Get it right the first time

By Francie Healy

Never make assumptions. Jill Gordon learned that the hard way.

Several years ago she and her husband, Gary, decided to start replacing the wood-framed casement windows in their house.

Although they were aware of some of the “big name” window companies in the area, they assumed “big name” equaled “big price” and were probably unaffordable.

Around that time, a new window business set up shop in their neighbourhood and began advertising aggressively. So Jill and Gary decided to visit the showroom.

“It was very attractive,” Jill recalls. “Sample windows opened and closed beautifully. I couldn’t wait to replace our old wood-casement windows with these fresh new vinyl-clad, double-hung beauties that would be so easy to clean from the inside.”

The window company assured them that, although they were new to the region, the company had been around for years. They manufactured the windows at their factory near Gatineau. They said the installation would be done by their own dedicated crew, not by subcontractors. They promised prompt service if Jill and Gary needed it after the windows were in place.

Jill liked the sound of that.

“I realize now we should have demanded something in writing to support all their guarantees and assurances,” she says. “We assumed they were telling the truth.”

And there were problems.

“My first disappointment happened when the installers arrived and they were labourers from some construction company, not the window company. So they weren’t ‘their own’ installers as we had been told.”

She was further annoyed when the workers laid the new windows flat on the lawn − during an August heat wave.

“By the time they eventually picked them up,” Jill says, “there were large brown patches of burned grass on our otherwise well-cared-for, green, front yard.”

But there was more.

“I’m not a renovator, but it appeared to me that two of the four windows were too big for the existing openings. The fit was so snug in the family room that it was almost impossible to raise or lower the top part of the window. In fact, the hand rail (for lowering or raising) snapped off after just a few attempts.”

Worse still, Jill and Gary could see the vinyl siding and trim pulling away from around the window frame. Now there was a gap – a sure invitation for moisture. The workers didn’t even seem to caulk adequately around the new frame.

Jill immediately went to the show room. She was assured someone would be right out to inspect the problem.

No one came. No one called. So she went back to the show room. It was empty. Sign gone. Not a soul in sight. She tried the phone number. It was out of service. She assumed the company was no longer in business and had fled in the night.

In the months to follow, rain and snow did get in. Water damage ruined the wallboard in the dining room.

“As a quick fix,” recalls Jill, “we had put strips of duct tape on our house to ‘close the wound’.” But that was temporary, at best. And ugly.

They called in a handyman to assess the situation and suggest a solution. He had two ideas. One was costly. The other was over-the-moon expensive. They went with the less expensive one.

“It still looks dreadful,” says Jill. It didn’t solve the problem. Now she thinks maybe she was scammed by the handyman as well. He’s no longer in business.

She says she could kick herself for making assumptions, not inviting several companies for estimates, and not getting anything in writing.

There are so many stories like Jill’s. John Manzo of Tego Bathroom Solutions says there are “thousands of renovators out there who don’t belong to any organization.”

He says the best renovators register with RenoMark™, and if everyone used a RenoMark ™ renovator, these stories just wouldn’t happen.

“Half  the people out there who call themselves renovators have no clue what they’re doing,” he says. “That’s scary.”

RenoMark™ renovators are held to the highest industry standards. They have to do the big things – carry $2 million liability insurance and enforce strict workplace safety – and the smaller things that give you comfort: pledge to call you back within two business days, for instance.

So if Jill had called a RenoMark™ company in the first place, she would have gotten her new windows without a problem. And even if there was one – mistakes do sometimes happen, after all, even with the pros – there would be people “on it” immediately. Jill would have had everything in writing and the comfort of knowing the company is very well insured.

John Herbert, Executive Director of the Greater Ottawa Home Builders’ Association, says one of the most important reasons for using a RenoMark™ contractor is that it immediately differentiates between the amateurs and professionals. But it can be more serious than that. It weeds out the fly-by-night companies such as the one Jill had the misfortune to hire, not just for windows but as the “fixer” afterwards. RenoMark is the best security against frauds and scams in the renovation industry.

“Renovating can be a tricky business,” says John Manzo. “Renovators have to know what they’re doing.”

They also have to be honest, insured, professional. And they have to pay a fee just to be registered with RenoMark™.

They must also follow detailed guidelines. In addition to carrying insurance, strictly abiding by safety and always being courteous, they must:

  • Give a detailed written contract for all jobs, big or small
  • Provide a minimum two-year warranty on all work except minor repair
  • Carry the proper licenses and permits
  • Keep their worksite organized and safe
  • Be a member in good standing of the Greater Ottawa Home Builders’ Association (GOHBA) and abide by the GOHBA Code of Ethics.
  • Stay current, through consistent and continuing education, in their professional knowledge of building codes, permit procedures and technical skills.

“The most experienced and knowledgeable renovators are, the more like they are to get it exactly right,” says Manzo.

Jill and Gary have just signed a contract with a company to replace three more windows and one set of French doors.

This time, however, they shopped around. They did their research. And they found a company with, as Jill describes it, “a long history in this city… and a written guarantee behind their name.”