major work is finished. You'll be asked to sign a completion certificate. Don't sign it until the work is finished and you're satisfied with it. Check with your provincial or territorial consumer affairs office to see what is required where you live.

Visit the Office of Consumer Affairs' Contracts page for more tips and information on signing contracts.

Eco-friendly considerations for home renovations

Heating can count for more than half the energy cost of running your house. According to CMHC, more than 17 percent of the energy consumed in Canada is used in this way. Making energy-saving renovations can offer big savings in the long run.

If you wish to include eco-friendly products in your home renovation, make sure to include this request in your plan, and inform potential contractors.

Visit the CMHC Developing Sustainable Housing page for information on energy-efficient home renovations.

Don't risk your home to save money on renovations

For most Canadians, their home is their single-biggest investment. Paying cash to get a lower price for a renovation job is not a better deal—it can be disastrous if something goes wrong. If you pay cash in exchange for a cheaper, tax-free price, you have no warranty and no recourse for poor workmanship. You'll face the added risk of liability if an accident or an injury takes place on your property. If there's an incident and you have no contract, your homeowners' insurance may not protect you.

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Published by the Consumer Measures Committee, a working group of federal, provincial and territorial governments, that helps educate and inform Canadian consumers.

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