Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

MIKE HOLMES: Contractor 'extras' should be standard

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People usually think the work of a contractor begins and ends with construction and building. That's certainly a big part of it, but it's not the whole story. A lot also goes into getting the job started.

Contractor extras are the details no one thinks of, but what good contractors take care of. Sometimes, the homeowners don't even know how much work is involved.

When I get to a job site I immediately want to get to work -- demolishing, restructuring, building. This is my ideal. But this isn't what I always get.

Before anyone can swing a hammer I need to make sure the site is in the right condition so we're working efficiently and safely. Safety is always my priority. I hate pushing deadlines but will gladly do it if I can make sure no one gets hurt in the process. So we don't start until the job site is clear and clutter-free.

Every good contractor has a code: Treat every house you work on as if it's your own. Take care of everything inside. That means moving the homeowners' belongings out of the way and into a safe place where they will be protected. That way we don't run the risk of damaging anything while we're trying to work around it or trip over anything, potentially causing injury.

Some contractors will push everything into the basement, garage or a room the family doesn't use much because it's an easy temporary fix. But there are a couple of issues you run into if you decide to do that.

First, I know that nine jobs out of 10 I'm not going to be dealing with just one issue. I'm probably going to need to do some electrical, HVAC or plumbing work -- or all three. These systems run all over the house. If one of my guys needs to look at ductwork that runs through a dining room and there's furniture there, that's going to delay his work.

And once one trade is delayed others will be, too. That's extra time you'll have to pay the trades, which drives up the cost. I'd rather move everything out of the way where it's not bothering anyone from day one.

We also have to think about the risks of leaving valuables inside. Renovations are known targets for burglaries. Criminals know that during major renovations homeowners usually don't live in the house. So it's not uncommon for homes to be vandalized during renovations. It's usually not a big deal if there isn't anything valuable inside. But if all your possessions are inside and not stored securely, you could lose it all.

Some contractors tell homeowners, "Go ahead. Put your stuff in the basement. Put your stuff in the garage. We'll take care of it." But they don't. They don't wrap up furniture and seal it properly. Next thing you know, they're tearing down walls, pulling the roof off and exposing everything inside the house to the elements.

Imagine your whole life in a garage and basement. And I mean family photos, wedding clothes, furniture, books -- imagine all that sitting there and no one caring about it. Do you think insurance is going to pay for everything that's damaged? You think the contractors who do this are going to pay for it? Well, one way or another they'll pay for it. I can promise you that.

I have to sleep at night. It matters to me who I am and what I need to do to finish my job and make it right. This is what separates the people who care from the people who don't. Because anyone who cares about what they do does a good job not because they have to; they do it because they don't know how to do it any other way.

I work with many people who care about what they do; people who want to help people in trouble and who pour their hearts and sweat into a job.

I have people who work on long weekends just to get a job done when we say it's going to be done or who will go to a job site in the middle of the night to make sure a tarp holds up during a storm. That's integrity.

Some people might consider these acts as contractor extras. But good contractors know this is standard.

Catch Mike Holmes in his new series, Holmes Makes It Right, Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on HGTV. For more information, visit hgtv.ca. For more information on home renovations, visit makeitright.ca.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 24, 2012 F4

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