Choosing a contractor to renovate your home is one of your biggest decisions.

Should you choose a big name renovator with an office, sales staff, accountants and a full staff of trades?

Or should you choose a small scale renovator who is just a one person show with associations with other trades?

Or should you be your own general contractor and hire or sub contract all the sub trades yourself?

During a renovation large or small you are inviting relative strangers into your home, disrupting your usual life and hoping all goes well and on time. I wish you good luck with all that. Be prepared for at least a few changes or difficulties or increases. Decreases are extremely rare. But they do happen.

Big name renovator:

Remember if you chose one of these there is definitely a significant profit margin. Has to be, they will usually have to have a large enough profit margin to pay the office staff, sales staff, project managers, owner, office rental, vacation pay, staff benefits, insurance, tools, equipment, advertising, trade show participation, trade group membership, city licensing and so on. All renovators will have to build in at least some of these costs into every project. Every contractor has at least business cards, applicable insurances and city licenses.

They do have advantages for all those extra costs. They usually have buying power to get costs down a bit, 2 to 3 year warranties and because they are big they probably have been in business for many years and will be relatively easier to get back on site if something should go wrong. They should also have the ability to produce a well worded contract that you can refer to and read over many times to ensure you are getting exactly what you planned on getting.

They also usually have access to a great number of trades and or subcontractors that they actually use to perform the work. This means that they are actually just managing the work and utilizing the best subcontractors available to do the best possible work for you. Tile setters for tile portions of the work, professional painters for that part, licensed electricians and plumbers for those portions and the list goes on. Remember though, each subcontractor has his own profit margin that is passed to the general and then marked up by the general and then passed on to you. Noting is free.

Small or midsized renovator:

These can be a great choice, providing you chose a fair, experienced and knowledgeable one. There are ones that have limited knowledge and should only be chosen for smaller scale renovations. A complete rebuild will often be beyond this contractors abilities due to limitations in skill, knowledge and financing ability. However, some of these are quite knowledgeable and capable of doing larger scale renovations providing the home owner is able to work with the contractor rather than the contractor working for the home owner.

Often these contractors do not have large payrolls to maintain, but do not have large amounts of financing at their disposal. So they may require the home owner to make a larger deposit to start and may require progress payments more often or on a time basis rather than a percentage of work completed basis. They also may not have a pool of sub trades to call upon so scheduling and timing of sub trades could alter the timeline of the project. Also the contractor may need the home owner to pay the sub trade directly. If the general pays the sub trade then the sub trades profit margin must be added and then a contractor profit margin added to that increasing the total again.

These small scale renovators are also at your mercy. They usually get most of their work through word of mouth. They do not advertise as much as the larger ones as they just do not have the budgets for it. So if they do a bad job for you there is a high chance you will pass this knowledge on and the contractor will have a very hard time getting his good name back. And if you like his work and tell your friends there is a small chance they will get another project. This type of contractor , if knowledgeable and reputable, is a great choice for a mid-size renovation.

Be your own general contractor:

This could save you the most money, but will involve you the most. Great option if you have the time and some basic knowledge. But if you are renovating to increase value for resale, you are the one backing the work. You are responsible for the job, insurance, workers compensation, OHS, permits, etc.


There are may associations and certifications that contractors can have.

Some are necessary to be able to do the work.  Some cities require all contractors to get a city license complete with a contractor number that must be displayed on their vehicle etc.  This is often a card and or a piece of paper that the contractor has written a test and paid an annual fee to obtain as well as passed a criminal record check.  This is a valuable piece of paper and the home owner should ask to see this type of information.  It will assist the homeowner in knowing if the contractor is actually capable of performing the work.

Other endorsements such as industry associations can be valuable but are often something the contractor just pays a fee to display the associations' logo on their vehicle and business card and web site.  It often offers the consumer no real protection or assurance other than the contractor is capable of paying the yearly fee.

Also there are affiliations with contractors that have TV shows.  These are often again just the contractor being able to pay a fee on a yearly or monthly basis to a celebrity.  The celebrity is good.  But the contractor does not have to pass any standards to get this endorsement.  He just pays the fee and flashes the endorsement.


No matter what type of contractor you chose:

Everyone is doing this to make a living.

You must be comfortable with the contractor and all the trades they will be bringing into your home.

 Research the contractor and satisfy in your own mind that you are getting value for your money.

Spend some time with the contractor confirming in your mind that they and you have a common definition of what you expect to get for your money such as level of quality.  Almost any contractor can build your project but will they actually build it to the level of quality that you think purchased?


Tankless Water heater VS Water Heater

Recently moved into a house with a tankless water heater.  Yes we do have endless hot water or warm water depending upon where you wan the water.

Shower - endless, just need to wait 5 minutes to get it.  Well it seems like 5 minutes.  Probably only 3

Bathroom sink - Do not understand why but it never gets hot?  Just warm.  And I like a hot shave.

Kitchen - Of all places to not get the really hot water!  Endless warm water and it takes minutes to get it.  This is proving bad for the dishwasher.  Dishes are not clean and must use on the high cycle and heat using the dishwasher heater.

The house is not that large so the water should not cool in the piping.

So far I would not recommend a tankless water heater.


Rainfall shower heads:

I really like our rainfall shower head.  It was adequate in size and because I installed it in the ceiling in the approximate middle of the shower we had no trouble using the shower.

I have noticed several people have the heads installed with the typical shower head arm protruding from the wall.  Apparently maximum length for these is less than 24 inch.  Usually 18 inches.  Thus people are complaining that they must stand very close to the wall to use the shower.

People also complain that the rainfall shower head produces a shower with little to no pressure.  Well it is a rainfall shower not a hurricane or torrential downpour shower head.

Counter tops:

Many choices to fit many budgets and functions.

Stone - Usually pretty expensive and will always need at least some maintenance. Most will need a sealer to be applied yearly.  Also they are a natural product and there will be pattern differences and other imperfections that you will have to expect.  They are, however, as hard as the stone you pick.  Granite is quite hard while marble is relatively soft.  The stone should be picked to be suitable for the purpose.  Marble should only be used in a washroom.

Man made or fabricated - Cultured marble, Caesar Stone, concrete, stainless steel and others usually are stain resistant and may never need sealing.  The epoxy or cultured or resin based ones are often not quite as durable as stone and often cannot be buffed or polished to rejuvenate the surface and may not be suitable for kitchens.  Be sure to research what is best for your needs.

Laminates - are a very durable and economical material that was quite common and is still used as a builder standard and is well suited to laundry rooms or kitchens in rental units.

Butcher blocks - Require a lot of maintenance but are quite easy to refinish.