Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Hiring a Contractor

So you've got your architectural drawings and you're ready to "shop" for a Contractor...

This can be nerve-racking! Who hasn't watched HGTV reno shows and been scared silly by reno horror stories?

In reality, well my reality, most people I know have had relatively smooth renovation experiences. A few hick-ups here and there but that's pretty normal don't you think?

I thought I would share my experience of hiring a Contractor as well as some tips. Note: this is a long post. A chapter really :)

Folding Measure Ruler, Vintage Link

I had been collecting the names of potential contractors for awhile before we began this process. I spoke to many friends and had an idea of the type of contractor I wanted to hire.

Most of the problems I had heard people complain about regarding their contractor had to do with communication issues. For example, not showing up/calling when they say they will or disappearing for days on end with no explanation. In a weird way, it's kind of like dating isn't it? You are investing a lot of time and money into your project and you expect respect and clear communication.

So for us, communication was a key factor.

We interviewed three potential Contractors. People say you should always get at least three quotes for a job. Even if you know who you want to hire it's worth the time to go through this process. You will be able to compare quotes, timelines and feedback about your job.

Make sure you have not only your drawings ready but a clear idea of finishes (ie: hardwood vs. engineered wood flooring). This can make a big difference in getting an accurate quote.

Make sure you are comparing apples to apples. Ask for a detailed breakdown of what is included or a "scope of work" in the quote. In order for a Contractor to quote accurately they need a copy of the plans and information of finishes, fixtures etc.

When we were starting this process I had a lot of questions about what this part of the process entailed. Friends generously shared tips. Thank you friends! 

So for those of you who want to know here's what to expect.

1. Call to introduce yourself and your project. They will want to know what you are doing, your timeline and may ask about your budget. This is when you may set up an initial meeting or walk-through.

*Budgets: I recommend be very honest about your budget up front. That way you both know exactly what to expect. If you have a $150,000 budget and the job is really a $200,000 job you need to know that before you start!

2. Your initial meeting may just entail getting a feel for the Contractor and talking about how he/she works. You may also want to share your drawings/plans at this time. Sometimes you know right away that you want to invite the Contractor to submit a quote for the job. If you do, make sure you have a copy of the plans for them to take away so they can quote accurately. In our experience, a printed copy seemed preferred by the Contractors so they could go over it in detail rather than on a computer screen. It's a good idea to have a "deadline" for the Contractors to submit their quotes. That way you are able to go over all the quotes at about the same time.

Some questions to ask the Contractor... 

  • Do they work with a team of trades consistently or do the trades they use vary? In my opinion, hiring a Contractor that works with the same trades all the times is key. They know each other and what to expect. Communication and scheduling will be a lot smoother.
  • Who is responsible for getting permits?
  • What kind of down payment do they require and what is the payment plan?
  • What kind of work schedule should you expect?
  • If you are living in your house during the renovation you will want to make sure they do an adequate job of cleaning up the site on a daily basis.
  • Business Trade License Number
  • Public Liability, Property Damage & WSIB Insurance and coverage.
  • Whether they have worked in the area.

3. You may want to ask for References before you get to the point of inviting quotes. After all, past behaviour is an excellent indicator of the future.

Some questions to ask a Reference:

  • Did the project finish on time? If not, what were the delays?
  • Did the project finish on budget? This is important! You don't want to be hit with a big bill at the end of the job for "extras". There are the extras that you add and then there are the extras that are surprises. OK, you have to be prepared and have a contingency for unforeseen problems. But if the Contractor is experienced and honest he/she should have a very clear understanding of their costs. Some people will argue this is impossible but I know many people who have come in on budget. Just be clear about what you both expect.
  • How was the quality of the work? This is important for obvious reasons... but ask things like "Is there anything that you would recommend keeping an eye on during the process" What were stand out issues (if any)?
  • Did the Contractor communicate well with you? Did they show up on time? Work consistently. You want your renovation done on time or within a reasonable agreed upon time frame.

4. You will probably want to meet the Contractor again to discuss the quotation. This is the time to ask more detailed questions. You may want to negotiate the price and/or find out if there are ways to save money.

I'm happy to report that our experience of hiring and working with our Contractor has been smooth and enjoyable! 

Although all of the Contractors we considered were very experienced and had great references it came down to personality and a little bit of going with our gut instinct. We both felt comfortable with our Contractor right from the beginning. He was consistent in his communication with us from the initial meetings to these last weeks. We are happy to say we made the right choice.

What tips do you have for hiring and working with a Contractor? 
I'd love to hear about your experiences, tips and/or feedback in the Comments section below.


