Tag: renovations

Declining oil prices mean that 2015 will undoubtedly see as slump in the housing market in Alberta.  With most people likely more cautious to commit to a new home purchase, the economy promises to drive more people to renovate their home to suit their family needs.

When selecting a renovation contractor, it is crucial that you use one who is credible.  If you are unsure as to where to find a credible tradesman, contact companies such as the Better Business Bureau, SmartReno and TrustedPros.  We are affiliated with such companies because they work with contractors with a proven track record that the consumer can trust!

As one of the highest rated renovation contractors with SmartReno in Calgary, we successfully completed 17 renovation projects for consumers who we were introduced to through their service in 2014!   We also received multiple successful leads through the Better Business Bureau from homeowners contacting them for renovation contractors holding an A+ accredited rating with the BBB!

Isn’t it important to work with a company that you know is experienced and trustworthy when it involves your most valuable possession?

We have talked in previous blogs about the importance of checking out any potential contractor’s qualifications.   It is important for you, as homeowners, to ensure that your renovation contractor is legitimate.  Like South Calgary Dreambuilders, your contractor should be licensed both provincially and municipally.  Any renovation business that requires either a deposit or progress draw payments (lets be honest … on any major renovation this will be a requirement) is legally bound to be licensed by the Province of Alberta.  This means that we are bonded, and able to apply for and receive local building permits for your project.   In fact, the City of Calgary requires that a renovation contractor be licensed and bonded with the province before they will issue a Business License!

As well, South Calgary Dreambuilders is insured and maintains an account in good standing with WCB.

So, if you or anybody your know is considering renovating in 2015, please introduce them to us!!!  As our way of saying thank you, we will happily provide you with a referral bonus on any completed project with a client that you have introduced us to!

I am constantly amazed when I talk to people thinking about renovating, or who have renovated, without understanding how they can protect themselves from being abused by their renovation contractor.

Renovating these days is frustrating enough given the hectic market, shortage of quality tradesmen and the fear of being ripped off.  While the market and shortage of people is irritable, it is also manageable.  So is your potential for being mistreated by your contractor!

In a time when we have social media such as Houzz and Pinterest, our potential clients are very well educated on what type of finishes and designs they want.  Many are as educated on the current styles as we are!  That is why it makes no sense to me that most potential clients have no idea, and rarely ask, how they need to protect themselves from being abused by their renovation contractor.

Renovating these days is frustrating enough given the hectic market, shortage of quality tradesmen and the fear of being ripped off.  While the market and shortage of people is irritable, it is also manageable.  So is your potential for being mistreated by your contractor!

In a time when we have social media such as Houzz and Pinterest, our potential clients are very well educated on what type of finishes and designs they want.  Many are as educated on the current styles as we are!  That is why it makes no sense to me that most potential clients have no idea, and rarely ask, how they need to protect themselves.

Last week I had a former colleague call me.  She said that her sister-in-law had some concerns about a siding replacement project that she was having done on her home.  Her and her husband are a decade away from retirement, and are renovating their home to enjoy over the next ten years.  My former colleague said that there were some concerns about the way the product, a horizontal siding called HardiePlank, was being installed.  She asked me if I would mind if her sister-in-law called me with some questions.  I told her I did not mind, but that I did not want to know who their contractor was or what the contract was worth.  In other words, I would answer technical questions, but that was all.

A couple days later I got the call.  It was easy to hear that the lady was distraught, so I answered technical questions regarding how the weather membrane should be installed and questions about the product and its installation.  She indicated that her contractor had made light of many of her concerns and had continued installing the product incorrectly.  She admitted that the contractor came well recommended, was not the lowest price as they had gotten 3 or 4 quotes, and she liked him.  She asked for advice on how to address her concerns with him, and I told her I would simply sit down with him, explain her issues, let him know that she had done her homework and she wanted the deficiencies repaired.

I expected that would be the end of that, and hoped that I had helped in some way.

Several days later I received a second call from her.  She said that her and her husband had sat down with the contractor, and broken down the deficiencies as I suggested, but while he had nodded and smiled at all the right things, he simply continued on without fixing anything!  She told me that they had parted ways, and asked if I would consider coming out, having a look, and providing a price to complete the project.  After some conversation, including letting her know it would be a while before we could do the work, I agreed to go have a look.

Time for our meeting came, and I had a look at their home – the homeowners following me around, sullen and close to tears.  I did not say much, other than a little small talk, as I took notes.   I remember thinking as I looked that their home looked like one of the worse Mike Holmes episodes I had ever seen.  The project was 1/3rd completed, and not a single part about the installation was correctly done.  They had paid a huge deposit to the contractor before he started.  He had provided a scope of work, but no contract.  They had now fired him.

So, this could happen to anybody, right?  Yes, it could.  These are regular, hard working folks.  Nice people.  Professional, educated people with a family.  Just like you and I.

So, what could they have done better?

First, people need to ask for qualifications.  They need to educate themselves.  If you were going to invest $50,000.00 with an investment manager or in a venture, would you not ask questions?  If you have the time to spend hours surfing the internet to figure out exactly what you want in your renovation, you have time to research your contractor and what they are required to do!

