17 Questions to Ask When Considering a Renovation or Custom Home Build
Contemplating a renovation or custom home build can be a daunting task, especially considering the numerous organizations to choose from within the industry! There are a number of crucial questions that a client should ask each potential renovator/custom home builder; both to determine their industry experience as well as their overall company integrity.
Over the next few weeks we will be adding to this post a comprehensive list of questions we suggest you use to determine which renovation/custom home build company will be the best ‘fit’ for your project. Of course there are many more that could be added to this list; however this will be a great place to start!
These questions were compiled from the recommendations of third party consumer protection organizations including the BILD (Building Industry and Land Development Association), CMHC (Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation), Better Business Bureau (BBB), and RenoMark™. Only the most qualified and reputable companies will be able to properly answer these questions, establishing the trust necessary to have a worry-free and enjoyable renovation or new home build experience. We have provided Pinnacle Group Renovations’ answer to each of these questions to offer a benchmark of standards to look for.
1: Are you a RenoMark™ Renovator?
Pinnacle Group: Yes we are! In fact Paul Klassen, Founder & GM of Pinnacle Group Renovations is one of the founding members of Calgary’s chapter which is dedicated to providing consumers with access to high quality, integral, and ethical renovation companies. As well, he has served on the RenoMark™ Council for several years, including chairing the Council in 2010-2011.
2. Are you a member in good standing of the Canadian Home Builder’s Association – Calgary Region?
Pinnacle Group: We are a member in good standing and feel the CHBA/Calgary Region is supporting a well-rounded group of builder/renovator members serving the Calgary Region.
3. Do you abide by the Canadian Home Builders’ Association – Calgary Region Code of Ethics?
Pinnacle Group: Yes, as a RenoMark™ Renovator we are required to abide by both the RenoMark™ Code of Ethics as well as the CHBA Code of Ethics; to date Pinnacle Group has not been in violation of, or had any unresolved consumer complaints in either RenoMark™ or CHBA’s Code of Ethics.
4: Are you registered with the Better Business Bureau?
Pinnacle Group: Not only are we a member of the BBB and hold an A+ rating, Pinnacle Group was awarded the 2011 Better Business Bureau Ethics Award in the Small Business category! Nominees in this category included all business disciplines across the city of Calgary so to win this Award is truly an honour. Nomination for this Award is submitted anonymously; a rigorous judging panel then scrutinizes the business practices on every level. The areas that are judged include: testimonials from clients, accountability to trade/supplier payment, scrutiny of employee manuals, training policies, safety programs, corporate financial strength, corporate business processes, as well as charity involvement. Somewhat serendipitous is the fact that Paul Klassen, the founder of Pinnacle Group, has spent the last number of years serving on and chairing the RenoMark™ Council to ‘raise the bar’ in Calgary’s renovation industry. To receive an Award of this caliber is a testament to his efforts in contributing to this initiative. In the past, the reputation of the renovation industry has certainly had its challenges; this Award however signifies that the mandate of the original RenoMark™ members has successfully been established.
5: Do you have any unresolved or unanswered complaints at your local Better Business Bureau?
Pinnacle Group: No, we have had no complaints to date and as such have no unresolved issues.
6: Do you have Business Liability Insurance, and do you carry Workman’s Compensation Insurance?
Pinnacle Group: Yes, as a RenoMark™ Renovator we are required to carry a minimum of $2 million in liability insurance. We have coverage for workplace safety and employers’ liability and only work with subcontractors who carry such coverage.
7: Do you offer a warranty on your work?
Pinnacle Group: Yes, as a RenoMark™ Renovator we offer a minimum of a two year warranty on all work (excludes minor home repair and manufacturers warranty). Pinnacle Group offers an additional three year warranty on structural components for a total of a five year warranty; as well we offer a ‘Client for Life’ program for as long as you own your home! In terms of New Home Construction, Pinnacle Group offers the National Home Warranty Program’s™ five year warranty (www.nationalhomewarranty.com ).
8: Do you take care of applicable licenses and permits?
Pinnacle Group: Pinnacle Group Clients can rest assured that all permits required for renovations and new home builds will be taken care of on their behalf. We have liaised with Calgary’s Permit Masters™ who use their industry experience and bylaw knowledge to help residential and commercial Clients get the permits they need. They take the hassle out of negotiations with the City, and handle the entire permit process, many times working with homes that have very challenging bylaw or planning department infractions. Their history of applications…through to final permit approvals, have been met with an extremely high success rate! Even if a Client has been turned down before, they are familiar with the bylaws and the ins and outs of the permit system to achieve approval.
9: Do you have proper City Licensing?
Pinnacle Group: Our Calgary City Occupational License is BL 102048, issued by City Licensing.
10: Do you charge a deposit?
Pinnacle Group: Yes we collect a deposit at the onset of your project to place orders for materials that will be required including: exterior windows/doors, framing materials, special-order items such as plumbing fixtures etc. In order to collect deposits or progress billings of any kind, Pinnacle is required by Alberta law to be a Bonded Contractor and carry a ‘Pre-Paid Contractors license’.
11: Do you know about the lien regulations and requirements of the Alberta Government?
Pinnacle Group: Yes – each province has requirements for holding back a portion of all payments to your Builder from date of substantial completion. Doing this protects you from claims if the Builder fails to pay Suppliers and Subcontractors.
12: How many years have you been in business?
