Many people have a similar expectation for their renovations as they do their manufactured goods. Renovations though, aren't produced in a factory and can't be built using economies of scale. Everything created in a renovation is custom, and custom work takes time and money. Imagine if you had to build a Toyota Corolla from scratch, without the benefit of an assembly line? It would cost you a million dollars!
Each renovation is completely unique because each space is different. This requires the skills of artisans and craftsmen. Even a renovation conducted using stock, off-the shelf materials and finishings still requires a high level of individual creativity and problem solving to make things work. In an age of Amazon Prime where people demand instantaneous satisfaction, the renovation business remains a slow, arduous and expensive process for people. Add in the false promise of HGTV and Pinterest inspired renos, and you have a recipe for unreasonable expectations. Check out some of our renovation calculators or blog posts to get an idea on what things cost.
Some businesses are international and can sell their products and services anywhere, anytime, but he renovation business is not one of them. Everything in this business is hyperlocal. For starters, traffic in the Lower Mainland can be a nightmare, and running from jobsite to jobsite, not to mention showrooms, meeting with customers and suppliers - it can be a real pain in the ass. We like to stay close to the core because that's where we live! Also are costs are higher, so there is no point in my driving all the way out to Surrey to compete with someone who can do the project for much cheaper.
Also, did you know that each municipality has its own Zoning bylaws? I take pride in being able to know and understand Vancouver's zoning bylaws so that I can explain them to customers. It would be impossible for me to stay apprised of all the municipalities zoning bylaws. On top of that Vancouver is special in that it's the only real municipality that I know of that has it's own building code. As soon as you cross boundary road, you are dealing with Burnaby which is a whole new way of doing things.
We are experts at working in the city of Vancouver, and navigating it's complicated permit system. We know the inspectors, we know the housing stock, we know the real estate market and we know our customers. We let other contractors deal with customers in their respective municipalities.
Although there are hundreds of pages of Building Codes and Zoning Bylaws, there isn't a clear document or policy from the City of Vancouver that dictates clearly when a permit is required or when it is not. Surely painting a living doesn't require a permit, and building a new house does, but what about everything in between? Does a bathroom renovation require a permit? What a bout a new deck? These are actually complicated questions and each case is different, but the best thing to do is to all us to discuss your project. You can also check out the relevant blog post to help shed some light on the subject: https://barzelai.ca/blog-1/f/when-do-you-need-a-permit
Sometimes, if you're conducting bathroom and kitchen renos, one can make the case that a "building" permit is not required. You still need to obtain electrical and plumbing permits though. We've compiled some information from the city in our resources section for clarity https://barzelai.ca/resources
There are many misconceptions about how long it takes to process a permit at city hall, so let's try and dispel some myths. As of writing this, a simple renovation project often referred to as a "Field Review" application, is taking about 2 months to process at the city. A more complex, major renovation is taking about 4 months. It can depend on a variety of factors though, such as who is submitting the application and how much experience they have, and who the plan checker is and how much experience they have. A good place to get a sense of permit applications is the city's searchable database: https://plposweb.vancouver.ca/Public/Default.aspx?PossePresentation=PermitSearchByDate&IconName=form_yellow_search.png
For a new house, character retention project, laneway house or duplex, the applicant can be looking at between 6-12 months to process. Small projects that can be justified as "trade permit only" projects, and only require electrical, plumbing, gas or HVAC permits are often approved within 1-5 business days.
There's nothing worse than retaining an architect to draft a set of plans only to find out that what you were dreaming of is impractical or too costly to build. Some architects are also builders, so they have experience, knowledge and expertise in the construction process. But most aren't, and I don't recommend going through the entire design process without consulting a builder.
Likewise, many builders have very little knowledge when it comes to design and submission work. Don't hire a builder, without also consulting a designer (architect).
Often times though, the best case scenario is talking to someone who has knowledge and expertise in both design and construction. These are often referred to as Design/Build firms. Most of the work that Barzelai Building does is Design/Build. We take responsibility from the initial design consult, all the way through construction and completion. This way, we can provide guidance throughout the process and ensure that the project is designed with buildability, and affordability in mind from the get go.
It depends on a variety of factors. Renovating a bathroom would be fine, as long as you have a secondary bathroom to use. We could easily keep the dust down just by putting plastic in the doorway. Renovating a kitchen might be trickier, because where would you eat? We can always take the fridge and microwave and set up a "kitchenette" for simple meals in the living room for example. A kitchen renovation would be fine, as long as you're ok eating out a lot over the course of two to three months, which is about how long the average kitchen reno takes.