So, lets play a little game.  See how many of these points you knew about protecting yourself from renovation contractors …

Every contractor who takes a deposit or a progress draw on a project is required to qualify for Provincial Licensing.  In order to get licensed by the Province of Alberta under this category (called prepaid contractors), the contractor needs to be bonded.  The Province holds this bond in case the consumer gets taken.

All ‘prepaid contractor’ is required to provide a contract, which includes a cancellation clause for the consumer.  The contract formatting and layout is provided by the province of Alberta, including the size of the font for the cancellation clause, along with where it must be situated in the contract.

The City of Calgary will not license a contractor until they are licensed with the Province of Alberta.  In order to take out a building permit, a contractor needs to be licensed with the City.  Almost every project that covers more than just lipstick requires a building permit.

Your contractor should be carrying liability insurance, so that if something goes wrong on your project, you are covered by his insurance.  As well, any of his employees must be covered by Workers’ Comp, and you are free to ask for his number and check to make sure he is up to date.

Most contractors require a deposit and draw(s) throughout the course of the project.  This is our way of limiting our exposure to being on the other end of this situation.  We are allowed to protect ourselves in this manner.  That said, we must also protect the consumer.

If spreading the word like this saves one potential homeowner from having to go through what the family I spoke of is going through, then it is worth it.  If you know somebody considering home renovations, please pass this along to them so they can make sure their ducks are in a row!


(Link to the Province of Alberta information pamphlet …http://www.servicealberta.gov.ab.ca/pdf/tipsheets/Home_Renovations.pdf)

Over the past 6 months we have had the pleasure of working with some amazing clients, on some lovely projects!

We wish to extend out thanks to the following folks for their support and patronage:

Jorge – replace existing deckRandy and Mary – replace shower
Daniel and Suzanne – basement development
Erik and Christine – basement development and garage finish
Gina – bathroom remodel
Brad and Lucy – bathroom upgrade
Erika – basement development
Cliff and Rita – kitchen remodel and garage overhead door
Heath and Helen – hot tub room
Koeswanto and Cynthia – basement development
Ryan and Jolene – interior alterations and new windows
Kelly – new deck
Leone – custom maple spindle railing and many other interior upgrades

South Calgary Dreambuilders looks forward to the next 6 months and beyond, and working with the many clients who have already committed their projects to us moving forward!

If you are thinking of renovating any part of your home or yard, please contact us so we can start discussions about what you would like to do.

When Should You Contact Alberta One-Call?

Alberta One Call is a free service provided so that contractors and homeowners can assure the safety of those doing any work that involves excavating or digging of any type.  Whether you are landscaping, building a new fence or deck, or simply planting a garden, disturbing the ground on your property can cause damage to a buried utility.  Some utilities are buried mere centimeters below the surface.

The result of a contact with a buried line can range from loss of an essential service for you or your neighbours to serious injury or fatalities. The financial costs of repairing any damage you cause to a buried utility will be borne by you, so it is your responsibility to ensure that Alberta One Call is contacted.

Before you disturb the ground for any reason:

Know What’s Below

Contact Alberta One-Call to request that the buried utilities on your property be located and marked at least two full working days before you plan to dig. Remember that during the busy Spring or Fall seasons, it may take longer for utility owners to respond, so contact them early.  Alberta One Call can accept your request up to 14 days in advance, or within a couple of days in the slower seasons.

Know What to Do

Alberta One-Call has a Homeowner’s Guide to their services on their website which will clarify how to contact them and when you need to.  Their Homeowner’s Handbook, linked below, is a terrific guide for why and when to contact them for your project.

South Calgary Dreambuilders recommends always contacting Alberta One Call

Whether you are digging a flowerbed or a fence line, you could damage a buried utility line   which could cost you money or your life.  Have a look at their handbook for contact information.

You can also go directly to the Alberta One Call website to submit a locate request.

So, How Much Will This Cost?

Absolutely nothing, unless for some reason you decide not to call Alberta One Call and hit a line while excavating.

Alberta One Call is a private, not-for-profit corporation primarily concerned with safety and the prevention of damage to underground utilities. Those intending to disturb the ground, whether they are private homeowners or public contractors, can reduce the risk of personal injury and property damage by using the Alberta One Call service. Operators of buried utilities, by being members of the Corporation, reduce the risk of utility damage, service disruption, environmental contamination, loss of product and potential disaster.

Full utilization of Alberta One Call has distinct financial benefits to the digging community, the general public and members of the Corporation. Damage to buried utilities can lead to fatalities, personal injuries, environmental contamination, lawsuits, repairs, product losses, disruptions of essential services and evacuations.

Alberta One Call is working in three distinct areas toward the prevention of damage to buried utilities.

  • Promoting membership in the Corporation.
  • Promoting the use of the Corporation’s service to the digging community
  • Promoting public awareness of:
    • the inherent dangers of disturbing the ground,
    • the need to “Call or Click Before You Dig”,
    • the need to hand expose when working near buried utilities and,
    • the need to “Dig Safely”.

