This week, while doing a presentation on the subject of secondary suites, I got into a discussion with several investors after the talk. The discussion was around how difficult it was to find good contractors.
That's no surprise.
Several of these investors were women, who explained how often contractors (mostly men) were condescending, untruthful, and often overpricing their estimates simply because they felt their clients didn't know anything.
I do believe that many general contractors are good, honest people. But as with everything, a few bad apples tends to ruin the batch.
Okay, maybe more than a few.
For anyone who experiences these issue, male or female, old or young, or whatever other limitations you feel makes you vulnerable to the unscrupulous contractors out to empty your line of credit and turn your home into a circus fun house, I have some advice:
Learn as much as you can.
Before tackling any project, whether finishing your basement, or remodeling your bathroom, it helps to learn. And by learn, I mean more than just research, but rather get deep into the material. If you're spending potentially 5 or 6 figures on that major renovation, a solid weekend studying what's involved can be a excellent investment.
This is vastly better than simply relying blindly on the advice of a contractor, no matter how reputable they are.
Trust me, if you go into a discussion about a bathroom renovation for instance, and you start talking about Hardie boards, and drain vent locations, your contractor is going to respect the conversation a lot more.
Fortunately the tools and resources available today are incredible; much better than when I started. In terms of websites, the options are endless.
The problem now is, how do you decipher which ones to go with? It's not easy, and there's a lot of noise and fluff out there. I'm still learning every day, and I have found a few sites that are on my bookmarks I personally use often.
Let's get into them. They include:
A classic trade magazine, now online. Offers great installation and process techniques for pretty much any project. My go-to site before doing any research for textbook material when it comes to interior or exterior carpentry.
If you have not read the classic "Ten Rules for Finish Carpentry" article, do yourself a favor and read it. Then ask your contractor if he applies these techniques.
The founding father of home improvement (no not Tim Allen), Bob Villa, is not just a celebrity handyman, but someone who is truly passionate about renovations (or remodeling as it's mostly called south of the border).
He's turned his craft into a valuable brand with This Old House, and it's actually very good. The "How-To" section of the website is chalk full of practical videos and guides on everything from cabinetry to toilet installations.
Everyone uses this site to steal....I mean borrow....great designs. And it's also a good site to source local contractors and materials. Although a little bit fluffier than the first two sites above, it still has some great content, especially when it comes to more design focused renovations.
Under their "Advice" section, there are a couple of useful forums where you can connect with contractors and other homeowners on best practices.
One of the most popular sites in North America, this is also a really good site for practical how-to information. Under their "How-To and Repair" section, you not only have a ton of great content for home renovations, but also info on auto and appliance repair.
They discuss quite a bit on specialized trades such as electrical and plumbing. Now although I would recommend hiring professionals for things like electrical work, having even a basic knowledge of it would help a great deal before hiring.
Finally some Canadian content eh? Not a big fan of this company as a retailer, but they actually have one of the better sites for information among the big 3 big box home repair stores in Canada (yes I said "big" 3 times in one sentence....that's 4 now).
Under the "Projects" section of this website, they have various potential projects you can do. It very clearly laid out, with tools and materials required, and a step-by-step process. There's also really good 3d diagrams.
So those are the sites I used often personally.
Other notable mentions include:
- HomeTips.com --> Great repository of detailed articles
- ScottMcGillivray.com --> Check out his "Design & Renovations" blog
- DIYnetwork.com --> Check out their "Skills & Know-How" section
In a later article, I'll grab my 5 favorite home renovation and construction books off of my bookshelf and share these with you.
Do you have any website you recommend that I missed? If so, please share it in the comments below. As always, thanks for reading.