Thursday, 11 March 2010

Renovation Question and Answers: How Do I Choose My Contractor?

National Home Show Toronto March 2010: The Most Common Question and Wo-Built Advice: How Do I Choose My ContractorCollage: How Do I Choose My Contractor?
The Most Common Question during the National Home Show 2010
2010 @
During the National Home Show I volunteered at the Bild booth (Building Industry and Land Developer Association), trying to be a good member. The purpose was to help people visiting the show with renovation questions. Interestingly one of the most common question was: how do I choose my contractor.

Here is the advice:

[1] Look at the Bild directory for contractors. We are all following the Renomark Code of Ethics.

Choose three to five contractors and start interviewing them.

Most important: Do you like the contractor, do you have a good feeling about them, do you have a rapport. Renovations can be lengthy and are like a marriage: lots of up and downs. If you don’t have a rapport your renovation might become a nightmare for all parties.

Look at the estimates – are they detailed and comprehensive, can you compare them.

[5] Ask questions about the estimates, clarify details, lowest cost is not always the best, make sure you compare apples with apples.

Ask for construction processes and have them explained to you.

Look at the contracts – are they fair and equitable? Both parties have to have a win/win situation.

Payment schedules – are they fair?

Have several interviews – If the contractor asks a lot of question about you, this is also a good sign. They need to be comfortable with you as well.

Ask to see the people who will be in charge of your project. Do you like them.

Ask for references only for the ones you have shortlisted.

I cannot stress enough the importance of liking your contractor, and vice versa. In any renovation will be issues, problems and set-backs as much as great successes and highs. It is a roller coaster which can be much better endured when you and your contractor are a good team and work on the issues together.

This can bring out the most amazing design and construction solutions.

Martina Ernst
Wo-Built Inc.

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Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Kitchen Designs – Are We Missing the Boat?

Collage: Where Is Innovation in Kitchen Design?
I was asked recently to write another piece for the Wo-Built forum about kitchens. But as soon as I sat down to write it – bang – writer’s block! What to write? In the past we have written about kitchens, kitchen renovations and kitchen design ideas (see previous articles) and in general the topics have not changed. There are still the same styles, design principles and overall colour schemes than before. There is a need for appliances, sinks, countertop areas and storage. Colours are generally personal choice and styles can be mixed and matched.

I was not happy to revisit any of these topics without sounding boring. Then it struck me what had been bothering me for months about contemporary kitchens: the lack of innovation on a large scale. We have innovation in appliances and in new materials, but not in the fundamentals: the way we store things and the way we consider work and counter space. Storage is mainly achieved via wall hung and floor mounted kitchen cabinets, with limiting factors of height and available wall space. Counter space is the space generally in between or by the side of the stove, sink and other appliances. Maybe there is an island with extra counter space.

I believe we need new ideas. Why not look at storage solutions that use rack technology, hence giving the opportunity to double up. If there is the height why not use lift technology. Why not have the storage unit act as a wall between the rooms, hence saving space. Why not have counter tops that are retractable, or foldable to increase working surface. Why not bring surfaces down from the ceiling when required. All this is possible and not new, but somehow not explored.

What I feel is missing is the spirit of design that was prevalent in the 60s. This era was a period of design exploration and experimentation and some wonderful ideas still survive until today or were the basis for a lot of design. Everything was possible and often tried out, the bad with the good. I am not advocating retro design, but what I would like to see is much more design experimentation.

Hence I believe until we do look at the fundamentals again we are missing the boat in kitchen design.

Martina Ernst
Wo-Built Inc.
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Thursday, 4 March 2010

Affirmation of a Vision

Collage: Affirmation of a Vision:
"To be the leading quality building company that is sought after for its innovative design and construction and is recognized for using the projects as a means to helping women, the community and the environment"
or in short
"To be the best (builder) while doing good"
2010 @
After three years in business it was time to look at what the company now stands for since Wo-Built evolved since we first founded it and especially its social mission was diversified. It was time to revisit the vision statement again and to see if the company’s vision had indeed changed and what its heart and soul had become.

The heart of the company always was helping women and it started with training and mentoring them to succeed in the building trades and by using our construction services as a means to achieve this. We always aspired to be an excellent design and building company and we loved being innovative, thinking outside the box and producing quality work. Over the years the wish to help the community and be environmentally responsible was added to the mix.

In short: we want to be the best in what we do and we want to achieve this while doing good.

"To be the best (builder) while doing good"

Or for anyone who likes a longer statement

"To be the leading quality building company that is sought after for its innovative design and construction and is recognized for using the projects as a means to helping women, the community and the environment"

For us it was nice to see that the vision never changed, it has just been rephrased.

Martina Ernst
Wo-Built Inc.

Wo-Built: A Renovation Company‘s Rites of Passage – Our Evolving Missions and Commitments

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