Some helpful links:

City of Toronto: Building Department
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation CMHC
Canadian House & Home Magazine: How to Hire a Contractor

*The opinions expressed in this post are based on the authors personal experience. Anyone contemplating a renovation or hiring a professional should consult the appropriate Professional Association or Licensing Department for up-to-date information.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Holiday Inspiration and Organizing

Dare I post about Christmas when it's barely Halloween?

What if it's a post to help you get in the "spirit" of organizing yourself for Christmas? I'll go with that theme...

When I received some beautiful images from Ikea promoting their Holiday products I couldn't help myself. I love paper, ribbon, twine, and fabric. It's my weak spot and it's all laid out so pretty in these images.

I always have brown kraft paper on hand to wrap gifts. But I like the idea of using smaller pieces of wrapping paper as ribbon.

I love the idea of using fabric remnants to wrap gifts. 
Look how these gifts are wrapped and the merry messages stitched on the fabric - love that.

I have to say, Ikea has done a great job of showing how to use their products in fun new ways.

Personally I love a creatively wrapped gift. I always try do something thoughtful and unique. Ahem... except for the Christmas Eve wrap-a-thon of stocking stuffers. That ends up being a lot of tape, paper(recycled)and wine.

Which leads me to this...

What I would love to fit into our basement space is a place to wrap - a wrapping station.

I like this one from Pottery Barn. It fits neatly on a wall to organize your wrapping supplies.

I could also make my own. The cheap and cheerful version.


Peg board, Rona


Peg board hook, Rona

wood dowels, Stockade


storage containers, Ikea

Add some paint and you have a DIY wrapping station.

You could even add one of these wall-mounted drop-leaf tables from Ikea so you have a spot to wrap. It folds down when you don't need it.

I think I see a little project coming my way...I'll let you know how that goes.

Happy organizing!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Buffet Makeover!

Yay! It's finished and it looks amazing. 
It has been given new life!

You may remember this photo of an antique buffet that I inherited from my Grandmother. My Dad very generously offered to strip it and paint it for me. It was quite a job. 

Well it's done! Sort of.. I still need to pick some knobs for the doors and drawers and I need your help.

So this is the BEFORE picture.

This is the door stripped of the old finish. It is beautiful old oak. Do I feel bad painting it? Yes, truth be told, a little. It is gorgeous au naturel. However, it doesn't suit my space - so it gets painted.

Here is a shot of the original piece with old paint. Sorry not the best picture the lighting in that space was a bit difficult. 

and this is the AFTER picture (but not the final after)

It was painted with Benjamin Moore Raccoon Fur.

What do you think? My Dad was a bit apprehensive to paint it such a dark colour but he likes it too. It kind of looks blue in this photo but it is really a very dark grey with a blue undertone. I guess the blue shows more in certain light.

This is a truer version of the colour.

Now I am shopping for knobs.  I'm in between using traditional aged brass knobs that you would have seen on the piece originally like in the photos above or these lovely crystal knobs.

I don't feel like anything too modern will look right. These seem to be just the right mix. What do you think?


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Pass the mustard please...

I have a colour crush on mustard. 
It seems to be surfacing as a colour trend in my new kitchen.

It started with the Orla Kiely Dish and Hand Soap I bought at Target while traveling home from PEI this summer...

Orla Kiely, Target

I then found a lovely vintage Dansk Kobenstyle pot that sits on my range because it is too pretty to put away. It looks like this one --

Cheerfulowl, Etsy

I have my eye on this pillow for my new sofa

Highlands Pillow Cover, West Elm

and this calendar would look so pretty on the wall

2013 Floral Wall Calendar, Leah Duncan

sweet little partridges for the table

Partridge Family Beeswax Candles, One Honey

Loving this cardi with the silky back

Carsamba Cardi from Anthropologie

and Fossil, well I seem to be collecting quite a few of their pieces but I don't have a watch and this looks so stylish and comfortable.
Georgia Leather Watch, Fossil

and the purse...
Vintage Revival Cross Body Purse, Fossil

You are probably wondering when I am going to share some pictures of our kitchen and the rest of the house -- soon, I promise. We are still working away. So for now, I'll leave you with all these pretty things.


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Halloween Giveaway!

Win a copy of the Halloween issue of Holiday with Matthew Mead!

I have two copies to be given away so spread the word :)

Leave a comment below to be entered to win.

Contest ends Thursday October 18th.

P.S. If you Tweet or share on Facebook I'll enter you twice but be sure to let me know in the Comments.

Good luck!


Sorry...Contest Closed.

Congratulations to Jen @ Rambling Renovators and Marissa!! 
Congratulations!! I'll be in touch :)

Winners were selected using Random Generator.

Halloween inspiration!

It's definitely feeling a lot like Autumn here now. The heat is on and I've hidden (packed) away all the kids summer clothes. Imaginations have now turned to Halloween and what to be??