Alberta One Call is the largest and longest-serving one-call service in Canada, with over 700 registered member companies.  They transmit close to two million notifications of excavations out to those members each year.

Need more living space?

As your life needs chance often you may find that your home becomes smaller.  Thinking of a quiet retreat?  Maybe your new baby is going to make their appearance soon, or those teenagers need their own space.   Perhaps your laundry room is inefficient.   Often the answer is to make use of that basement space.

So now what?  Well, like any project you may do in your home, a basement development should be planned out in advance.  Do your homework, contact a contractor who will meet with you, help you design your space and answer your questions.  At South Calgary Dreambuilders, we will sit down with you, measure your space and look for potential issues, help design the space and price it out for you – all before we swing a hammer!

Before you even call, there are things you should think of …

Is your basement worthy of development?
Your basement has some room for that bedroom, your entertainment area, or a proper laundry area, but is it a good candidate for a renovation?

If you are planning some basement developments, you should begin by inspecting the basement for potential issues.  Some typical issues that might accompany a basement, especially in an older area, might include:

  • Lack of headroom.  Do you have enough ceiling height to avoid bumping your head on a heating duct, pipe or beam?
  • Moisture.  Do the basement walls feel moist at times, or do you see mold on the floor or walls?  Does it smell musty down there?
  • Cracks in the walls.  Do you have cracks in the floor or walls as wide as a pencil, or cracks that widen and shrink from time to time?

Any of the above issues warrant some investigation, and are issues that should be addressed before any development commences.  All can be fixed, but the cost to repair these issues after you develop your basement will be much higher.

Once you have ascertained that you do or do not have any of the above issues, and you know you want to do some development in your basement, then it is time for the next steps prior to getting the development started.  Any of the issues mentioned above need top be dealt with, a contractor should be selected if you have no already began working with one, and your basement should be prepared for the development that shall soon follow.

Headroom Requirements
A basement ceiling should be high enough to permit ceiling fixtures or fans with space beneath for a 6 foot tall person to stand. Most municipalities require a height of 6’8″ from finished floor to the ceiling in order to issue a building permit, although some places will allow permits where there are limited obstructions such as beams or bulkheads.

Surface Dampness
Dampness (or leaks) in the walls or floor must be corrected, because a damp or wet basement can ruin even the most expensive renovations and make your basement unlivable.

While small cracks in the floor or walls are patchable from the inside of the basement, cracks large enough to stick a pencil in are usually best repaired from the outside of the house.

Other Causes of Moisture
Sometimes moisture problems can be caused by other issues, such as exterior grading, incorrectly installed window wells, eavestrough and downspout issues or even sewer backups.  With proper assessment by a professional, the source of moisture in the basement can be found and the issue resolved.

Getting Started
You have any potential trouble spots addressed, and a contractor chosen, so what is next?  The first step is to sit down with your contractor or a designer to put a set of blueprints in place for your Building Permit. 

A Building Permit is required any time you plan on altering the structure of your home, increasing the size of your windows or exterior doors (for example, if you are developing a bedroom in the basement, the bedroom window may have to be made larger), or apply for an occupancy change, such as installing a rental unit.  A Building Permit application is made to The City of Calgary, or the local municipality.  It will assure that the changes satisfy minimum health and safety requirements. 

Windows are an important part of a basement development, and in many cases upgrades on the basement windows may be required during your project.  Windows play key roles within the building code: ventilation, natural light and emergency escape.

Any finished room in a basement, be it a bedroom, kitchen, den, combined room, or anything other than a bathroom or laundry room, will require a window opening of at least three square feet to provide proper ventilation, although it is recommended that the unobstructed area of glass in a window be at least five per cent of the floor area of each room or combination of rooms to provide natural lighting.  More importantly, where a window is required as a means of egress (escape), it must be 3.77 square feet minimum, be easily reached from the living space, and provide safe access to grade level.  No window required for escape may be less than 15″ in any direction.

Finishing Up
Even the best-designed basement has the potential to experience some kind of serious leak, whether it is a pipe, a spill or something more serious.  It is always in the best interest to use water-resistant or impermeable flooring and wall finishes, such as vinyl flooring and ceramic tile, to lessen the likelihood of damage and make clean-up easier.   In areas that carpet and underpad are used, they should contain no organic materials that may promote mold.

Developing your basement can provide you with  additional value not only in your home, but in your quality of life.  It is important that the groundwork be completed in the early planning stages to ensure that your finished product provides the safety and comfort that you are looking for.  This means planning your project out, making certain that issues such as low headroom or moisture do not rear their heads later in the project, using a contractor who is experienced in the development of spaces like this and using materials that are going to last as long as you require.  

If you are planning some basement development this winter, now is the time to begin that planning process.   Have your contractor come see your home, and the space you want to develop, while any issues can be spotted, and make sure that all of the details are dealt with.

At South Calgary Dreambuilders we will work with you every step of the way, from your initial project planning to the completion of your project.  Over 20 years of renovation projects will benefit you at a price that you can afford.