When you start to get into bigger renos, it's probably not wise to try and live there. Even if we are only renovating a certain area of your home, often times we need to open up small patches here and there throughout the house to fix mechanical and electrical elements. Because most older houses have asbestos in the drywall compound, it's often not a good idea to remain in the house as the act of demolition can disturb the asbestos fibres creating a hazard.
Every case is different, so give us a shout to discuss your renovation plans.
Barzelai Building Corp. is a Licensed Residential Builder, which gives us the legal permission to construct new, or substantially renovated houses. A registry of licensed builders can be found at https://lims.bchousing.org/LIMSPortal/registry/Licence/. BC housing is the regulatory body that provides oversight for builders in the province, and the qualification requirements to become a licensed builder can be found here: https://www.bchousing.org/licensing-consumer-services/builder-licensing/qualification-requirements.
To conduct renovations in the City of Vancouver you don't need to be a Licensed Residential Builder if the house is not being substantially renovated. You are however still required to comply with all applicable regulations regarding renovations. All contractors must obtain a business license from the city of Vancouver, be registered with WorkSafe, and carry certain types of insurance where appropriate. In addition to those things, Barzelai Building is also an active member of the Home Builder's Association Vancouver. Although not a legal requirement, being a member of this organization has given us a leg up in knowledge and expertise compared to our competitors.
Additionally, we ensure that all our trades are conducting themselves legally and professionally. All trades carry WorkSafe insurance Coverage, and liability insurance coverage when required. It's a pyramid of protection that you as a client can take comfort in.
Hiring an interior designer or decorator for small projects can be beneficial to clients who are intimidated by the process of picking out materials and finishes. For people on a budget though, hiring a designer may be an additional frivolous cost that is unnecessary. Many showrooms have knowledgeable people that are more than happy to assist the client in making design choices for free.
Designers add cost both in terms of their fees, and the added level of finishing detail that is placed on the project. Designers also add one more cook in the kitchen when it comes to making decisions, and that can mean increased time and money. Retaining an interior designer can increase the cost of the project by about 5%.
For the right customer, a good designer can be beneficial, but no one should feel obligated to hire one, especially someone on a budget.
Project Management affords us some advantages over Fixed Fee, or Cost Plus. In Project Management you save 5% GST on all trade costs and expenses related to the renovation. Project management is also beneficial to the client because the fee remains fixed regardless of whether or not the project goes over budget. The contractor is not incentivized to go over budget. You can find more information about the different types of contracts here: https://barzelai.ca/blog-1/f/contractor-contracts-3-ways-to-sign-your-life-away
Many contractors provide a free initial site consult but we generally don't. We charge a minimum of $175 for a one hour visit. A site consult can take anywhere between 2-4 hours out of a contractors day, It's not just about listening to you and giving you a price for your project, we also provide valuable expertise based on our many years of experience conducting renovations in the City of Vancouver. Likewise, we often pay our subtrades for their time when providing quotes. Valuing peoples time is important to us, and if a client isn't willing to value our time then we aren't the best contractor for them. We are always happy to chat for 10-15 minutes on the phone for free, or answer email queries. Repeat customers don't get charged for consults because we trust that they will value our time.
We don't say yes to every condo renovation because there are many additional headaches associated with these types of jobs. Lugging materials up stairs, dealing with strata councils, placating cranky neighbours, and working on old buildings that are ready to burst a pipe at any moment - these things create liabilities for our operations. A client who lives in a building with a well-run strata council, and who is also on the board, can make the process go much smoother and we may consider this renovation. An old building in poor condition with a bad strata council we stay away from.
The advent of home stores like Home Depot and Lowes has changed the way discounts are factored in to the cost of renovation materials. Because home-stores run a tight margin and buy in significant bulk, smaller retailers are unable to compete on the baseline level of materials and finishings available to the market. This has forced many small retailers to specialize in their product offerings, because they are unable to complete with the big box retailers on price.
Because of their tight margins, the big box stores offer marginal discounts to contractors of around 2-3% on their materials. Lumber yards and building material suppliers offer 2-10% depending on the materials. Finishings supplies for things such as flooring and tile, can offer anywhere between 5-30% to a contractor depending on the material, but because these materials are already more expensive then the big box stores, they aren't usually the best option for customers on a budget.
The best way to budget for materials and finishings is to assume that you will be paying the sticker price, but if you save some money through your contractor or through negotiation than it's a bonus. Because we work on a project management basis, all savings on materials get passed on to the client.
See our section on Renovation Feasibility Assessments.
Because we run a project management style contract, we take a fixed price to account for our profit and overhead. This can be anywhere from 5% to 20% depending on the complexity of the project, but is typically between 10 and 15%.
