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Common Construction Company Myths

All contractors are the same.

Unfortunately, at the present time there is little in the way of minimum standards in order to allow someone or a company to name themselves “General Contractors”. Often, unscrupulous individuals print business cards and along with a cell phone begin soliciting themselves as Renovation Contractors or General Contractors. By Law, a company requires a renovation license, liability insurance and WSIB coverage for any employees. But then again, the “law” also requires that one pay income taxes every year but yet more than 50% of the residential construction industry is “underground”. There is little enforcement, and therefore one finds a vast array of contractors. From the underground “hack”, all the way up to the most knowledgeable, accredited, qualified, professional and law abiding organizations. The “law” aside, there is also no agency or organization that rates a company’s qualifications.

You should find a contractor you can trust.

“Trust” can be a fragile thing. Unscrupulous contractors are sometimes experts in building rapport and trust with clients, understanding this vulnerability. If you don’t want to be taken advantage of, set aside trust, and opt for a comprehensive contract, a written scope of work and clear documentation at every stage of the project. All professional contractors practice the exercise of legally documenting the project and will never ask you to “trust them”.

We should use a "standard contract."

No such thing exists as a “standard” contract. A contract is an agreement between two parties that outlines what is to be done, how it is to be done, when it will begin, when it will end, how much will be paid, who will pay it, in what manner and what will happen in the event of certain situations. If your contract doesn’t explain exactly all of the terms of YOUR arrangement or project, do not sign.

Building Inspectors will ensure that the work meets quality standards.

Building inspectors only perform inspections to ensure that whatever component is being inspected lies in accordance to the Ontario Building Code. For liability reasons, building inspectors refrain and are not permitted to give opinions on actual workmanship, unless that workmanship is deficient to such a degree as to prevent the component in question from functioning in the manner intended. In other words, that leaves a lot of room for sub-par quality workmanship.

The middle estimate will ensure the best value.

This overly simplistic approach to screening contractors assumes one fatal flaw, that all contractors in question are equally competent. If you receive 3 estimates from 3 incompetent contractors, in the end, using this approach, all you will have learned is that you overpaid. Honest, professional contractors can only provide you with an accurate appraisal when a comprehensive plan and scope of work have been determined. Screening contractors requires a lot more research than simply asking “how much will it cost”?

The "going rate" myth.

What would you say to someone that asks “What is the going rate for a car these days?”. The answer is probably somewhere in the range of $500 to over $1,000,000.00. In Toronto alone, you can purchase a house from anywhere from $250,000 – over $30,000,000. What you must understand is that the cost of materials can vary wildly in any 1 particular category. Let’s take tiles for example, you can purchase tiles from anywhere from $.75 sq/ft all the way up to $50 sq/ft and beyond. In a small 200 sq/ft area that translates to $150 vs $10,000 just for the cost of the tiles. What you have to come to terms with is that almost all construction projects involve building something that is custom tailored to the end user. Unlike a commodity that is mass produced using the exact same materials and human capital, a CUSTOM end product requires that first the design, materials, scope and human input be first determined. By focusing on price, what you are in essence doing is FORCING that criteria to determine what the design, materials, scope and human input will have to be without even understanding it until you receive it.

"There is hardly anything in the world that someone cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and the people who consider price alone are that person's lawful prey.

It is unwise to pay too much, but it is also unwise to pay too little.

When you pay too much you lose a little money, that is all.

When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything because the thing you bought is incapable of doing the thing you bought it to do.

The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot. It' can't be done.

If you deal with the lowest bidder it is well to add something for the risk you run.

And i you do that you will have enough to pay for something better."
-- John Ruskin, 1819 - 1900

I should always obtain several estimates for a job.

Once again, you are placing the determining criteria on “price”. Instead, research and speak to several firms. In doing so, you will likely find the most suitable match.

A contractor with good references will ensure that my project will be a success.

Like they say in Golf, “you’re only as good as your next swing”. If a contractor has had 100 previous clients and then provides you with a list of 20 past clients as references (this is exceptional, typically you will receive 3-10). But for the sake of argument, which 20 do you think will make the list? Let’s suppose that 20 of his/her past clients were ecstatic about the services, 20 were sufficiently satisfied, 20 were disappointed, 20 would never use them again and 20 ended up suing the contractor and had one of the worst experiences of their lives. So would the list of 20 ecstatic past clients paint a fair picture of this company’s performance? Instead, seek out companies that have a well established presence in the community, have been around a while, are easily recognizable, are members of building associations, have a strong web presence, and have accounts with 3rd party review sites. In other words, look for a company that cannot hide any negative feedback by past clients on the internet. The ABSENCE of negative feedback is a far greater indicator of performance than a number of hand-picked references.

Paying cash will ensure a cheaper price.

When you pay cash, you can rest assured that the project will not be documented in any way. If the contractor is so willing to break the law, what does that tell you about their integrity? Furthermore, if the project runs into problems, how will you be able to hold the contractor liable? What is preventing the contractor from taking your money and leaving? And if the contractor is willing to work ahead of any payments, what does that tell you about their company when they are so eager to take on any work that they are willing to risk not getting paid? Good contractors are busy all year round and very selective in who they work with.

Projects will always run longer and cost more in the end.

That’s because contractors and clients don’t invest the time required to plan. In more than 5 years, we have never had a project go over budget or past the scheduled deadline for completion.

You should get plans before researching contractors.

When you do that, you have already designed the space and are just now setting about finding out how much the actual construction will cost. A frequent occurrence is when clients approach our firm with plans that reflect a required budget that is twice or three times that which they have actually budgeted for the project. It is akin to walking into a Hyundai dealership with specs for a Rolls Royce. What has happened here is that the project was over designed for the client’s budget. When you deal with a Design/Build firm on the other hand, the design can be built AROUND and according to your budget. Unless you have little care for the budget, you and the architect should involve a contractor DURING the design phase.

 

If you are looking for a professional Toronto renovation contractor for your home or business, please call 905.604.4511 or complete our online request form.

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