It’s exciting, rewarding, and daunting to begin the process of building a new home. We all have a strong vision for how we’d like things to go, with many factors adding pressure to the mix: financial and legal requirements, our hoped-for schedule to completion, and navigating a project’s seemingly endless decisions.
It can feel even more exciting and daunting when your vision includes energy-efficiency. You’ll not only need a good builder, but an experienced specialist.
WE'RE HERE TO HELP
We can connect you with an array of contractors whose professionalism is as solid as their builds — so you can find someone who will engage with you fairly and honestly, put their promises in writing, and back up their work.
Following are our most important lessons over the years.
When you begin with these principles, you begin well.
SEEK AND HIRE PROFESSIONALS
The first step to a well-run, fruitful project is to know who you’re dealing with.
Some of the best recommendations come from friends, family, co-workers and neighbours who have had positive experiences. Or, look to homebuilders’ or trade associations like ours, or contacts in building materials stores, utility companies, or the Better Business Bureau in your area.
Don’t deal with anyone who offers a special price if you pay cash.
A major home project is far too important for unofficial, unsecured, and under-the-table handshakes. In a cash deal, nothing is written down. This puts much more risk onto you, with far less control over how your project turns out. Our first piece of advice is an old but wise warning: if the deal is too good to be true, it’s no deal at all.
When you first engage a potential builder to assess if they’re a good fit for your project, make sure (in addition to recommendations or references) you’ve got the basic details of their business:
Full contact information, including name, address and phone number
Their government-issued Business Number or GST/HST number, and proof of any business licence required by the municipality
A clear written warranty specifying what is covered and for how long
ADVOCATE FOR YOUR PROTECTION
Once you’ve chosen a builder, the best way to protect your interests as a homeowner is to secure a written contract with all the following risk mitigations mapped-out in advance:
Building codes and permits. Most projects, even minor ones, require a building permit and must adhere to code. As the homeowner, you are responsible for ensuring this happens. Your contractor can usually look after this on your behalf.
Insurance. Does your homeowners’ insurance cover construction-related risks? Call your agent to confirm. Further, be sure your contractor has business liability insurance to protect you from any mistakes.
Liens. Each province has requirements for holding back a portion of all payments to your contractor for a set period of time. Doing this protects you from claims if the contractor fails to pay suppliers and subcontractors.
Workers’ Compensation. Those employed to work on your property may require coverage under provincial Workers’ Compensation programs. Without it, you could be liable in the event of a workplace injury.
Warranties. Professional renovators provide a clear written warranty on their work. Custom new home builders should provide a third-party new home warranty.
GET A CONTRACT IN WRITING
Professional contractors always work with a proper, written contract that details a clear project plan that includes the following:
A full description of the work, including anticipated materials and products
Start and completion dates
A clear payment schedule that lays out when and how much you will be charged, and what lien holdbacks are required
The contractor’s warranty detailing what is covered and for how long
Confirmation of all the above protections