Yes. We do not finance your renovation. Part of the job of the general contractor is to manage money, and the best way to ensure that a project runs smoothly is by ensuring the free flow of money. For example, you give us a chunk of money, and then we conduct the amount of work that is representative of that portion of money. Each installment can be between 10 and 30% of the cost of the project. The amount of each installment is outlined in the contract, and so is each stage of completion on which the installments are due.
Sometimes, people are uncomfortable handing over large sums of money, especially to someone they haven't worked with before. This is understandable, so we always offer to break the installments down into smaller chunks. It's important though that the customer stay on top of their payments because if they don't this could slow down the project. We never conduct work without being paid up-front for the work that is about to proceed.
It's possible, but generally we don't advise this. We have a longstanding history with most of our trades, and this ensures that projects run smoothly because everyone is used to working together as a team. When you through in a new trade that you haven't worked with before, than it can complicate things.
Another issue is liability. What happens if the client's trade damages something or does poor quality work? This makes it complicated to ascertain who is liable, and can lead to disagreements. We prefer our projects to be conducted as smoothly as possible so we only allow client referred trades in rare circumstances.
It depends. Even a small project such as renovating a bathroom can technically require structural work. If the floor joist framing below is rotten and needs to be replaced, this is definitely structural work. However, just because something is structural doesn't mean that an engineer is required. Work conducted under part 9 of the building code in theory does not require a structural engineer. Inspectors overseeing work that involves something as simple as installing a door header, may be comfortable signing off on the work.
These days though, inspectors are less and less comfortable with approving work that has not been accepted by an engineer. This goes for plan checkers as well, so if you're submitting a set of plans, more often than not the plan checker will require at the very least a letter from a structural engineer to say that they are taking responsibility for the design.
There are many options for selecting fixtures and finishings, but it's always best to check with us before you start making purchases. Home-stores like Home Depot can be the cheapest, but may not be the best quality. There are also a plethora of small retailers out there that provide varying degrees of quality and style. We always recommend buying materials that are in stock, because especially in the current economic climate materials that need to be ordered in can delay your project. Be flexible! Don't get stuck on one particular item. Be willing to pivot to something that's readily available.
Buying stuff online is ok, but not ideal. For plumbing and electrical fixtures it's harder to ensure that they meet current electrical and plumbing codes. For other finishings it's often hard to discern the quality of the product until it arrives. Always check with your contractor before ordering finishings online.
The best way to ensure that your project doesn't go overbudget, is to be absolutely clear about what you want in your scope of work, and make sure that you and your contractor are on the same page. Anything you add after the contract is signed will increase the cost, and you should never expect any contractor or trades to do extra work for free.
The best way to establish a detailed scope of work is to work with your contractor under a design/build agreement. This way, your contractor is getting paid for the time involved designing your project. You can find more information about design/build agreements here: https://barzelai.ca/blog-1/f/contractor-contracts-3-ways-to-sign-your-life-away Design/build agreements are great if the customer isn't on a tight timeline.
Start with the design, and keep it simple! Everyone wants the latest Instagram worthy space, but overdesigning things can lead to more money and less satisfaction with the end product. Less is more! Always think about how you can reduce the scope of work. Do you really need a different colour of paint on each wall? Choose one for the walls, one for the ceiling and one for the trim.
Work with what you have. Everyone wants open concept, but if your house was built in the sixties, you're going to have to spend a lot of time and expense to remove walls and re-arrange the floor plan. Don't try to put a square peg into a round whole. If your house was designed a certain way, keep it that way.
There are two main types of hazardous materials we deal with regularly on projects in the city of Vancouver. One is oil tanks, and these are usually only an issue if you're doing some excavation work. Dealing with oil tanks is extremely complicated and can be very costly. I've written about oil tanks at length on my blog: https://barzelai.ca/blog-1/f/oil-tank-remediation.
Generally though, for renovations you don't need to worry to much about oil tanks. A bigger concern is asbestos. We take asbestos very seriously, and have protocols in place to deal with it. As a general rule, buildings 1990 and newer can be assumed to not contain asbestos. Buildings built in the 1980s sometimes have asbestos, and buildings built prior to 1980 contain asbestos in some way shape or form. I've never worked on a building built prior to 1980 that did not contain asbestos in at least one type of material. Ever.
Check out this blog post for more information on asbestos: https://barzelai.ca/blog-1/f/does-the-house-im-looking-to-purchase-contain-asbestos
We appreciate that the city permit process can be extremely arduous at times, but conducting work without permits is a risk to our operations and reputation. If a project gets shut down because a nieghbour complains, then our trades and workers are out of work. If a project requires a building permit, we take out a building permit. If the project requires trade permits we take those out too.