Pinnacle Group: Paul Klassen, founder and General Manager of Pinnacle Group is an Interprovincial Journeyman Carpenter and has been in business since 1984 as a Professional custom home-builder and Renovator. (Pinnacle Group Renovations by Design Ltd.) was founded in 1998.
13: Do you have references in my neighbourhood?
Pinnacle Group: We go beyond just providing references to our Clients. Since 2004, Pinnacle Group has hired Client Insight Inc.™ a Calgary-based, 3rd party assessment/survey Company, to perform post-project Client satisfaction interviews to measure the results. Client Insight works with businesses of all disciplines in bringing unbiased, in-depth, 3rd party survey results. Today, we can confidently say that these third party assessments have become an integral part of Pinnacle’s business process, providing a crystal clear understanding of our Clients’ experiences. Leaving no stone unturned, the assessments provide the opportunity to continually improve and enhance Pinnacle’s renovation process, keep management informed and ensure quality and excellence. The Client feedback in many ways drives project completion and enhances Pinnacle’s corporate culture. As well, the results are used for training Employees, Suppliers and Trades. We publicly share our findings as our Client Surveys accurately reflect what makes Pinnacle unique and we wholeheartedly embrace the opportunity to provide this transparency. It is our position that there is no better way for a future Client to gain insight, build trust and even be inspired by allowing them a glimpse into the Pinnacle experience directly from the Voice of past Customers. These assessments offer a true to life synopsis of our projects gathered from our Clients’ perspective. Our hope is that by sharing these results with you, you will truly realize our commitment to providing the very best renovation experience possible!
14: Do you have a Design Studio where I can compare products?
Pinnacle Group: Our Design Studio provides more than just samples of products; it is where our Clients’ projects come to life with our 3D modelling software in our boardroom containing the latest technology to best portray your designs in the most life-like capacity possible. A visit to our Studio also helps our clients realize we are committed to the long term success of our business as it relates to our client experience. By investing in both a state of the art design studio, as well as collaborating with VanGo Artisans by bringing our custom cabinetry division in-house we are able to offer even more options. By incorporating the finest equipment which includes CNC machinery for the very finest in dovetail joinery; we are also able to create and then produce literally any custom cabinetry design detail you can imagine! We offer all of this in addition to our entire renovation experience, truly providing your family with spectacular custom options. When beginning the design process, a 3D model of a Client’s new space is projected on our boardroom big screen, allowing the Client to “feel” what the designed spaces will be like; you can physically see what your home or renovation would actually look like, making sure you are completely satisfied with every single detail before your project even begins. As well, any changes you want can be instantly applied, giving you room to experiment and try things that might not otherwise be possible. The emotional feedback during this session allows Pinnacle Group’s design team to capture what truly embodies the soul of the family, and as a result, they are better prepared to create the spaces that suite each of our Client families.
15: Do you provide a written contract proposal that includes a start date, completion date, full details of the work and material, and the complete cost?
Pinnacle Group: Pinnacle Group is the only RenoMark™ Renovator with a patented SCC Guarantee™ – we GUARANTEE your START DATE, COMPLETION DATE and project COST. Pinnacle’s SCC Guarantee™, simply ensures that the most significant Consumer concerns surrounding renovations and custom homes voiced by independent industry studies are unequivocally addressed and are put in writing. Pinnacle takes our SCC Guarantee™ very seriously; so seriously in fact that if we miss your project’s completion date; we pay you a $400.00/per day non-complete Penalty! Incidentally, Pinnacle Group has not missed a substantial completion date since we began tracking our results in 2004!
16: What steps do you take to maintain a safe, organized and clean worksite?
Pinnacle Group: As of 2011, Pinnacle Group has achieved its SECOR™ Certification. A SECOR™ Certified company consists of 10 employees or less who each must participate in an in-depth Health and Safety program and subsequent exam created by the Alberta Construction industry. The SECOR™ program has shown proven results; a review in Alberta showed that employers with COR/SECOR™ Certification had:
- 25% lower claims costs than those who did not
- A 40% reduction in Lost Time Claim Rates and Disabling Injury Rates
- 50% lower fatality rates than the provincial average
Maintaining COR/SECOR™ Certification is a long term program that includes constant training and annual audits conducted by COR™ Designated Auditing committee. This program is provided by Enform™ and is adhered to by Alberta’s leaders in the construction, engineering and oilfield industries.
17: Do you maintain a professional level of knowledge of current building codes, permit procedures and technical skills through continuing education?
Pinnacle Group: Paul Klassen, Founder and GM of Pinnacle Group, is a firm believer in life long learning and seeks professional development, business coaching and mentoring opportunities that can further enhance the efficiency of Pinnacle’s processes as well as keep the team informed of current trends, materials, and regulations. He is an active member of the Calgary Region Home Builder’s Association and presently Chairs Calgary’s RenoMark™ Reno Council as well volunteers on the S.A.G.E. (Studies in Health and Aging) Committee at Mount Royal University. In addition, to maintain an active membership in RenoMark™, all Builder members are required to attend training and current building practice professional education programs throughout each calendar year. These ongoing commitments keep both Pinnacle Ownership and Staff abreast of the latest renovation trends, building code developments and permit procedures. In addition; Pinnacle Group believes in providing continuing education to their staff as well, and continues to offer staff access to professional development courses and certifications through Professional Home Builders Institute of Alberta (PHBIA).
We hope this blog post has been informative & educational – it is always good to be prepared before embarking on a large-scale project such as a Complete Home Renovation or Custom Home Build. We trust these questions will give prospective Clients insight into what they should be looking for in a professional company!