There is no such thing as a small and simple renovation project. The process takes time and effort. It’s also messy. However, the more planning and care that goes into the renovation in advance, the better your chances of having things turn out to your satisfaction.

  • Understand your own abilities and the amount of time that you can spend on the project. This will help you decide what kind of professional help you should look for, ranging from an architect or general contractor who will take charge of the project from beginning to end, to a one-person local construction company.
  • Write a detailed list of the things that you want to achieve. If you change your mind part way through the project, the costs will also change.
  • Check with your municipal building inspection department to find out which permits you’ll need before you start work (this is not your contractor’s responsibility unless that is spelled out in your contract) and check which inspections you’ll have to arrange part way through or when the project is finished. Check with your insurance company to discuss any extra insurance coverage required for the renovation that may add to your final cost.
  • Make a list of potential suppliers to interview. Ask relatives, friends and neighbours as well as local business associations for recommendations.
  • Some professional organizations, such as building associations, keep a list of suppliers who specialize in renovation work.
  • Check with your local Better Business Bureau or business association to see whether any complaints have been filed against any firm that you are thinking of hiring.
  • Contact at least six professionals by telephone to find a minimum of three to interview.
  • Ask for references and check them.

Why Renovate?

  • Lifestyle renovations: This type of renovation might involve building a sun room for pleasure, or converting unused attic space into living quarters to meet your changing needs.
  • Retrofit projects: This type of renovation usually focuses on your home’s shell or mechanical systems. Examples are upgrading your insulation, replacing your furnace, or putting on new siding.
  • Maintenance and repair renovations: This type of renovation might include caulking windows, reshingling your roof, or replacing your eavestroughs.

Advance planning is the key to successful renovations. Get the results you want by doing your renovation right the first time. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation offers a series of fact sheets on different renovation topics to help you plan, assess and avoid surprises.

Selecting a Contractor

Interviews are a two-way conversation. The contractor should ask you a lot of questions about what you want. In turn, you should ask the contractor about similar projects he or she has handled, the time required for the job, whether there will be subcontractors involved, what the stages of progress will be, and the permit and inspection requirements.

Most tradespeople need to be certified (plumbers, electricians, etc). Make sure the person or company you hire is certified. Be sure to check references. A good place to start might be talking to someone who has had a recent renovation or contact the Better Business Bureau or the Home Builder’s Association in your area.

It is a good idea to get a few estimates for the job, but make sure that each supplier has the same job specifications so you can compare apples to apples. You should never be given a quote at the interview. Ask the supplier to send you a written estimate of all costs, including labour and any extra charges. Also check the quote to ensure that it has included any applicable taxes and ask about any liability insurance or worker’s compensation that may be required. Review all the quotes carefully. They should outline your project and provide at least a partial cost breakdown.

Don’t Take it Underground

The underground economy hurts all Canadians. The underground economy also makes businesses and individuals less competitive because it offers an unfair illegal advantage to those who don’t respect Canada’s tax laws. For consumers, paying “under the table” for a job is not a better deal. If you pay cash you have no warranty, no recourse for poor workmanship, and the added risk of liability if an injury takes place on your property.

How to Protect Yourself

Before you hire anyone be sure to ask a lot of questions. Make sure a written contract is in place and ask for proof of Workers’ Compensation or equivalent private liability insurance to cover injury as well as any damage that could occur in your home. This will protect you from being liable for an injury in your home, as well as damage to your home, and to the worker’s equipment.

The Contract

Don’t sign a contract until you have fully reviewed it, are satisfied with all the terms and are sure that the contractor is capable of meeting your needs. Ask the contractor to include a detailed description of the work to be done. Get them to list specific information about products, manufacturer, size and colour of materials and equipment to be installed. It is a best practice to even include product numbers for items such as carpet, tile, countertops and hardwood floors for example.  The more details that are contained in the contract, the less room there is for error. Never allow work to proceed until you have fully reviewed, understood, agreed to and signed the contract. (See the “Contracts” section of this Handbook for more tips and information on signing contracts.)

The contract should include the following information:

  • the type and amount of work to be done;
  • who is to complete the work (including a list of any subcontractors and who is responsible for their payment and when);
  • who is responsible for ordering and paying for materials;
  • who is responsible for permits;
  • the total cost;
  • what percentage of deposit is required (does it seem reasonable);
  • the start date and date of completion;
  • who is responsible for clean-up afterwards;
  • the Business or GST/HST number of the contractor; and
  • the name and address of the contractor and your name and address.

