Tips to help that summer reno go smoothly

By Lanny McInnes
Date Posted: April 27, 2024

While we are hoping to see frequent Winnipeg Jets Whiteouts for the next two months, the last of the winter weather is now behind us and Manitobans are turning their attention to preparing for spring yardwork, gardening, and planning on how best to enjoy the long and beautiful summer we all deserve.

Sometimes, that also means planning a summer renovation project for your home. Many homeowners are booking those summer projects with renovators now. But one thing to keep in mind when researching both your renovation project and the renovator to do it, is that when a deal sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

There are some key points to remember when you are getting a “really great deal” on home renovations, especially on “cash deals” where the person doing the work is being paid “under the table.”

These deals usually mean no taxes are paid and no permits are taken out for the work done. Having no receipt and no contract also means that there is no record of the work being done. If your contractor cuts a few corners and uses sub-standard materials, you have no recourse because there was no formal agreement. If the workmanship was shoddy or the renovation caused some damage to your home, there is no formal record of the work ever taking place. If you encounter problems a month or two down the line, don’t bother calling the person who originally did the work. Technically, they were never there. And rectifying a poor job can cost you more than having the job done right in the first place.

Not taking out the proper permits can also lead to issues further down the road, especially if you look at selling your home. Work done on undeveloped areas of you home, usually basements, require permits if there are any structural, electrical or plumbing work done. If you have work done to finish a basement or attic that required proper permits and they weren’t taken out, it could lead to issues in terms of finalizing a sale when you are looking to sell your home in the future. It could also put the new home buyer in a position of applying for permits on work already done and then incurring the added cost of rectifying any issues if the work was not done properly. Legitimate contractors take out all necessary permits and ensure that a licensed tradesperson does the necessary work. Using a legitimate contractor that ensures the work is done properly and is properly permitted, combined with a written contract, are your best insurance as a consumer.

It is in your own best interest to protect yourself when it comes to renovations. When you hire a contractor, get a signed contract with the GST/HST number on it, a detailed warranty, and a receipt for all amounts paid. Also make sure your contractor has liability insurance and workers’ compensation coverage for all workers entering your home.

Don’t assume your home insurance will cover the costs if something goes wrong. Imagine you had a roofing company working on your home and someone fell and was injured. Without workers’ compensation coverage and a clear contract, you could be held responsible, possibly sued, and your home insurance might not cover you. If that same worker wasn’t injured but accidentally caused a fire or a leak in the roof that resulted in water damage, you might be paying out of pocket to fix the damage if your contractor doesn’t have liability insurance.

Make sure you get it all in writing from your renovator contractor by having a contract and getting receipts. And make sure you protect yourself from future costs by taking the right precautions. When a cash deal is “too good to pass up” on a renovation, be aware that it may end up costing you much more down the road.

Lanny McInnes is the President & CEO of the Manitoba Home Builders’ Association.