Five Habits of a Highly Professional Home Reno Contractor

Shoddy workmanship. AWOL contractors. Sub-par construction materials. Improper insulation. Mould. Sewage leaks. Everyone has heard the horror stories of home renovations gone wrong.

According to Guy Solomon, president of Penguin Basements and a spokesperson for national renovation source RenoMark™, it doesn’t have to be that way. In addition to dispensing renovation advice and solutions at the National Home Show in Toronto (March 10-19), Mr. Solomon will deliver a seminar entitled 5 steps to a successful renovation. “Every homeowner deserves to know what their project will cost and entail and to have insight into how the nature of the renovation will impact the value of their home. A successful renovation starts well before construction begins,” he says.

Advising on lifestyle, financial and logistical factors to consider when contemplating a reno, Mr. Solomon also offers an informed perspective on what consumers should look for in a successful contractor:

A  business licence, liability insurance and WSIB insurance.  All professional renovators should carry these qualifications, especially now that cities and municipalities are in the process of requiring renovators to be licensed.

A written contract. A true renovation professional will provide a proper contract that spells out project scope (and a process for authorizing and communicating any amendments), defines roles and reporting structure, specifies construction materials and provides a complete timeline, clear payment schedule, and a detailed explanation of what’s under warranty and for how long. “Without a contract, you’ll have no legal recourse if the work is substandard,” warns Mr. Solomon.

An understanding of required permits and a willingness to help you acquire them.  A professional contractor will be up-to-date on provincial building codes and the municipal requirements of your area. They should be ready to work with you on creating and submitting a detailed application that includes a set of plans, drawings and other documents.

An affiliation with a professional homebuilder’s organization. While neighbours and friends can be an excellent source of recommendations, cross-referencing the names of prospective contractors and renovators with an industry association like BILD (which offers a searchable database of members) is an additional  indicator of professionalism and ethical conduct.

Experience with projects similar to yours. Always ask for (and check!) references. Reluctance or refusal to provide at least two referrals may be a sign you’re not working with a professional. And no homeowner deserves that.

Guy Solomon speaks at the National Home Show on Tuesday March 14 @ 12pm. Visit Guy and Penguin Basements at Booth 4420.

About Penguin Basements
Penguin Basements is Canada’s leading basement renovation contractor and creator of The Second Suite Solution, a wealth-building strategy designed to help homeowners unlock the value beneath their feet and turn their basement into income.

www.basementscanada.com
@penguinbasement

SOURCE Penguin Basements

#eyesfwdbc – Distracted Driving Month in B.C.

#eyesfwdbc – Distracted Driving Month in B.C.

Hey you! Yeah, YOU, put the phone down and pay attention to where you’re driving! In 2015 police wrote over 44,000 traffic tickets for distracted driving violations in B.C. ICBC tells us that about 30% of crashes in B.C. involve driving while distracted. Recent changes to the distracted driving legislation saw fines change from $196 to $348 + $175 from 4 penalty points yet look around you in traffic and see how many drivers you can find with an electronic device in hand.

The last time that ICBC commissioned a poll on distracted driving almost everyone agreed that texting while driving was dangerous, but 40% of drivers with cell phones had used it while driving in the preceding six months.

There is no good time to drive while using an electronic device, but this month could be even more risky for those who can’t leave the phone alone. A press release from ICBC this week advises that:

ICBC, police and volunteers have worked together to plan more enforcement deployments across the province with over 70 police enforcement events and over 50 Cell Watch deployments with volunteers roadside this month. The aim is to give drivers the clear message that if they drive while distracted, they’re even more likely to be caught.

So, if we know that this is not a good idea, why do some of us do it? Perhaps we could ask the same question of impaired drivers, speeders or those who don’t stop at stop signs. I suspect that it’s a combination of putting one’s perceived needs ahead of everyone else, our rationalization that we’re good drivers so we can do this safely or we don’t think that there is much chance of being caught.

There is even talk of cell phone use being an addiction that creates a compulsion to use it regardless of the circumstances that we find ourselves in at the time.

We should be very concerned that the age group most likely to ignore the rules surrounding electronics and distraction are the younger drivers. They neither have the skills nor the experience of an accomplished driver yet they willingly take on the risk of divided attention while driving.

The Traffic Injury Research Foundation has published a National Action Plan on Distracted Driving for Canada. While education, enforcement and legislation are in place, co-ordination among stakeholders is missing. Hopefully the formation of the Canadian Coalition on Distracted Driving will facilitate co-ordination going forward.

Ultimately, the solution to the problem comes down to the individual, that is me and you. Together we can do things like shutting off our phone when we get into the vehicle, install an app like OneTap that silences notifications while driving, refusing to talk or text with friends and familiy while they drive, pull over and park to text or make a call. Got the message?

Reference Links:

#RoadSafety: Know Before You Go

The beginning of this month was not a good one for many road users in the province with the weather related closure of 3 major east – west highway routes. Road maintenance contractors generally maintain our roads in good condition for safe driving, but when weather overwhelms their resources it should not be a surprise when road closures are the result. If you choose to travel during major weather events your mantra should be Know Before You Go or perhaps even simply Don’t Go.

One news report that I saw found a television reporter interviewing eastbound motorists who were stuck in a closure waiting for the Coquihalla Highway to reopen. The reporter asked one person if they had sufficient notice of the situation. There was a short pause and then a shake of the head. No, “they” could have done a better job was the response. Another related that they were keeping hunger at bay by eating chips and cookies.

This significant weather event should not have been a surprise to anyone. It was not the first storm in recent days and was warned about by every weather report I saw in the days prior to it. DriveBC had a travel warning posted on their web site. Social media was full of stories.