I have a box or two of Halloween decorations that I pull out every year but I can't seem to locate them yet...so we will have to get creative (twist my arm).

I always go back to my stash of magazines and books for holiday inspiration. There are only a few magazines that make the "keep" list and Matthew Mead's Holiday books always get stored in a special spot.

I'm always thrilled to contribute to Matthew's magazines 
and this one was so much fun to create for -- a Vintage Circus Party!

I thought I would share some of the fun ideas in the current issue of Holiday with Matthew Mead that are sure to inspire you to throw a party or decorate in a fresh new way.

Photo courtesy of Matthew Mead

I have my eye on this cake (sorry couldn't resist). It reminds me of a Muppet but I can't seem to remember which one. Anyhow, I love it. I think it's fantastic. It is inspiring some costume ideas too... This image is from the Bake Sale story featuring great treats for a fundraiser.

Photo courtesy of Matthew Mead

Painted pumpkins are an easy way to add drama to your doorstep. I'm loving the other black & white decor ideas using antique photos in this issue. So simple and graphic.

Photo courtesy of Matthew Mead
This is a great craft idea to do with the kids.
Sweet scarecrows and candy puzzles. 

Photo courtesy of Matthew Mead

My daughter has been inspired by these wonderful clay creations by Artist Robert Brawley.

Photo courtesy of Matthew Mead

One of my favorite party ideas from this issue is the 
"Revenge of the Monster Tomatoes" Movie Night

Photo courtesy of Matthew Mead

Scary Tomatoes!!

You can pick up a copy of Holiday with Matthew Mead here and if you are in Canada I've spotted it at several bookstores, pharmacies and big box stores including Indigo/Chapters.

I'll share some of our homemade Halloween decorations soon.

You may have noticed I did a little makeover of my blog. What do you think? Thought it was time for a little change. Change is good.

Enjoy your weekend!


Monday, October 1, 2012

a bit of a reveal...

Remember I told you I was going to share my reno experience? It starts today. Psst, there is also a bit of a reveal at the end!

I'm starting at the beginning because I had a lot of questions about where to start when we began the process. I hope this helps. If you have any questions ask away!

Dreaming about renovating our home had been going on for many years. That's the benefit of living in a house before we took it apart ... we knew exactly what we wanted to do. 

It was all a matter of time and money.

In the early spring of 2011, we decided it was the right time. You see, we weren't just planning a small kitchen or bathroom re-do but a major gut. Our little semi was built in and around 1916 and had seen many owners and poorly done renovations in its lifetime. It was tired. Old crumbling plaster walls, knob and tube wiring, mismatched flooring, old plumbing and an addition that left us freezing in the winter.

We knew we wanted to tear down the old addition and rebuild. We also had some interior walls we wanted to delete and wanted to play with the floor plan a little. 

We started by inviting a contractor that a friend had used and recommended over for a walk through the house. We wanted to know if what we wanted to do was even an option for us financially. We discussed our budget and our "plan" so we could get a ballpark idea of whether our dream and our budget were in line. 

He was very helpful. I would recommend getting some initial quotes from Contractors before you start. You won't be able to pin them down with a price but you will get a sense of whether your dreams are realistic.

We know many people who have renovated in our neighborhood. I had been collecting names and referrals for a while. We met with three potential Architects before making our choice.

This is a great website to visit for information on hiring an Architect in Ontario

Note: Some people prefer to hire their Contractor first and use an Architect that they work with regularly. There are many benefits to hiring an Architect/Contractor "team". I'll talk about that later.

We ended up hiring an Architect that was recommended by friends. His style fit our aesthetic, he was experienced with renovating semi-detached homes and personality and budget were a good fit.

Now the fun part begins! 

I enjoyed working with our Architect to come up with the design of our house. We knew what we wanted and had a very clear picture in our heads of how we wanted it to layout. For instance, we knew we wanted the back of the addition to be mostly glass. Big doors and windows to let the light in. But one of the ideas that the architect did bring to the table were new thoughts about the amount of glass windows. We ended up with the back and the side of the addition being glass. We love it!

We went back and forth for awhile with the designs until we had what we wanted. It was a relatively smooth process.

This is more or less what we ended up with in our drawings.(There were some changes along the way prior to permits).

and the inside layout...

This is the BEFORE picture of the back of the house.

and drum roll (well not the official drum roll because we are still in construction and it's a mess so don't look inside my windows or at all the garbage...)


and the side...

So there it is and we are loving it. 

But I'm not done yet. Next time, I'll share the ups & downs of the permit process and hiring a contractor. If you have any questions let me know and I'll try to address them in the posts along the way.


The opinions expressed in this post are based on my experience. Please ensure that you do your research :)