A basement reno nightmare – One contractor’s story

The writer is a member of the Canadian Home Builders' Association.

These homeowners hired a friend-of-a-friend to renovate the basement of their home and do some exterior refinishing. Although no contract was signed, an advance payment was made to the contractor, and he started work. The basement was gutted and the resulting debris piled in the backyard. The exterior of the home was partially replaced, and then everything ground to a halt.

At this point the home was a mess — whenever it rained, water entered the basement from the unfinished window wells.

"It is very easy to fall into a bad renovation if you don't get the right contractor from the beginning. In this case it started from a friend's referral and next thing they knew, they had a really big problem on their hands."

We're not sure exactly what the last straw was for the homeowners, but when we got the call the basement was unusable, the exterior renovation was botched, and the backyard was so full of construction debris that the owners' children had nowhere to play. Fed up, the homeowners were looking for a reputable firm to fix and finish their disastrous renovation.

One of the owners of our company, my dad, went over to survey the situation and estimate the cost of the work needed to finish the job. When he heard their story, realized how upset they were, and saw the mess, he called the office and sent two guys over with a truck and trailer to clean up the backyard. We hadn't been hired yet, but Dad said it was the right thing to do, even if we didn't get the job. That clean-up work took the afternoon for our guys but by the end of the day the kids had a safe place to play, the backyard was no longer an eyesore, our potential new client was left with a pretty good impression of us, and there was lots of goodwill all around.

We followed up by providing a detailed price quote to fix and finish the work, and we entered into a contract with the homeowners. We explained that it was our busy time of the year, but they were prepared to wait for us to free up some time to get there. We were able to complete the work over a four-month period and now the family is using their renovated basement.

It is very easy to fall into a bad renovation if you don't get the right contractor from the beginning. In this case it started from a friend's referral and next thing they knew, they had a really big problem on their hands.

Home renovation projects don't need to be nightmares. For a complete guide on the right way to find and hire a contractor, visit: www.hiringacontractor.com.

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