The High Cost of Low Prices
The Battle Between Cost & Value
Have you ever walked into a friend’s brand-new renovation and noticed how beautiful and new it looks?
Then, enthusiastically, your friend says, “Can you believe this basement only cost us $30,000?” or “I got an amazing deal on my kitchen!!!”
To the untrained eye, it really sounds like a great deal, but to someone who knows exactly what they are looking at, it is often easy to see why the cost was so low.
Being in the home renovation industry, we might see this great space a little differently.
Upon further inspection, this is what we might see:
- A cool and damp basement
- Insufficient lighting
- A rushed cabinet installation
- Crooked walls
- Low budget plumbing fixtures
- Low quality cabinetry
- No dimmers or USB plugs
- A loud bathroom exhaust fan
- Sticking doors
- Low quality flooring
- Cracked drywall joints
- Big ugly bulkheads
- Poor design
- Poor finishing quality
To be very blunt, what we might see is a cheap renovation.
Understandably, not everyone has the budget to hire an Edmonton renovation contractor that will build a high-quality kitchen, basement, or bathroom. Even more understandable is that not everyone has the knowledge to understand exactly what they are getting for their money, and they are often disappointed in the finished product. They were expecting what they were told during the sales pitch – an incredible renovation.
This is why we blog – to educate you. In this blog, we are going to focus on the contractor who provides the cheapest price and how that can cost you more overall.
This is a story about a basement we had to go fix. In the spring of 2021, a woman named Allison called us, wondering if we could come finish her basement. She had hired a contractor to develop the basement in her relatively new home. When we went to look at it, it was 90% “finished”, but she could not get the contractor to finish the remaining parts after months of getting the runaround from him. She just wanted us to install the trim and a barn door.
We could see immediately that the quality of the basement renovation was not great, and it was obvious that the contractor had rushed through every aspect, at least every aspect of what was visible.
Little did we know it was about to get a lot worse. We had a week gap in our schedule, so this was going to be the perfect little filler job for the crew.
As mentioned, she wanted a barn door. This was going to separate the home gym from the tv room, but she informed us that the other contractor used steel studs on the wall where the barn door was going to be. Being that it was a 42” solid core slab, we informed her that she needed a wood framed wall to support the weight of the heavy door and that we would begin demolition of the drywall on that wall first thing.
Upon opening the wall, we knew we had opened a can of worms.
We quickly noticed there was no seam tape on the vapour barrier, and it was riddled with knife slits. Further to that, this basement had an 8’6” ceiling, but they used vapour barrier that was too short, so it did not even reach the floor. We removed the vapour barrier and insulation and discovered what we expected – moisture and mould.
We had to stop our work to have a hard conversation with the client. We told her that to repair this properly, all the drywall on the exterior walls had to come down.
We explained that the purpose of the vapour barrier is to stop the transfer of air between the interior of the house and the wall cavity. Improperly installed vapour barrier will allow the moisture from the interior space to transfer to, in this case, the cold basement foundation. When warm air reaches the cold foundation, the vapour in the air will condensate. With no way to dry, it just sits there, soaking into the insulation, running down the foundation wall saturating the base plate, baseboards, and drywall, and then begin to mould.
After this discussion with the client, she agreed that it had to be repaired properly and agreed that spray foam insulation was going to be the best way to move forward. After sealing up the basement, we removed the drywall, vapour barrier, and insulation from the rest of the basement and found a lot more water running down the foundation, and mould.
Oh, and by the way, this newly renovated basement was only 4 months old at this point, but to be fair, we are not sure if the hired contractor did this vapour barrier or if it was the builder. We are certain though that it should have at least been repaired properly before drywall.
Needless to say, we brought in our remediation contractor to safely clean up the mould, and then we moved on to the framing repairs.
Plumb, level, flush, and square. These are basic rules of framing that a lot of home renovation contractors fail to abide by all in the name of saving time. In the case of Allison’s basement, this neglect was beyond obvious. We had walls that were out of plumb up to 1 ¼” from floor to ceiling and it looked horrible. Humps in walls and bulkheads that did not line up properly were some other issues that we discovered, so we brought these concerns to Allison’s attention, and she asked that they be fixed.
Our best guess here is that they used a tape measure and saw, but no other tools were used to frame this basement. These discoveries continued with an improper return air ductwork installation, horrible tile job, spongy DriCore sub-floor, rushed taping, and a sloppy paint job.
We got everything taken care of, but the client paid for this basement almost twice, and ended up in litigation with the previous contractor. Sadly, we encounter this type of situation regularly.
Our client recently bought a condominium in a prestigious building in downtown Edmonton, Alberta and had hired us to do a substantial 8-month renovation. About a month after they moved in, they called us with concerns about the grout in their shower cracking. We did not rebuild their walk-in ensuite shower as part of our renovation scope, but we did have all the grout in the suite touched up and sealed, so naturally we were concerned that it was a grout repair that we had missed. We did some investigating by removing the tile and discovered the contractor that had built that shower initially, failed to install the waterproofing system properly.
Now Sandra must go through another renovation to repair this.
It is so important to do your research when preparing to hire a contractor. Read reviews, get references, and ask a lot of questions. We have all heard the saying, “It’s all in the details”, which could not be truer when speaking to a home renovation contractor. Your home is likely the biggest financial investment you will ever make, and a contractor that cuts corners to make a buck can set you back in a big way.
If you would like to read more, we have another blog on this topic here that will help you make an informed decision when selecting an Edmonton home renovation company.