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'Honest' renovators playing by the rules

Program provides consumers 'peace of mind'

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Oswald Construction owner Ralph Oswald at the site of a home renovation in River Heights.


Oswald Construction owner Ralph Oswald at the site of a home renovation in River Heights. Photo Store

As daunting tasks go, hiring someone to renovate your home must certainly rank near the top of the list.

After all, most of us have seen shows on HGTV depicting renovations that have gone wrong. Or -- perish the thought -- you may have been traumatized, even victimized, by a renovator lacking skills, scruples or both.

Recognizing the fact renovators are often seen in the same light as unscrupulous lawyers, the Manitoba Home Builders Association has adopted the RenoMark program, which was started in Toronto about eight years ago. In a nutshell, the program's purpose was to provide consumers with a pool of honest renovators to choose from -- renovators obligated to follow a strict set of guidelines that governed both work standards and conduct.

"It's a great program," said Oswald Construction's Ralph Oswald. "It provides consumers with another level of peace of mind because they know the renovators who are part of the program have to adhere to standards and ethics that are far above what other renovators -- ones who aren't part of the program -- follow."

Fellow renovator Grant Sakiyama of Sakiyama Construction agreed.

"The idea was to bring together a group of renovators who would adhere to a clear set of guidelines to give consumers confidence that they would do the job they were hired to do," he said. "It was developed to combat unscrupulous contractors. Many would work without insurance, or under the table for cash. That won't happen with RenoMark renovators, who must operate within a strict set of guidelines."

Those guidelines are contained in a renovator's code of conduct, which lays out seven rules RenoMark-certified renovators must follow. They must work with a written contract, provide a two-year written warranty, carry liability insurance that provides $2 million to $5 million in coverage and have Workers Compensation Board coverage.

Renovators are also required to acquire work permits, follow strict safety guidelines at work sites and take professional development courses to upgrade their skills and knowledge on an ongoing basis.

Oswald said the MHBA's decision to adopt the program has been a good one.

"First of all, it allows honest renovators to separate themselves from shady renovators," he said. "Of course, even the honest guys aren't perfect -- we're all human beings and we make mistakes. However, when you join the MHBA, you have to abide by all the guidelines set out in the program. That's not a decision to take lightly. Once you become part of the RenoMark program, that means you're willing to be policed and critiqued. We're basically sticking our necks out. If we make a mistake, we could be called on it. That's a good thing because that means we're being held accountable for what we do."

In essence, the RenoMark program encourages MHBA-affiliated renovators to take their game to a new -- and higher -- level, Sakiyama added.

"I believe the program draws new members up to a higher level of professionalism," he said. "When they come into the program, they immediately see what they have to do from the example set by members who are already part of the program. Right off the bat, they know they have to meet a high level of quality and integrity. It's a program that gives a good, honest renovator something to be proud of."

Professionalism is one of the main tenets of the RenoMark program, said Oswald.

"If you want to be seen as a reputable, dependable renovator, you need to step up and increase your level of professionalism. That means doing things like returning calls and providing customers with clear estimates and contracts and being on time. The RenoMark program encourages renovators to step up to a higher level of service. When that happens, consumer confidence improves as a result."

Most importantly, the RenoMark program simplifies things for renovators and consumers alike.

"When it comes to doing renovations, you don't want to do anything without a plan," said Sakiyama. "A RenoMark renovator will start off with a plan and go through costs with you. Once the job has been agreed upon, there will be a written contract and, hopefully, a high level of communication, which is what we strive for. That should instil confidence in consumers because they'll know what they're getting."


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 26, 2013 F20

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