Choosing your design builder

It is important to develop a good working relationship with a design-builder during the planning and design stage of your project. The following are key elements to consider when choosing a design-builder.


Ensure that all price quotations come from long-established, reputable, licensed, bonded, insured design-build firms with a Metro license, construction industry memberships, and coverage by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB).


Personality is often overlooked when selecting a design-builder, but it is a key ingredient to a successful renovation. Choose a design-builder who shares your views, has a sense of humour and who you would see “fitting in” in social situations. Whomever you choose will be spending a lot of time with you and will be part of a stressful period of your life. You should feel comfortable that his or her personality is an asset and not an additional source of stress.


Ask how they describe the work they propose to do?
Make sure the bid includes everything you asked for in the design and specifications. If it does not appear on the bid, it is likely not included in the price!


Ask what products and materials will be used?
Your specifications should list most of the materials you intend to use, however, you may not have made some of your final decisions on finishings. Ensure that you understand how much has been allocated towards these undefined materials. For instance, the word “bathtub” could mean a $350 standard tub to one design-builder and a $2,000 soaker tub to another.

Payment Schedule

Ask what the renovation will cost and how will the payments be scheduled?
The total project cost and payment timetable should be clearly defined in the bid. The payment schedule should include the initial deposit at signing and the progress payments expected at various milestones in the project.


Ask when the work can be started and when will it be completed?
Professional design-builders provide and respect project schedules. They know that renovations involve a degree of inconvenience and they should be able to provide a scheduled completion date and an anticipated completion date for each milestone.

Ensure that your drawings include exactly what you want before starting the construction process.

Plan Your Build and Build Your Plan

It's quite common for a renovation to cost more than the originally quoted price. Why? Two reasons: hidden costs and extra costs. Experience shows that a renovation will likely cost 10-15% more than the original construction contract price because of these two factors.

Hidden Costs are expenses that could not be foreseen during the estimation process. These include the need to move ducts or pipes that are hidden behind walls, or to bring existing services up to current building codes.

Extra Costs are expenses incurred when you change your original design by either adding elements or changing your design, fixtures or finishes. Often these costs could have been avoided or reduced if the decisions had been part of the original design. For example, you may decide to remove a bearing wall. This will require new lumber and materials, supports or footings, and additional labour costs.

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