Small projects under $5,000 may be agreed upon through a simple email exchange. Generally though, our projects are conducted through proper use of contracts, and this reduces the risk of disagreements down the road. Our contracts are written in plain English so that everybody is on the same page, and understands completely what they are getting.
Sometimes, yes. Generally, anything that is egregiously unsafe, for example a set of stairs without a handrail, will get flagged immediately once the inspector sees it, even if it's not directly related to the project. Determining what parts of the code are required to be upgraded during a renovation is a big part of our area of expertise. There is an entire chapter in the building code specific to Vancouver called Part 11, which sets out the rules for upgrading existing buildings. Many builders who don't typically operate in the city of Vancouver are surprised to find that this section even exists. Many inspectors are not well-versed in this section of the code either. We take pride in knowing this section inside and out, so that there is as little ambiguity as possible prior to getting an inspector on site.
No, we do not accept cash payments. We are a legal entity that operates within the law. If you hire a contractor for "cash" or "under the table" work in order to avoid paying taxes, you are setting yourself up for some substantial risks. Construction work carries huge risks in terms of liability for worker injury, or damage to property. We always operate within the law to mitigate those risks, not to mention our goal to always operate ethically. We always do everything above board, even with family and friends.
Although we provide a schedule, we generally do not guarantee project timelines, especially when considering the current strife happening around the world today. In certain situations however, we can provide some time-frame guarantees with stipulations to clients in unique circumstances. A contract with a guaranteed completion date will be more expensive than one without.
The time a project takes can very widely, so it's impossible to say exactly. The smallest project we do is a bathroom, and this takes 4-6 weeks. A kitchen can take 6-8 weeks.
Some larger renovation companies use both employees and subcontractors to complete the work, and some smaller renovation companies only use subcontractors. I've never met a reputable contractor that only uses employees for their projects. A contractor who is a jack of all trades will do poor quality work if that project requires several different types of trades-work to be completed. Many of my trades have 30 years in their profession, and are still learning. To suggest that one person, or a few people could learn all the trades required for let's say a bathroom renovation, would be silly. There are at least ten different trades required for a simple bathroom renovation, and each trade skillset can take ten years to achieve an acceptable level of proficiency. Trades that specialize in one thing are much more efficient, saving time and money.
We only use trades that are specialists in the work that they do, that way you're getting the best most efficient person for the job every time.
Yes, but it depends on the item being warrantied. Generally, we warranty our projects for two-years. Why not longer? We don't warranty things for longer than that for the simple reason that our competition doesn't either. Even though we know that the items could have a service life of 30 years or more, we can't practically warranty those things for the entire life of the product without charging an exorbitant amount of money.
Generally the smallest renovation project we undertake is a new bathroom or $20,000. Anything smaller than this, and it's probably a better fit for a handyman or company that specializes in this type of work.
Yes, although older houses may make it difficult to comply with current codes. Knowing how to conduct a renovation in an old house that will be accepted by the building department is what we do all day everyday. Applying Part 11 of the Vancouver Building Bylaw, the renovation code, is our bread and butter.
Frequent site visits are allowed with permission, but due to safety and operational concerns clients are generally not allowed in the working areas. We do not allow our workers to be photographed, filmed, or watched while they work, as this would be extremely uncomfortable for them. Nobody likes having someone look over there shoulder as they work, and our workers are no exception.
There are many ways to conduct a renovation in a seemingly environmentally friendly manner, but the most impactful thing you can do is decrease the heat loss escaping out your walls. Heating is the biggest source of energy usage in your home, and the best way reduce heat loss is to upgrade the insulation, air tightness, and doors and windows in your home. Using energy efficient appliances will also help. There has also been much talk these days of installing a heat pump system to reduce green house gas emissions, and improve energy efficiency. While heat pumps are a good tool, be sure to talk to us about their limitations.
Meeting highly energy efficient standards like Passive House, and Net Zero can be tricky for renovations unless you're upgrading the entire house. In the renovation world, we try to do what we can by upgrading the systems that are accessible within the scope of the renovation. For example, if you're renovating your kitchen, we always upgrade the insulation in the walls as well as the air-barrier in the exterior section of wall that is being exposed. The rest of the house will have to remain as-is until you decide to renovate the other parts.