On major projects, it is a best practice to break down the work into phases. If additional jobs are added along the way, make sure the original contract is clearly amended. Attach to the contract a list of the sections of work to be done and their completion dates. A payment schedule should always be part of the contract. Keep the number of payments to a minimum and check on construction liens legislation in your province or territory. The law may require you to hold back a percentage of the payment until the date when the major work is finished (what’s known as the substantial completion date). You’ll be asked to sign a completion certificate. Don’t sign it until the work is finished and you’re satisfied with it. Check with your provincial or territorial consumer affairs office to see what is required where you live.

For more information on what to do when hiring a contractor, visit the Get It In Writing website, run by the Canadian Home Builder’s Association.

Door-to-Door Home Repairs

Sometimes salespeople come to your door offering a deal on roofing, driveway resurfacing, or furnace inspection or repair, because “we just happen to be in your neighbourhood.” Usually they insist that the contract must be signed immediately to get the special price.

This is a high-pressure sales tactic. Don’t fall for it.

The seller may ask for a deposit and then never return to do the work, or the work he or she does do may be substandard. Unless you have references about the contractor from people you trust, you won’t know what you’re really buying until your money is gone. (See the “Door-to-Door Sales” section of this Handbook for more information.) If you were thinking of having the work done anyway, ask the salesperson for local references. Obtain quotes from other suppliers as well.

Your province or territory may require door-to-door salespeople to be licensed and bonded, and may allow a cancellation (or cooling-off) period, during which you may cancel the contract for any reason. For more information, contact your provincial or territorial consumer affairs office.

Environmentally Responsible Consumer Tip:

Heating can count for more than half the energy cost of running your house. According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), more than 17 percent of the energy consumed in Canada is used in this way. Buying an energy-efficient home or making energy-saving renovations can offer big savings.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation

Head Office

700 Montreal Road

Ottawa, Ontario  K1A 0P7

Telephone: 613-748-2000
Toll Free: 1-800-668-2642
Phone (TTY): 613-748-2447
Fax: 613-748-2098


Prairie and Territories

Suite 200
1000-7 Avenue SW

Calgary, Alberta  T2P 5L5

Telephone: 403-515-3000
Toll Free: 1-888-841-4975
Fax: 403-515-2930

British Columbia

200-1111 West Georgia Street

Vancouver, British Columbia  V6E 4S4

Telephone: 604-731-5733
Phone (TTY): 1-800-309-3388
Fax: 604-737-4139


9th Floor
Barrington Tower
1894 Barrington Street
PO Box 9315
Station A

Halifax, Nova Scotia  B3K 5W9

Telephone: 902-426-3530
Fax: 902-426-9991


Suite 300,
100 Sheppard Avenue East

Toronto, Ontario  M2N 6Z1

Telephone: 416-221-2642
Toll Free: 1-800-309-3388
Fax: 416-218-3310


1st Floor
1100 René Lévesque
Boulevard West

Montréal, Quebec  H3B 5J7

Telephone: 514-283-2222
Toll Free: 1-888-772-0772

Canadian Housing Information Centre

C1-200, 700 Montreal Road

Ottawa, Ontario  K1A 0P7

Telephone: 613-748-2367
Toll Free: 1-800-668-2642
Fax: 613-748-4069


Better Business Bureaus

Better Business Bureau of Mainland B.C.

788 Beatty Street, Suite 404

Vancouver, British Columbia  V6B 2M1

Telephone: 604-682-2711
Fax: 604-681-1544


Better Business Bureau of Vancouver Island

220-1175 Cook Street

Victoria, British Columbia  V8V 4A1

Telephone: 250-386-6348
Toll Free: 1-877-826-4222
Fax: 250-386-2367


Better Business Bureau of Southern Alberta and East Kootenay

#5, 1709 8 Avenue NE

Calgary, Alberta  T2E 0S9

Telephone: 403-531-8784
Fax: 403-640-2514


Better Business Bureau of Central and Northern Alberta

16102 100 Avenue NW

Edmonton, Alberta  T5P 0L3

Telephone: 780-482-2341
Toll Free: 1-800-232-7298
Fax: 780-482-1150


Better Business Bureau of Saskatchewan

980 Albert Street

Regina, Saskatchewan  S4R 2P7

Telephone: 306-352-7601
Toll Free: 1-888-352-7601
Fax: 306-565-6236


Better Business Bureau Serving Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario

