Saturday, June 07, 2008

Home Renovators: Tips for Choosing A Winner

With a clearly defined list of wants and needs, a realistic budget and product research completed, you're ready to interview renovators.

The main objective is to find a professional renovator with the skills to accomplish the range of work in your renovation. Keep in mind you'll be opening your home to the renovator you select for weeks or months, so look for someone you want around your home on an extended basis.

The initial meeting helps you get to know a renovator and discuss your plans. You're laying the groundwork for your project, so take your time and don't be rushed.

At the second meeting, each renovator will prepare an estimate/proposal that includes a written estimate, a specifications list and maybe a few rough sketches. There may be a fee for this.

The one thing that is hard to judge from a proposal is overall quality of workmanship. The best way to tell if a renovator can do what he promises is to check references.

Look at past projects and talk to homeowners. Some people skip this step, figuring renovators will only offer up positive references.

But some renovators may feel that poor references are better than none at all. And some may try to bluff with false references. Always check!

Also, make sure when looking at estimates that you're comparing apples to apples. Get enough detail so that the level of service and quality offered by each renovator is comparable. A lower estimate may seem more attractive, but not if it doesn't provide the same quality process and end product.

This is the last step in selecting a renovator. Once you're satisfied with the references and estimate, it's time to get a firm quote. To provide this, the renovator must have a design.

The design sets out the specifications. This is a written recipe for the job. Along with the plans, they explain what's to be done in enough detail so that different renovators working from the same design would produce the same result.

There's typically a fee to produce the design, which usually can be applied to the total project cost.

Once you've selected a renovator and you are both clear on what's to be done, the next step is to draw up a detailed written contract. I'll have more on that next week.

There's been a quiet revolution going on in the new home building industry.

I say quiet, because it didn't gain as much public interest as we thought it would. It actually started a decade ago with an exciting new way of building called R2000.

Today, the revolution continues with the addition of new names such as EnerGuide and Energy Star. This revolution has changed the face of our industry in response to public interest in the environment and a desire to have a role in energy conservation.

It's an exciting time for today's new home buyer. With the many products and services available, the castle of your dreams is possible. And if you have a desire to be environmentally responsible, the industry is ready and waiting.

The Ontario Building Code recently incorporated aggressive changes in support of energy efficiency and will continue to raise the base level for building in the years to come.

While all builders must now comply with requirements such as improved windows, doors, insulation levels and heating equipment efficiency, many builders are well ahead of these mandated changes. That's where Energy Star comes in.

Many builders have taken up the challenge to further advance the energy efficiency of new homes by offering features that also enhance the comfort, quality, afford ability, sustainability and indoor air quality of their new homes by incorporating options.

These are just a few of the innovative features included as part of many builders' standards or upgrades that provide homebuyers with remarkable benefits.

Building science plays a key role in understanding how an energy efficient home is designed and constructed, and how features integrate so the home works as a system.

Construction of the building envelope is one of the most important factors in making sure energy efficient features perform at maximum efficiency. A very air-tight envelope reduces drafts, heat loss, cold rooms and risk of mould and mildew in wall cavities and unconditioned spaces as well as dust and noise infiltration into the home.

Several builders in London and area have chosen to participate in one or more of a growing number of energy efficiency and performance labelling programs that require independent testing of homes to verify the quality and integrity of the building envelope.

From EnerGuide for New Houses, which is an excellent measuring tool to help builders assess the level of efficiency in their homes, to Energy Star for New Homes and the R2000 program, which place strict guidelines and testing requirements on participating builders to meet a high level of energy efficiency, new home construction is on a continuous improvement course.

The other important aspect of these improvements is their effect on the environment. Greenhouse gas emissions, a major contributor to climate change, are reduced significantly as efficiency improves. For example, a home meeting Energy Star or R2000 standards cuts greenhouse gas emissions by about two to four tonnes a year.

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