I wonder what the overhead variable message sign had to say for points east of Hope, but I’m guessing that it was not encouraging everyone with a report of good winter driving conditions.

Having chosen to continue the voyage after some consideration, the first responsibility for your health and safety falls to you. Proper winter clothing, food, water, sleeping bags or blankets, flashlights, candles and matches are a few personal supplies to have along. True winter tires, a shovel, tow rope, triangles, flares and some spares would be good choices to add to your vehicle.

Stopping in Hope to top up the fuel tank would have been a good choice to make too, especially if you don’t follow the precautionary habit of operating on the top half of the tank.

Regardless of your state of preparation, continued assessment of conditions is mandatory. If you anticipate problems then that is the time to either turn around and head for home or at least find the nearest motel to wait for improvement. Being warm and dry with a full stomach beats sitting on the highway idling your fuel away wondering what will happen.

In a major weather event like this one, “they” are overwhelmed trying to do their jobs to keep you moving or get you moving again. “They” don’t have the time or the resources to hold your hand and make sure that you are all right. If you need it, rescue could be a long time coming. First and foremost, it’s all up to you.

Road Safety: Left Turn Surprise!

A signal light does not provide you with any protection when you make a left turn. This simple fact was discovered by a lady who slowed as she approached her driveway, signalled for a left turn, saw a truck approaching in her rearview mirror and started to make the turn. To her complete surprise, the truck passed by her on the left and they collided corner to corner.

The woman driving the truck said that she did not see the signal light and there were no witnesses to confirm whether it was in use or not.

As there were no lines painted on the highway to prevent the truck from passing ICBC divided the liability for the collision 75/25 with the highest portion bourne by the driver of the turning vehicle.

This collision should not have come as a complete surprise to the lady for a number of reasons. The first might be that she hadn’t actually checked to see if her signal lights were working. The second is that she may not have signalled for a sufficient time to give the driver of the truck notice of her intended left turn. Finally, she could have taken human nature into account. My experience with many drivers is that they will tend to remain in motion rather than slowing or stopping if there is sufficient room to pass by.

When is the last time that you walked completely around your vehicle and checked to insure that all of the lights were working? Unless you are required by law to do pre- and post-trip inspections I suspect that it could be a long time, if ever. We rely on systems that can fail to protect us far more than we should because for the most part they keep working. Until they don’t. It’s up to the driver to make sure that the vehicle is in proper working order in all respects before leaving the driveway.

How long should we leave our signal light on before we do what it indicates? Certainly long enough that other drivers can see it, recognize what it is telling them and then react as necessary to insure safety. I might suggest that at least 4 seconds of signalling should be the minimum time before we take the advertised action. Failing to give sufficient warning is as bad as not giving any warning at all.

The Slow Down, Move Over law has resulted from the drivers tendency to remain in motion without taking action when presented with a sudden situation that does not require slamming on the brakes. Chances are good that you have watched many fail to slow down or move over in your travels. This lady’s left turn indication, if she made it properly, is another example of the same circumstances.

ICBC assesses liability for collisions based on guidance imposed by civil law. The case of Carmichael v Mayhew is an example of similar circumstances that I wrote about in the article Who’s Responsible?

There may be a witness to the operation of the signal lamp after the fact. If it was on when the force of the collision was applied to it, the signal filament could show indications of hot shock stress that could be discovered in post crash lamp examination. This kind of determination would require a trained collision investigator to provide ICBC or the courts with an expert opinion, but it is possible.

What about the driver of the truck who was found to be 25% at fault? The onus was on her not to pass on the left if it was unsafe to do so.

Road Safety: Ready or Not, Here I Come!

Left Turn SignalThere was an interesting post on Twitter this week showing drivers interacting with pedestrians at the intersection of Cambie Street and West Broadway in Vancouver. The photo showed 3 cars facing a green light trying to turn onto Cambie from Broadway, 2 eastbound turning left and one westbound turning right into their respective lanes on Broadway. There was a steady stream of pedestrians crossing Cambie against a red don’t walk signal.

Judging from the circumstances, some of the pedestrians had started to cross against the signal.

Two of the cars had stopped at the edge of the marked crosswalk but one driver was doing their best to force their way through the pedestrians and was almost completely within the crosswalk.

Vehicle vs Pedestrian at Crosswalk

There is so much wrong with the situation that it is difficult to know where to start!

Perhaps the most important point to begin with is the driver’s duty to not collide with pedestrians, regardless of the fact that the pedestrians may not be following the rules themselves. Forcing your vehicle through the flow of pedestrians in the crosswalk is a clear violation of this duty.

Next, a green light does not automatically grant a driver permission to enter the intersection. There are situations when the driver must yield to other traffic before starting to move. While the section does say “…must yield the right of way to pedestrians lawfully in the intersection or in an adjacent crosswalk at the time the green light is exhibited,” we still have to consider the duty mentioned in the previous paragraph.

Finally, drivers are not supposed to block the intersection. You should not start into the intersection unless you have a reasonable belief that you can complete your intended movement without impeding other traffic.

These pedestrians are regulated by the walk / don’t walk signals at the intersection. You must not step off of the curb unless the white pedestrian signal is lit. Both the solid and the flashing red hand signals mean that you have to wait for the next cycle. Also, contrary to what some believe, the countdown timer (if the signals are so equipped) does not mean that you have the number of seconds shown to get across.

I’ll close with the observation that courtesy doesn’t seem to be a concept included in the use of our streets and highways these days. Me First! is often the attitude shown to others. A little consideration could go a long way to reducing both our crash and insurance rates. We would also arrive at our destination in a better frame of mind.

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