1030 B Empress Street

Winnipeg, Manitoba  R3G 3H4

Telephone: 204-989-9010
Toll Free: 1-800-385-3074
Fax: 204-989-9016


Better Business Bureau Serving Western Ontario

206-190 Wortley Road

London, Ontario  N6C 4Y7

Telephone: 519-673-3222
Toll Free: 1-877-283-9222
Fax: 519-673-5966


Better Business Bureau Serving Central Ontario

903 – 30 Duke Street West

Kitchener, Ontario  N2H 3W5

Telephone: 519-579-3080
Toll Free: 1-800-459-8875
Fax: 519-570-0072


Better Business Bureau of Eastern, Northern Ontario and the Outaouais

505-700 Industrial Avenue

Ottawa, Ontario  K1G 0Y9

Telephone: 613-237-4856
Toll Free: 1-877-859-8566
Fax: 613-237-4878


Better Business Bureau Serving the Atlantic Provinces

7071 Bayers Road, Suite 279

Halifax, Nova Scotia  B3L 2C2

Telephone: 902-422-6581
Fax: 902-429-6457


Canadian Association of Home and Property Inspectors

PO Box 13715

Ottawa, Ontario  K2K 1X6

Telephone: 613-839-5344
Toll Free: 1-888-748-2244
Fax: 1-866-876-9877

Canadians for Properly Built Homes

3659 Richmond Road
PO Box 11032
Station H

Ottawa, Ontario  K2H 7T8

Fax: 613-248-4691


Homeowner Protection Centre

170 Sheppard Ave E Suite 202
Toronto, Ontario M2N 3A4
Telephone: 416-961-3487
Fax: 416-975-8819


Provincial and Territorial Consumer Affairs Offices


Service Alberta, Consumer Contact Centre
3rd Floor Commerce Place
10155-102 Street

Edmonton, Alberta  T5J 4L4

Telephone: 780-427-4088
Toll Free: 1-877-427-4088


British Columbia

Consumer Protection BC
#307-3450 Uptown Blvd
PO Box 9244

Victoria, British Columbia  V8W 9J2

Telephone: 604-320-1667
Toll Free: 1-888-564-9963
Fax: 250-920-7181



Consumer Protection Office, Manitoba Justice
302-258 Portage Avenue

Winnipeg, Manitoba  R3C 0B6

Telephone: 204-945-3800
Toll Free: 1-800-782-0067
Fax: 204-945-0728


New Brunswick

Financial and Consumer Services Commission
225 King Street, Suite 200

Fredericton, New Brunswick  E3B 1E1

Toll Free: 1-866-933-2222
Fax: 506-444-4494


Newfoundland and Labrador

Service NL
PO Box 8700

St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador  A1B 4J6

Telephone: 709-729-2600
Toll Free: 1-877-968-2600
Fax: 709-729-6998


Northwest Territories

Consumer Affairs, Department of Municipal and Community Affairs
5201-50th Avenue, Suite 600
PO Box 1320

Yellowknife, Northwest Territories  X1A 2L9

Telephone: 867-767-9161 ext 21022
Fax: 867-873-0309


Nova Scotia

Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, Public Enquiries
Mail Room, 8 South
Maritime Centre
1505 Barrington Street

Halifax, Nova Scotia  B3J 3K5

Telephone: 902-424-5200
Toll Free: 1-800-670-4357
Fax: 902-424-0720



Consumer Affairs, Department of Community and Government Services
3090 – 9th Street
P.O. Box 440

Baker Lake, Nunavut  X0C 0A0

Telephone: 867-793-3303
Toll Free: 1-866-223-8139
Fax: 867-793-3321



Consumer Protection Ontario, Ministry of Government and Consumer Services
Box 450
1201 Wilson Ave, Station A

Toronto, Ontario  M3M 1J8

Telephone: 416-326-8800
Toll Free: 1-800-889-9768
Phone (TTY): 416-229-6086
Phone (TTY) 2: 1-877-666-6545
Fax: 416-326-8665


Prince Edward Island

Consumer Services, Department of Justice and Public Safety
Shaw Building, 4th Floor
95 Rochford Street
PO Box 2000

Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island  C1A 7N8

Telephone: 902-368-4580
Telephone: 902-368-4550
Toll Free: 1-800-658-1799
Fax: 902-368-5283



