Pinnacle Renovations | How To Achieve A 5-Star Renovation Experience in Calgary!

First Star Criterion!

Recently we have been discussing the idea of what distinguishes a Five-Star Renovation experience using the analogy of a hotel/resort experience.

Continue along this blog post to discover what you should be looking for to ensure you receive a Five-Star home-makeover experience with your chosen Renovation Professional!

To begin with… you must first determine what caliber of ‘Renovation Store’ you are shopping at? Or using the analogy of a hotel/resort; how many ‘Stars’ are you willing to invest in? Would it be feasible to think that choosing a Five-Star builder would reflect in the outcome of your Renovation experience?

If you watch any HGTV you’ll know that sadly, finding a Renovation firm with integrity really is like navigating a minefield. Is it even possible to mitigate your risks upwards of 95%?

Having spent over 38 years in this industry (at the time of writing this blog); it’s still amazing how many Consumers have the paradigm that Renovations are somehow different than any other investment or purchase. Worse still is the sad fact that shortcuts and shoddy building practices behind the walls are largely unnoticed or unknown by many Consumers; yet it’s these elements that contribute to the comfort, quality, safety and peace of mind that comes as a result of a quality-focused, versus a quantity focused Builder.

Therefore, our first ‘Star’ criterion offered here today as a way to avert risk when awarding a Renovation firm your project, is to ask or better yet be offered, a tour of a home project BEFORE the drywall is installed. Even better would be to have each one of the experts involved in the installation of each sub-trade discipline be on site to discuss the quality of their installation. At Pinnacle Group, we refer to these tours as Pre-board tours and we regularly open the doors to the public to view these projects in progress. Showcasing our projects in progress is essential because it provides insight into Pinnacle’s attention to detail and concern with every aspect of the project. For us it is not just about the finished aesthetics; it is about the entire functioning of the home. We cannot live our creed Creating Homes For Life™, without complete due diligence to the entire build process. Attendees of these tours are amazed as they cannot believe the level of craftsmanship and the intricacies of the decisions that are incorporated at this point in the build process that significantly affect the entire home. Seeing this first hand provides a whole different view point into the level of commitment we have to building the very best for our Clients; as well, it demonstrates the incredible quality of our Trades.


Second Star Criterion

We will be continuing along our series on how to achieve a Five-Star Renovation Experience using the deliberate resort/hotel analogy. We suggest you determine at the START of your Builder selection process, how many ‘Stars’ you are wishing to experience before, during, and after your Home Makeover. These three distinct stages are comprised of:

  • Before – Interview & Discovery Process
  • During – Project Construction Period
  • After – Warranty & Service

For now, we will focus on the Before Stage. During your interview with the Builder you are considering, followed by the Design Discovery process, ask yourself these questions:

1. On a scale of 1-10, how important is it for you to determine exactly what space planning, aesthetics, and key home comfort combinations/solutions make the most sense for your family?

2. Is there unquestionable professionalism, integrity, care, concern and intense dialogue regarding your family’s needs taking place? Does every meeting, phone call, site tour, team member introduction, increase your TRUST or are there early warning signs?

3. Are there clear indications that you are dealing with professionals? Are they operating from a professional office setting or at their kitchen table or the tailgate of their pickup truck?  Know the signs!

To err is human, we all get that. However, simple things like not receiving a prompt follow up call, showing up late for appointments, lack of organized meeting agendas, poor quality promotional materials or online presence, and overall lack of professionalism is a clear sign that you will not receive the 5-Star home transformation experience you are hoping for.

In summary, our second ‘Star’ criterion would be to expect absolute engagement from every member of the Builder’s team of professionals (Architect, Renovation Consultant, Project Manager, Kitchen Designer, and Interior Designer). They need to be able to capture the essence of your present and future family needs. You should expect clear tools and an inclusive questioning document or process that truly digs up nuances and design needs that you may not have initially thought of. The simple truth is, the more intense the Design Discovery Process, the more likely your final results will meet each and every requirement for every member of your family, which translates to outstanding value and return on your Renovation investment.

Every member of your family should be validated and feel important and you should unequivocally feel like the team you are working with understands how you want to FEEL, as you step into your newly Renovated or Custom Built home!


Third Star Criterion

Our intent from the beginning of this 5-part blog was to provide you with some common sense interview questions, educated dialogue, and somewhat of a checklist for your family when selecting a Renovation Professional for your Home Makeover project.

If your desire is to truly have a Five-Star Experience, before, during and after your Home transformation project, these keys are designed to provide helpful education as you navigate one of the most challenging endeavours your family will embark on.

The next checklist will be helpful in the final decision-making process as you choose your Renovation Firm. It provides some basic understanding for you on the ins and outs of our industry and shows you how accomplishing your goals can be achieved; this is critical information that you need to know in order to make the best decision in awarding the right Builder Professional with your project.

