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OakWood RenoTalk

Where OakWood’s Renovation Experts Share Insights, Tips, and Successes

Part 2: How to Avoid a Renovation Disaster

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.

Big Mistake #1:
“The lowest price saves me money”

This is a real juggernaut. All too often the lowest price you receive will end up being the most expensive. How can that be?

Because many contractors low ball their quote to win your business. It’s an ugly fact. Here’s another.

If one contractor is significantly lower, there’s a reason. And the reason is they haven’t included something in their written quote.

Or they are not quoting on the same quality of merchandise or finishes.

Or they are using less experienced Trades professionals.

Or they have excluded certain tasks such as the removal of debris.

The cost of your renovation can also change dramatically based on your final material selections and finishes.

If your contractor hasn’t led you through a detailed material selection process based on your specific renovation plans, then their proposal probably isn’t worth its’ weight in salt.

Take kitchen counter tops as an example.

A laminate counter top could cost $20 to $50 per square foot. A tile counter top runs between $20 to $125 per square foot. Granite counter tops range from $95 to $200 or more per square foot.

Even if your contractor’s estimate says “granite countertop” the type of finish, edge, profile or size can all change the cost per square foot installed. What have they quoted?

Anything that you are planning to include in your renovation – from tile, lighting fixtures, accessories, flooring, etc. – all come with options, upgrades, and quality finishes for you to choose from. That’s why a really low price generally means your contractor pegged their estimate to the most basic options and bottom of the line finishes.

First they win your business based on low price.

Then when the work begins you discover that there are material choices you have to make or finalize. The estimate was simply a “ballpark” cost.

If you stand your ground and insist the contractor honor their original quote, you’ll end up accepting trade-offs in terms of quality or finish.

If you end up making “changes” based on what was quoted you pay more. And to get what you really want the price goes up after the work has begun.

In the end, the lowest price doesn’t always save you money – not without accepting trade offs that usually don’t become apparent until after you sign the contract. 

Dig deep enough and you will usually discover something is missing or overlooked.

If their price is lower because they’re using less experienced – or unqualified – workers, you may well end up paying less but living with very poor quality “craftsmanship”.
Yes, maybe you saved some money. Was the poor fit and finish or plain ugly final renovation really worth it?

In some cases, the work can be so bad the structural integrity and safety of a home is compromised. There have been many cases where I have advised a homeowner to actually move out – their home had become unsafe due to structural or electrical issues.

Two must ask questions to protect yourself from low price bidders

1. Does the renovator specify all products and materials by brand, model, and finish?

2. Has all work and tasks associated with the project been included as a line item in the quote?

The bottom line is this: if something is not in writing at the time you sign, you can expect surprise “extra costs” to show up later on.

In part 3 of this 8-part blog series, I’ll show you exactly how the low ball approach works and what you can do to protect yourself.

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.