Office de la protection du consommateur
400 Jean-Lesage Boulevard, Suite 450

Québec, Quebec  G1K 8W4

Telephone: 418-643-1484
Toll Free: 1-888-672-2556
Fax: 418-528-0976


Consumer Services, Department of Community Services
307 Black Street

Whitehorse, Yukon  Y1A 2N1

Telephone: 867-667-5111
Toll Free: 1-800-661-0408 ext. 5111
Fax: 867-667-3609


Provincial and Territorial Departments or Ministries of Housing


Alberta Municipal Affairs and Housing, Housing Support Programs
18C Commerce Place
10155-102 Street

Edmonton, Alberta  T5J 4L4

Telephone: 780-427-2732
Fax: 780-422-1419



Housing Support Programs, Alberta Municipal Affairs and Housing
18C Commerce Place
10155-102 Street

Edmonton, Alberta  T5J 4L4

Telephone: 780-427-2732
Fax: 780-422-1419


British Columbia

Office of Housing and Construction Standards
PO Box 9844
Stn Prov Govt

Victoria, British Columbia  V8W 9T2

Telephone: 250-356-6633
Fax: 250-356-9377


Manitoba Finance, Residential Tenancies Branch
302-254 Edmonton Street

Winnipeg, Manitoba  R3C 3Y4

Telephone: 204-945-2476
Toll Free: 1-800-782-8403
Fax: 204-945-6273



Manitoba Housing Authority
Central Office
Main Floor
185 Smith Street

Winnipeg, Manitoba  R3C 3G4

Telephone: 204-945-4663
Toll Free: 1-800-661-4663
Fax: 204-948-2013

New Brunswick

Rentalsman and Consumer Affairs, Department of Justice and Consumer Affairs
Room 649
Kings Place
440 King Street

Fredericton, New Brunswick  E3B 5H8

Telephone: 506-453-2659
Fax: 506-444-4494

New Brunswick

Department of Social Development
Sartain MacDonald Building
2nd Floor
551 King Street
PO Box 6000

Fredericton, New Brunswick  E3B 5H1

Telephone: 506-453-2001
Fax: 506-453-5768

New Brunswick

Department of Social Development
Sartain MacDonald Building
2nd Floor
551 King Street
PO Box 6000

Fredericton, New Brunswick  E3B 5H1

Telephone: 506-453-2001
Fax: 506-453-5768

Newfoundland and Labrador

Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation
Sir Brian Dunfield Building
2 Canada Drive
PO Box 220

St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador  A1C 5J2

Telephone: 709-724-3000
Fax: 709-724-3250

Northwest Territories

Northwest Territories Housing Corporation
PO Box 2100

Yellowknife, Northwest Territories  X1A 2P6

Toll Free: 1-866-956-9842

Nova Scotia

Community Services, Nova Scotia Department of Community Services
Nelson Place
5675 Spring Garden Road
PO Box 696

Halifax, Nova Scotia  B3J 2T7

Telephone: 902-424-6830
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1177
Fax: 902-424-0661


Nunavut Housing Corporation
PO Box 480

Arviat, Nunavut  X0C 0E0

Telephone: 867-857-3000
Fax: 867-857-3040


Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing
17th Floor
777 Bay Street

Toronto, Ontario  M5G 2E5

Telephone: 416-585-7041
Toll Free: 1-866-220-2290
Phone (TTY): 416-585-6991


Prince Edward Island

Office of the Director of Residential Rental Property, Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission
Suite 501
134 Kent Street
PO Box 577

Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island  C1A 7L1

Telephone: 902-892-3501
Toll Free: 1-800-501-6268
Fax: 902-566-4076


Ministère des Affaires municipales, du Sport et du Loisir
5th Floor
10 Pierre-Olivier-Chauveau Street

Québec, Quebec  G1R 4J3

Telephone: 418-691-2019
Fax: 418-643-7385



Société d’habitation du Québec
3rd Floor
Aile Saint-Amable
1054 Louis-Alexandre-Taschereau Street

Québec, Quebec  G1R 5E7

Toll Free: 1-800-463-4315
Fax: 418-643-4560


Saskatchewan Housing, Department of Social Services
6th Floor
1855 VictoriaAvenue

Regina, Saskatchewan  S4P 3T2

Telephone: 306-787-4177
Toll Free: 1-800-667-7567


Yukon Housing Corporation
410H Jarvis Street

Whitehorse, Yukon  Y1A 2H5

Telephone: 867-667-5759
Toll Free: 1-800-661-0408
Toll Free 2: Local 5759
Fax: 867-667-3664