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How to Avoid a Renovation Disaster Series:

The 6 ‘Big Mistakes’

By John Liptak, CEO & President, OakWood

This series reveals how customers make assumptions that lead to the 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.

Are you planning a renovation?

Chances are the top two questions on your mind are: who should I hire and how much will it cost? Getting answers to both questions is often a lot more difficult than you might think.

Recently Canada’s celebrity contractor, Mike Holmes was asked in an interview with Reader’s Digest:What percentage of contractors is doing good, honest work?” Mike replied, “I call it the good, the bad and the ugly: 20, 70 and ten percent, respectively.”


What’s the problem?

Any Tom, Dick or Jane can claim to be a renovator.

The fact is you really are on your own when it comes to evaluating a renovator’s credentials. There’s no regulatory body that oversees this profession.

That’s why renovation disasters happen more often than you might think. Some nightmare scenarios make it into main stream news like this dreadful disaster from the Toronto Star:

This heartbreaking case involved a 76 year old senior who was the victim of renovation fraud. She paid over $300,000 to have her modest home wrecked by an unscrupulous contractor.

The son received an alarming call from one of the contractor’s workers during a raging snow storm. “I really think someone should come down and look in on your mom and see what’s going on down here,” the caller said.

The weather was so bad the son couldn’t drive. He called 911. Paramedics found his mom curled up in bed. The water had been turned off. She was left unconscious and suffering from severe dehydration. “My mom’s house was destroyed,” the son reported.

You may be thinking I am trying to scare you.

The truth is I am – but only to make a point and hopefully to spare you heartache.

What may surprise you is that in many “horror stories” the homeowners actually started their renovation on the right foot. They got three or more quotes. Some even checked supplied references.

They all thought the contractors were equally qualified. They were wrong.

Why do smart homeowners get tripped-up?

The nub of the problem is that most homeowners simply don’t know what questions to ask when choosing a qualified renovator.

They make assumptions that lead to six big (and often costly) mistakes that I see all time. Here they are:

Mistake #1: The lowest price saves me money.
Mistake #2: A short written proposal is best.
Mistake #3: Lots of experience means quality work.
Mistake #4: If the contractor offers a warranty I’m well protected.
Mistake #5: Written references are all I need to check a renovator’s credentials.
Mistake #6: The renovator’s financial stability won’t affect my renovation.


In this series I am going to show how an unqualified or dishonest renovator takes advantage of each mistake.

Along the way, I’ll share a number of ‘insider trade secrets’ that reveal dirty little tricks and common practices employed to win your business. Some of them will surprise you. Many will shock you.

The information in this report is based entirely on the 60 +years that my family’s company, OakWood, has been in business and our extensive experience with the construction industry.

By following the tips and asking the right questions suggested in this series, you could save yourself thousands of dollars in botched work, avoid needless heartache, and get a quality renovation that costs exactly what you are quoted with no surprises.

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.