If you watch any HGTV you’ll know that sadly it really is like navigating a minefield when attempting to find a Builder/Renovation Specialist that truly has your best interests at heart.

So here it is – Checklist #3:

1) Determine your investment comfort-zone before you begin your interviews; convey this to the Firms you are interviewing early in your discussions. Watch and listen carefully to the response of the Team on the other side of the table; and listen to your intuition; did the feeling of trust erode, or accelerate? If you honestly feel the Builder/Design Team is doing their best to get you the maximum value within your investment comfort-zone, chances are you are in good company.

2) Decide how you would score ROI (Return on Investment) or ROL (Return on Lifestyle). If you plan on being in your home for longer than 10 years, chances are you want to implement ‘Best-Practice’ decisions which include –

These choices are what we call ROL; you may not ever see a true ROI on these choices but your ‘quality of life’ has been enhanced as a result of these choices.

3) Ensure the Firm you are considering is a member in good standing with RenoMark™, BBB & CRHBA. Good standing in these 3 categories mitigates an estimated 50% of your likelihood of a receiving a call from HGTV producers for the wrong reasons.

4) Become acutely aware of pros and cons with Design-Build with Builder accountability/liability to project costs; versus Cost-Plus with Homeowner accountability/liability to project costs. Determine who you wish to OWN that responsibility. Statistically more than 80% of projects that end up in litigation do so as a result of the Homeowner owning the cost accountability. A great question to ask those you are interviewing is “Have you been in court or been sued in the last 15 years?” (Need we to tell you what to do if they answer “Yes”?!)

5) Ensure they have been in business at least 15 years. In Alberta that means they’ve weathered at least one, if not two, economic downturns; chances are they’re financially sound and will still be in business to honour their warranty obligations.

6) Find out if they operate with a Team of Professionals from an established office or Design Studio. In Calgary, as the White Collar capital of Canada we all know that Professionals SPECIALIZE; your Builder-Team should be no exception. Be wary of a one-person show who says they can do it all.

7) Find out if they have an established record or historical data dating back at least 10 years of delivering projects on time and on budget and ask if they guarantee they will deliver your project both on time and on budget.

8) Ask if they engage in a 3rd Party Customer Satisfaction Survey after projects are completed; and find out if this historical data is available. Nothing tells the real story like a non-biased 3rd Party evaluation; getting references on the other hand will most certainly be cherry-picked.

9) Find out if they have opportunities to tour actual projects; preferably more than one that will also allow you to meet with or converse with the Homeowner.

If you can complete this 3rd Checklist along with the 1st star and 2nd star criteria we posted earlier in this blog; and your Builder/Renovator meets “all of the above”, you should be smiling as they are scoring 3-Stars out of a possible 5-Stars!

When your project is completed, laughter, excitement and hugs should be common-place, not court rooms and lawyers! Your family should be thrilled with the experience from start to finish!


Fourth Star Criterion

If you’ve followed our previous 3-Star Checklist and you feel you are confident in your choice of Builder Professional, there are two more ‘Stars’ you need to align before putting ink to your contract. The final two Stars (checklists) cover the ‘During’ and ‘After’ experience you wish to achieve from your Builder on your Custom Home or Renovation project. We will be covering the ‘During’ stage in this posting.


Your experience ‘During’ your project can and should be enjoyable! A few topics we will cover are:

  • Project preparation
  • Interim living arrangements
  • Respect of your property
  • Project supervision
  • Online access to your project documents
  • Project progress reports
  • Change protocol
  • Project cleanliness
  • Timeline guarantees

These topics are more difficult to get answers for as many of these will be your actual experiences; however, a 5-Star Builder should provide all of the above. A great way to experience this first hand is to visit an actual project in progress; we encourage you to insist on seeing at least one or two projects either in an Open-House Pre-Board tour (prior to the installation of drywall), or by walking through a Builder’s construction zone in progress. This will greatly enlighten you on your choice of Builder. Viewing a project during construction truly is a window to the soul of your Builder; ensure you observe the condition of the site, and ask about their Best Practice observance.

Your project preparation should include discussions regarding the Refuse Bin placement. This is the bin utilized for all building debris resulting from the Renovation.

Arrange for a Porta Potty placement (insist on this!), trade workers access times, pet arrangements, family versus trade access points, project specific alarm codes, video surveillance options, and last but not least, property protection.

Protection should include:

  • extensive use of plywood for driveway/step/deck protection (there is nothing like an oil leak or a destroyed deck to take away the fun of your project!),
  • zip walls and plastic draping for furniture and room-to-room dust mitigation,
  • foam and hardboard flooring protection should you be Renovating only one section of your home.

