After the recent floods in the Calgary area, it only takes a quick drive through a couple of blocks of the flood zones to see the extent of damage, the lives affected, possessions lost and homes destroyed. It was deeply emotive to see the upheaval caused in peoples lives and emotions as many of you saw your homes being ripped apart to get rid of mold, sewage and debris left by the receding waters. Much of your furniture and family treasures have been thrown away, and your flooded vehicles have been taken to salvage.
Now you are focusing on making insurance claims, and figuring out how to rebuild, if you should rebuild, or what steps you can take to just get functional again. It will be a long haul, and with all the new contracting businesses popping up almost overnight it will be very easy to get involved with an unqualified and inexperienced 'contractor' who could end up taking you to the cleaners.
So what should you be aware of? How do you avoid the scammers and get connected with reliable tradespeople and suppliers who can provide suitable products and workmanship at decent prices, and get back into your home sooner?
Here are some tips:
1. DO NOT under any circumstances retain a contractor or sub-trade who wants to deal in cash-only without a written receipt or written contract. Chances are they are not a registered business, which means without a written contract you have no warranty or protection against faulty workmanship. RESIST the promise of a contractor who says by paying cash it will cost you less - it could end up costing you more in the end of the day if they are unqualified because they can walk away from faulty workmanship leaving you to pay someone else to fix it.
2. AVOID anyone who asks for payment in full up-front. This is absolutely NOT a practice endorsed by professional contracting firms or subtrades, so no matter what reason they give you, stay as far away from them as possible. This is different than a deposit. Its OK for a contractor to ask you for a deposit as long as you have a written contract in which the estimate for the work is detailed and you can clearly understand how the deposit amount was determined.
3. Check out the Canadian Home Builders Association has a great description of why you should get it in writing; http://www.chba.ca/renovation-roadmap/get-it-in-writing.aspx
4. AVOID any contractor or sub-trade who cannot provide proof of their liability and workers comp insurances.
5. Ask your contractor and/or sub-trades if they are offering some kind of discount, promotion or donation for those affected by the floods. However, just because a contractor or sub-trade is not offering a special discount does not mean you should ignore them. Many contractors are already working at small margins, so you could be better off with them even if they are not offering a flood discount per se. Make sure you understand how they charge, if necessary asking them what their hourly labour rates are.
6. Get comparison quotations - three quotations is an ideal number where possible. Make sure you are comparing apples-to-apples, and if you can't understand the way they have written their quotation, get them to give you the detail you need. If a contractor only gives you a lump sum and will not give you any detail, ask them why. There may be good reason why they could not give you detail, but equally so if you have given them detailed specifications, there should not be a reason why they cannot give some detail. If they will not break down a lump sum quotation, they may not be the best contractor for your project.
7. Ensure your rebuilding/renovation project is engineered to be structurally sound and in accordance with Alberta Building Codes. The City of Calgary has waived the need for building permits. The reason for this is so that they can avoid a backlog of building permit applications and you can get back home more quickly. However it does not mean you should ignore your family's safety. If you are putting a new bedroom in a basement, you may need a new window to comply with egress requirements in the event of fire. Retain qualified design consultants (see next item)
8. It is advisable to retain the services of a designer, architect, or architectural technologist to draw up a set of plans. The investment in a set of drawings and specifications will enable you to plan properly and enable your contractor to give you more accurate pricing.
9. For interior finishing products and equipment, there are many local suppliers and vendors who are offering deeper than normal discounts, promotions or donations of product, specific to those affected by the floods. This includes anything from appliances, to porcelain tile, bathroom fixtures, flooring and anything in between. Ask the vendor if they are offering anything even if they have not advertised that they are.
For referrals to qualified and reasonable contractors, sub trades and vendors, contact the Calgary Design Group. We are offering free consultations up to 2 hours in duration, to help you re-plan your space, and connect you with trusted and experienced tradespeople and vendors, who will give you value for money and greater peace of mind.