Thomas & Co. - Home Renovation Contractors

Why Hire a Professional
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Kingston Whig-Standard, April, 1997

by John Thomas

If you own a home, chances are that this spring you will be thinking about some sort of renovation, whether it be painting the front porch, or adding a full-scale addition.   If you’ve decided to hire out the work, the next question becomes who to hire.   Should it be an amateur who may save you money, or a professional renovation company?
 From a survey done last spring, the top five major renovations planned are:
1. Finish basement
2. New bathroom
3. New kitchen
4. Major addition
5. Major outside renovation

Survey results show that 41% of people plan to hire a professional renovator, 44% plan to do the work themselves, and 15%  plan to act as project manager.
 If you’ve ever renovated, you realize nothing is as simple as it looks.   Before deciding whether or who to hire, it’s important to know what you’re deciding about.  Many homeowners, for instance, don’t realize that if there is no written contract – and most amateurs operate without one – there is no warranty protection.  And what may start out as what seems to be a simple scheme to avoid the  GST,  can result in expensive headaches down the line.
 Lack of warranty protection may be only the start of your headaches.  If that amateur who is working for cash has an accident, and hurts himself or someone on your property, you could be at the wrong end of a very expensive liable suit.  If the handyman is not paying his WCB – and chances are he isn’t, you are, in effect the general contractor, whether you realize it or not, and any claims are levied against you.  And if he doesn’t pay his suppliers or subcontractors for materials, the next thing you could find is a lien registered against your house by the lumber company.
 You can always get a lower price.  But price, after all, is always the second priority, whether people realize it or not.  This is because a low price is useless if you’re not satisfied with the work.
 A professional renovator brings to the workplace a proven track record and the experience to save you money in the long run.
 He or she provides valuable help with planning, a detailed written contract, a time schedule, a guarantee of workmanship and materials and a long list of references.   The professional is someone who is on top of current code changes and the latest design and material innovations.  But what is not always apparent to the layman is that experience not only works better but is cheaper, because as I’ve said before nothing is as simple as it looks.  Consider taking out a supporting wall, for instance.  The professional knows if it’s supporting, checks the wall beneath to ensure it’s not been altered, can calculate the beam required, considers how to restore the missing material that will be left in the finished floor, considers wall/ceiling finishes, elevations between the rooms, takes note of blending the baseboards, has a very good idea of what services – electrical, heating, etc. – run through the wall and will have to be diverted.  In short, he has the experience.   The amateur on the other hand makes it up as he goes.  If you’ve hung hundreds of doors, you’re going to do a better job and go three or four times as fast as a beginner.  And if you’ve built dozens of additions, the same rules apply.
 Bur step back for a minute.  Your house if probably your biggest investment.   During boom times, such as we may be entering, the value of your house can double or more.  Do you really want to entrust your future equity to erosion and risk for the uncertain possibility of saving a few dollars?  The survey found that less than 10% of people, on reflection, really considered that route.  That amateur who’s working for a minimum cash wage may look like he’s saving you money – actually he’s going a third as fast, working without clear standards and with no time schedule (he prefers to work by the hour because he really has no idea how long it will take), and exposing you to potentially disastrous liabilities.
 Professionals have a long term view.  They are in the business to stay and really want to do the best job possible to build their business.
 They’ve invested in the best tools – whether it be table saws or computer CAD programs – and are in a position to offer you far more than may be apparent, from concept designs to material discounts.
 Many professional renovators come from the craftsman side of the business, have an old-time pride in their work and want to create something beautiful, functional and durable.  They have a well established network of subcontractors and suppliers, and can seamlessly coordinate what is, after all, a very complicated process.  They’ve been there, done that.  They are concerned about the “fly-by-night” perception of renovators and are taking active steps to change it.
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