FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions For Renovations
What is the first step if we want to find out more for a specific project?
For an initial appointment, call, email us or schedule one online and we will be happy to arrange a time that is convenient for you. This meeting will happen at the project site (ie. the home) and typically last 45-90 mins depending on the project scope. There is no charge for this initial consultation, however, there is an expectation that the homeowner will be present at the agreed time and able to provide their full attention. We would ask that all interested parties are present so that all involved are on the same page as far as scope is concerned. This allows us to provide an accurate quote in a speedy manner.
What happens after that first meeting?
Assuming that the conclusion of this first meeting there is a match between your goals and what we can offer, the next stage would be to prepare a formal proposal. In many cases, this may involve further discussion to narrow the focus on specific types of product and to basically ensure we are on the same page in terms of the scope of work. We have many methods we use to help determine your design inspiration and to pick out suitable product alternatives. In cases where there is not a match between the project scope/goals and what we are able to offer, we will advise in a timely manner that we will not be providing a quote so that you can pursue other avenues.
Assuming we have an agreed scope/price and wish to proceed, what happens next?
We will review the project to determine a suitable start date based on many factors such as lead-times of special order items, availability of trades, the homeowner’s schedule, etc. Once the contract is signed, designs are complete / materials ordered, permits (where required) are in place, etc then work will commence. We will make sure that all the elements of a project are in place BEFORE we start demo/construction to avoid unnecessary delays during the project.
Once a project has started, can we make changes?
In short, yes.
One of the joys of home renovations is that there are almost always changes. Some are design changes where you may add or remove a feature or make an upgrade. Others are changes forced upon us when something unexpected is discovered (eg. structural or electrical or plumbing issues are hidden from view until demo has started). These are often to comply with building code regulations.
We use a ‘Change Order’ process to manage any & all such changes during a project. Everything is documented and tracked so that there are no surprises
Is a deposit required and what is the payment schedule?
A deposit is always required for any work we perform. The amount of the deposit as well as the schedule of subsequent payments depends on the specific project and will be detailed as part of the contract.
Do we provide a guarantee?
Absolutely! With regard to the install of any product/materials we have supplied & installed then there is a 2-year guarantee of workmanship which is double the industry norm (this is separate from any warranty provided by the product manufacturer). If a homeowner wishes to supply their own product/materials as part of an agreed contract, then the homeowner assumes responsibility for warranty of those products/materials including any associated costs for repair or replacement.
As for our in-house custom built cabinets … we provide a limited lifetime warranty on our custom built cabinets. In plain English, this basically means that provided you take reasonable care and do not abuse them then we guarantee them not to fall apart for as long as you own the home. We can provide further details upon request.
Why should I hire a licensed contractor versus a guy I know with a truck & some tools?
In short, because there is more to home renovations than just knowing how to use the tools. If anything should ever go wrong, most homeowners want to know there is somebody standing behind the work they did. Only a licensed & professionally operated business can provide the necessary insurance coverage, apply for building permits on your behalf, offer a full home renovation & repair solution and look out for your most valuable asset … your home.
Make sure your contractor is registered with the State of Washington … if not, then any time one of their workers is injured YOU as the homeowner will be liable for any L&I claims.
Do you give free written estimates?
In the majority of cases, a formal written proposal (quote) is provided for free after the initial consultation or at least budget guidelines are given if perhaps the scope is still very open-ended. Our written quotes always outline the detailed scope of work (in layman’s terms) so you can easily verify if everything is included or not. We will include a basic layout and/or renderings where applicable for those that visualize better with pictures. All quotes are on a FIXED PRICE basis so barring the unexpected you know in advance what the job will cost and how much “wiggle room” you may have with your finances for further upgrades.
The quote includes an ALLOWANCES section which is essentially a table of all the items you need to chose (fixtures, appliances, floor finishes, etc etc) with their associated costs … we guide you through making these selections, but at least you have an idea in advance what we have allowed for & it is your call whether to stay on a budget, splurge on some things, and/or save elsewhere. The goal is after all minimizing surprises which is why the initial consultation is essential so we can determine what level of products/fixtures will work for your budget.
