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PART 4 of How to Avoid a Renovation Disaster:

“Lots of experience means quality work”

By John Liptak, CEO & President, OakWood
This 8-part blog series reveals how customers make assumptions that lead to six big (and often costly) mistakes. Each blog shares “must ask” questions you can ask to avoid being taken advantage of by a dishonest or unqualified renovator.

Does lots of experience assure you of a quality renovation? Unfortunately, not necessarily. Here’s why.

When a contractor tells you they have been in business for over 20 years, you may think “That’s a long time. They must know what they are doing. I will get a quality job.” Unfortunately you are probably being far too generous.

First of all, while the contractor may have been in business for 20 years, they may not have been operating under the same business name for that entire period.

Many contractors get into trouble for one reason or another. They bankrupt their company and then promptly open up the next day under a different name. Meanwhile, they add the number of years from one failed business to the next and tell you the total years of experience they have!

That may sound cynical – but it happens all too often. A recent story about a contractor in Queens N.Y. is a case in point.

An individual by the name of Derrick Burrell was exposed four years ago for taking money for home improvement projects; and then disappearing before starting projects. Fortunately he was caught and charged with grand larceny.

But, Mr. Burrell came back – under an assumed name: James Gray. And again, many homeowners were duped and lost money – in part because the contractor was able to say they had “lots of experience”.

Second, the contractor may have been making the same mistakes or providing the same poor quality over and over again.

Just because they’ve been around a long time doesn’t mean they have been continuously investing in new skills, processes, and equipment to ensure they stay relevant and improve the quality of their service from one year to the next.

Third, some contractors that have actually been in business less than 5 years claim to have over 50 years of experience. Here’s how they perform this miracle of modern math.

They simply add up the number of years of experience of every single worker on their team. Take ten people with three to five years of experience each – presto, you have a whopping 30 to 50 years of experience. Yes, impressive – at first glance!

Very often, if you dig a little deeper you’ll discover the business has existed for a fraction of the time that they state. This is unfortunately a very common practice. And it is very deceptive.

The bottom line is this: you can’t take claims of years of experience at face value. Nor can you assume that the number of years of experience translates into a qualified contractor who know what they are doing and who will assure you a quality renovation.

Five questions to ask:

  1. How many years has the renovator been in business under the current name?
  2. Does the renovator have a minimum of ten year of experience designing and building renovations in the City of Ottawa – while operating under the same name?
  3. Does the renovator provide a list of client references for relevant projects that you can call and visit?
  4. Can the renovator provide you with a current project site that you can visit?
  5. Does the renovator meet the elite standards of the Greater Ottawa Home Builders Association Renovators Council and does it abide by its strict members code of Ethics and Business Professionalism?

Asking these 5 questions before you sign will help you cut through grandiose claims of “lots of experience” and sort the wheat from the chaff.

In part five of this 8-part blog series, we’ll look at why an “iron clad warranty” doesn’t always mean you’re really protected.

John Liptak is CEO and President of OakWood, an Ottawa-based renovation company. Established in 1956, OakWood is a fourth generation family run business. Under John’s leadership, OakWood has grown to become Ottawa’s largest and most established full service renovation business and Ottawa’s first and only Mike Holme’s approved renovation partner. A winner of numerous awards, OakWood has been voted Ottawa’s Best Home Designer and Renovation company every year since the Consumer Choice awards were introduced in 2007.