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I’m looking to renovate, where do I start?

October 29, 2018
ask a renomark renovatorbild greater toronto area


By Jon–Carlos Tsilfidis of Fairside Homes and Renovations Ltd. 

This week we will be talking about what important steps you should take when undertaking a renovation project.

Draw up a realistic budget.
Your first step is to properly outline your project budget. Get a handle on how much your renovation dreams will cost. Discuss your project with your renovator to get a rough idea of costs. Make sure that your dream renovation and budget are in alignment. Carefully scale down your dream — chances are you’ll end up satisfied and solvent. Enlist your contractor for suggestions on cutting costs — that way, they’ll be an ally in helping you stick to your budget.

As a homeowner, who are the people I need to contact first?
You are going to build your very own renovation dream team and there are three important people that you must have on your team. First is a designer, they are the ones who will help frame your dream so it can become reality. Second is a professional renovator, they will help determine the cost, timeline, and help you manage all the regulatory requirements with the city and province you live in. Lastly is your financial lender, they will work with you and a property appraiser to determine the loan you qualify for.

Where do I start my search?
You should start with a trusted source; this can be friends, family or your local Home Builder’s Association. Professional companies choose to register with Home Builder associations for the verification that they are professionals working in the industry. The Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD) created RenoMark in 2001 to set a professional code of conduct for companies to adhere to if they wanted to be a member. To find a RenoMark renovator visit www.RenoMark.ca.

How do I select the right renovator?
The lowest price may not always be the best choice. Simply put, you need to be comfortable with your renovator on a personal level first; otherwise, you are starting your project with an unstable foundation. While the price is very important, other factors like experience, construction schedule, and references should be weighed equally.

You should check three references, and it is important to talk to them and look at the work completed. The three references should be comprised from a project that was completed no more than three years ago (understand the quality of workmanship and warranty if there was a problem), one from a project that was recently finished (did they finish on-time and budget?), and lastly from a project which is ongoing (helps you see how they work, like cleanliness, schedule, budget, and how they deal with problems). Between these three references, you will have a good understanding of how the company operates.

What are the warning signs I should look out for?
This is the most important job for you. First, make sure that they are a professional and licensed company. You verify this by checking with your local Home Builders’ Association. Second, if they do not provide a detailed quote/estimate, you should be concerned. Last, if they cannot provide proper references this should also raise a red flag.

I personally like the trick of asking questions that tests their professionalism like, “Can we do this work without a building permit (when it is required)?” if they say yes, then that is not a company to work with.

Choosing a renovator can be daunting, however, if you follow the steps I’ve laid out, you will be able to find your renovation dream team.


If this column has generated any thoughts or questions regarding a past or future renovation, please send your questions to RenoMark@bildgta.ca and look for our answers to your questions in the next Ask a RenoMark Renovator. I look forward to hearing from you.


Jon–Carlos Tsilfidis is the President of Fairside Homes and Renovations Ltd. He is working to improve the reputation and working conditions for renovators in the GTA. He is a member of the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD) Board of Directors. Fairside Homes and Renovations Ltd. has been a member of BILD since 2004.

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