We do not provide an estimate or written quote if we feel that there is a mismatch between your project scope/goals & the services we can offer as we feel this would be misleading … a written quote would indicate interest in performing the work.
What do we charge per hour?
First of all, we only provide FIXED PRICE quotes. This quote is made up of many different tasks at different rates for different trades with varying overheads as well as all the “allowance” items (products/fixtures/finishes) and other materials needed to complete a project. Quoting hourly rates becomes meaningless given how we do our estimating and at best just causes confusion. When comparing quotes we always recommend you determine if you trust the contractor in question, does their personality mesh with your own (or will you clash over every decision), do they have the relevant experience, is the price quoted for the scope of work within your budget / fair for the service to be provided, and is the price made clear ie. is it a FIXED PRICE or is it something more open-ended with an unclear cut-off point?
If our project is looking like it could benefit from the services of an interior designer, an architect, a structural engineer or another specialist/consultant can you help?
Absolutely! We can call on the appropriate experts as and when required.
Why don’t we have a picture of a house or a hammer as part of our company logo … every other contracting / construction business does?
‘Cos everyone else does. We are inspired by the surrounding snow-capped mountains and forests and that is conveyed through our logo and many of the materials/products typically used in such a beautiful location.
What would we say our core values are as a customer service focused business?
To be Prompt, Polite, and Professional and demonstrate a passion for what we do … everything else will follow. We hate when someone you are paying doesn’t show up as planned, so we will not do that to you.
There is no excuse not to be well mannered … no excuse at all. We believe in taking the time to help the client understand what will happen to their specific job, regardless of how big or small and in whatever level of detail they need to feel comfortable. We always want you to feel at ease asking anything of us.
What happens if the job requires one or more permits?
We can guide you through the permit process … regardless of which contractor you decide to go with, we strongly advise you to not only question each company you speak to, but also talk to your local city building /engineering department to confirm what you have been told with regard to permits. Ultimately it is you as the homeowner that is responsible to ensure permits are in place as required, so when your contractor says they will take care of this aspect … make sure they do! Building codes change as do technologies, materials, techniques, etc and your contractor needs to keep pace with these changes to be effective and give the best value.
Are we a licensed business?
Absolutely. Each municipality/city requires a business operating within their boundaries to hold a business license valid for that year … so we have business licenses for each of the districts / municipal boundaries within which we operate. A business such as ours is also obliged to display company information on any vehicles … which we do. Ask yourself; if a tradesperson who does business in your home is not prepared to publicly advertise their business, then are they someone you should trust to be around in the future if you have a problem with their work?
Are we insured?
Absolutely. We carry General Contractor liability insurance
Do we have a client confidentiality/data protection policy?
Yes, and it’s quite simple. All client information is held in a password-protected construction management system with restricted access & none of this information is shared with any other party without your prior consent (eg. to arrange for another of our trades to contact you directly at your request). We do not sell or pass on any customer information to any other company for any reason. Plain and simple!
Now to some more technical questions …
I want to have tile laid in a non-wet area … can I just lay the tile directly on the substrate?
If you look at the minimum code, then yes you can (with some exceptions). HOWEVER …
The layer commonly thought of just for waterproofing has a 2nd critical purpose … as a crack prevention membrane.
Wood substrate eg. plywood, wood expands and contracts as the climate changes. If you lay the tile directly on the plywood substrate not only will the water in the thinset seep into the wood before the thinset properly cures, but also any movement in the structure will cause the grout and tile to crack. A lot of installers will lay a material such as Hardi-backer (1/4″ concrete board) on top of the plywood & then tile directly with this. This can work provided a good quality polymer modified thinset with a crack prevention ingredient is used … however, there is no substitute for adding a specific crack prevention membrane which will absorb small movements in the structure/substrate. This also means you can mop down your tile floor without ever worrying about whether or not it is waterproof. Remember … grout is porous and the sealer applied to the grout (or porous tile) is not a waterproofing agent, it is merely to prevent stains.