If you are intending to occupy your home while your Renovation is in progress, your Builder Professional should offer a ‘plan’ for interim living arrangements. This could include relocating a temporary kitchen to a room or location in your home. If your home makeover is extensive, ask your Builder if they have accounts or a network of contacts for furnished living arrangements. Calgary offers several options for furnished suites providing interim accommodations.

Ask your Builder about their supervision protocol. You should know who your project contact is and how you access updates, change requests and progress. Ideally, an online portal that allows you 24 hour access can truly mitigate the stress of your day to day experience. A single point of access online allowing you to approve your carpet colour selections for example or an upgrade to additional pot lights with a click of a button. The freedom to access this anywhere in the world from your iPad or laptop, contributes to a more organized and stress-free experience.

Insist that absolutely no changes or upgrades occur to your project without your express approval before any work occurs. Do not accept just a verbal approval; insist on follow up paper work. Once again, an online portal eliminates this issue; if your Site Supervisor has an iPad on site an electronic signature ensures an immediate approval. Similarly, if you are in a remote location, a click of a button and your change is approved – hassle free.

Working with a Builder that employs a Team of Professionals that includes Architectural Designers, Kitchen Professionals, Interior Designers, and Site Supervision Professionals again is an ideal way to ensure your experience will gravitate towards a 5-Star experience. Communication is so incredibly critical during your project; the tighter the Team, the more likely mistakes will be minimized. Notice we didn’t say things would be perfect; however, there should be a recognizable commitment to excellence that you recognize with each Team member you work with. Commitment to Excellence should be immediately recognized!

As your project progresses, insist that broom-clean is required protocol for the end of each day and at milestones like pre-drywall. Ask your Builder if they vacuum your home top to bottom including each of the stud bays in your outside walls; this ensures less airborne dust and contaminates once your home is complete. Clean sites not only produce a healthier home at completion, but they are also safe sites. For your peace of mind, insist that your Builder/Renovator is COR or SECOR certified.

If completing your project on time and on budget is important to you, ensure you find a Builder that not only guarantees your completion date and your project investment but also has a proven track record of success, and puts this in writing. A Builder with a proven track record of timely delivery is great but engaging one that actually guarantees both completion and costs before your project begins is truly your ticket to ensuring you sleep well during your project.

Just like you, we hear of horror stories all the time that by the completion date of a Renovation or new home build, Homeowners and Builders are at serious odds with one another. Did you know that in cost-plus projects, 8 of 10 are in litigation?  This series is designed to help you break that paradigm; by creating a checklist and set of questions allowing you to increase your odds significantly in hiring the very best Builder possible.


Fifth Star Criterion (Part A)

As your project nears completion and the finishing touches are being wrapped up, several things should be evident to you and your family. I am not going to paint a Pollyanna picture that everything will be dreamy perfect; this is the real world after all – not HGTV! However, if you have been working with a team of professionals dedicated to delivering a 5-Star experience, there are a few things you should be feeling as your project is wrapping up.

Given that statistically there are over 3000 touch points in a large scale renovation which include: scores of emails, an enormous paper trail, selection choices, phone calls, site meetings and the like. You should know unequivocally as your project comes in for landing that your renovation team has had, and now more than ever, has your family’s interests at the forefront of their minds. The word INTEGRITY should be part of your descriptive vocabulary; not discussions of horribly derailed timelines, massive cost over-runs and overall nausea at the thought of your project.

Sadly these discussions of disappointment are heard much too often around Dinner tables in Calgary.


Fifth Star Criterion (Part B)

As you anticipate moving into your new spaces, you and your family have been through a significant process we refer to as ‘Delayed Gratification’. In many cases your project took months to design, then many months to build and now you are about to be handed the keys to your newly transformed home.

Your final days prior to taking possession should include a thorough walk through with you and the Site Supervisor to address any areas of concern and then correct them to your satisfaction. A clear indication of a Top-Drawer Experiences that your Renovation Team will proactively correct areas of Quality Control that they don’t deem satisfactory without you having to point these items out.

Finally your home will be delivered back to you in SPOTLESS condition; including a complete furnace and duct-work clean and all leftover materials removed from your home and property.

At your magical Turnover day, there should be an air of excitement not only from you and your family but also from the entire Team that was involved in your Home Makeover! Don’t be surprised if several of the Trades, Staff, and Designers involved in your project are on hand to offer congratulatory wishes; as everyone takes this opportunity to welcome you back HOME.

Compare that experience to your Builder suddenly going MIA because they refuse to own up to final resolutions to ensure your absolute delight. Do your due-diligence (with absolute resolve) and your experience will not be one of absolute dismay but of absolute delight!