Concrete substrate eg. in the basement: minor cracks in the basement slab are normal … and if you live close to a railway track, for example, then they are almost certain. If you find the grout and/or tile in your new / renovated home is cracking then chances are the contractor did not use a crack prevention membrane … as the concrete finds its own natural breakpoints it will transfer that movement upwards & if there is nothing to absorb the expansion/contraction then the finished surface has to give! Again this is not a failure to adhere to minimum code … it just tells you that sometimes minimum is not good enough.
Levelling … also worth bearing in mind in an older home where the floor is probably not level / even, so levelling before laying tile will also affect the layers required & the total finished height.
I currently have a bathtub in the bathroom, but we’ve always wanted a walk-in shower … what options do I have?
A standard bathtub is 5′ long … that provides for a pretty spacious walk-in shower. WEDI has a shower stall system which is designed for laying mosaic tile on the contoured shower pan & includes all the necessary waterproofing technologies. This system can be supplied with an off-center drain so that the existing bathtub drain positioning can be used … which saves a lot on plumbing costs if you are on a concrete slab or would have to cut into the floor joists. JMJ is proud to offer WEDI solutions for the bathroom.
We also work with a specialized glass shower screen/door installer who can custom manufacture to your specific needs. A frameless shower screen/door is a fantastic look found in a lot of high-end hotels & large homes, but it can also add that touch of class to a modest home. Tie that in with a quality porcelain or stone tile and you will have a wonderful bathroom which will last the test of time.
I like the idea of a custom tiled shower but not so keen on all those grout lines with mosaic tile on the shower floor or I simply prefer bigger tiles … do I have any options?
Now you do. Ask us about the FUNDO DRAIN Systems system which allows large format tile to be installed on the shower floor.
I love the thought of radiant heated floors, but the room isn’t a conventional rectangle … do I have to go with a custom heat pad?
WARMuP Floor Heat is the trusted company when it comes to radiant in-floor heat for bathrooms, mud-rooms, etc. They produce a radiant heat wiring system which is incredibly versatile as it can be installed in virtually any configuration you require so as not to leave cold spots in the room.
Remember to budget for the Schluter Ditra-Heat thermostat as you cannot use just any thermostat with one of these systems.
What are the pros and cons of pressure treated wood versus cedar versus a composite material for the deck we are considering?
Pressure treated wood should ideally be installed using stainless screws which come at a price … this is to ensure that the chemicals used to treat the wood do not corrode the screws. Pressure treated is roughly 1/2 to 1/3 the price of clear cedar so it is the least expensive option in terms of material cost. However, you should take extra precautions when cutting pressure treated as you do not want to risk breathing in any of the dust. Also, pressure-treated wood should be left to weather for anything from a few weeks up to 6 months before it is stained (depending on the weather and how long the wood has already been sitting for). If this is not done then the stain will react with the chemicals in the wood and it just will not look good as a result.
Cedar, we believe, is worth the extra cost … it looks stunning when done right and contains natural inhibitors to prevent rot & keep carpenter ants away. It costs around 2-3 times that of pressure treated for the timber, but the install is essentially the same. It should, however, be stained immediately before it has a chance to weather. Specially coated deck screws are recommended (a bit cheaper than stainless). Even though some contractors will use nails for speed, we would rather not have to return a year or two later to tighten loose boards so we only use screws. Personally, the best part about working with cedar is the smell.
Both pressure-treated and cedar can be stained or painted. Our thoughts on this are that if you are paying the premium for cedar then let the wood be seen and use a stain which allows you to see the grain of the wood rather than a solid stain which is essentially like paint. You can still use a tint to make the cedar darker without hiding the fact it is a 100% natural material.
Composite decking materials have changed a lot over the years … Trex now provides a very versatile product which has very little maintenance compared to natural wood decks. Their deck boards, trim and railing components come in a variety of colours and styles. It is also possible to combine composite decking boards with a cedar post/handrail if the client prefers that look. Basically, there are lots of options and you are only limited by your imagination.