You may have many different contractors walk through your home and provide quotes to conduct your project. Sometimes, the cheapest contractor can be a fraction of the most expensive one. Does this mean that the cheapest guy is cutting too many corners and the most expensive one is gouging you? It's possible on both these fronts, but more likely you're just getting two different levels of quality and finishing, as well as professionalism throughout the process. It doesn't necessarily mean that anyone's wrong, it's just different approaches to doing business. The most important
Yes we do exterior work such as siding, landscaping (hardscaping) decks and custom fences. When it comes to things like new heating, plumbing, mechanical and electrical systems you may think that simply hiring the respective trade to conduct the individual work is the right approach. It's not! Doing a complete overhaul of a system involves more than just the system itself, and can include drywall, insulation, structural and finishing work. Also, it's hard to get an objective answer from a trade who has a limited view of their narrow scope of work.
As a builder, we understand the big picture, and can guide you through the process. Take replacing a heating system for instance. Should you go with a forced air or hydronic system? Trades generally don't do both, and will always say that their system is the best. We can help provide objective guidance, as well as use trades that are efficient, professional, and CHEAPER than those you will find simply through a google search.
Some people think that putting money into their old house is a waste of money because it will get torn down. We disagree. In fact, Barzelai Building has invested in many properties by renovating instead of building new. We've looked at the business case, and we feel that renovating is actually better than building new in many cases. There are many reasons we have come to this conclusion over the years, but the most important reason is the time frame it takes to turn-over the house. When it comes to renovations, we can conduct a significant renovation project and have the project sold within a year. This compares to a new construction project, where due to an arduous permit process we are forced to have a turn-around time of about two years. We've found that this quicker turn-around time actually provides a stronger economic case.
Of course, the person reading this most likely is not an investor, but if you look at houses selling today in the city of Vancouver, a nicely renovated character house is going for about the same price per square ft as a new house. If you make smart design choices, you can certainly take the existing structure of an old house and make a renovation project economically viable, all the while spending less money on the project. Every situation is different though, so it takes a good discussion with a competent builder to find the best route forward.
This will depend on a number of factors. The cost and quality should be commensurate with what people are spending in the local neighbourhood. Spend too much, and the finishings might be to extravagant for a future buyer. Spend too little, and a future buyer might feel that they have to upgrade as soon as they move in. It's about the right balance. When it comes to design, sticking with neutral tones and clean lines will generally appeal to the widest palate of buyer. Don't over state anything. Keep it simple!
We are often able to start the design process right away. The time it takes to organize the design and obtain permits, is often more than enough time to schedule trades and align the project. By the time the building permit is issued, we are ready to go.
No. We generally do not guarantee timelines except for very specific circumstances. If you absolutely must have a project conducted within a certain timeframe or have a deadline, we may charge an increased amount for this.
Yes, this is possible in certain circumstances, however we have no control over municipal permit processing times.
This is a complicated question, and it's important for us to do a thorough examination of your property before making any determinations. In many cases, yes the city will make you remove unpermitted work, especially if it is grossly not in compliance with the zoning bylaws, or unsafe. Sometimes unpermitted work can remain. This is a grey area and often dependent on the interpretations of building inspectors and city officials. Allowing us to visit your property to do a proper walkthrough will help provide clarity.
Similar to the previous question, this is a complicated matter. As a general rule, the more extensive the renovation, the more upgrades will be triggered. Designing the project carefully with these triggers in mind is key. We know the triggering mechanisms very well, and will help you avoid hitting them to obtain the most economical renovation possible.
We do not recommend this. For starters, we have a history of working with certain trades so that projects run smoothly and on budget. Trades give us good pricing due to loyalty, and because they know we are easy to work with. Whatever money you save on contractor markup, you will spend on trade markup.
Additionally, we have the experience working in the city of Vancouver. You will spend more money fighting with city hall, triggering service upgrades that aren't required, conducting re-inspections because you don't know the code, and generally making a mess of things. Renovations are complicated and for professionals. If you want to paint your bedroom, that's fine. For renovation work, leave it to the pros.
Barzelai Building as the general contractor will have access to your home, and may enter the home without notice. For larger projects, we may authorize trades to access the site with a spare key are lockbox setup. I cases where the client occupies the home during small renovations, we provide continual communication with the client as to the comings and goings of personnell so that you are not startled by their arrival.
We carry a standard general liability insurance policy and so do many of our key trades for instances related to our direct involvement in the project. The client is encouraged to contact their insurance company to ensure that their insurance coverage remains active during the course of a renovation. Small renovations may be acceptable to some insurers with minimal increased coverage. Large renovations may requirement "Course of Construction" insurance.
Our working hours are often, but not limited to roughly 8:00 to 4:00 Monday to Friday. Trades-work often occurs on Saturdays, and sometimes non-noisy work is conducted on Sunday. Sometimes, trades will wish to work into the late afternoon or early evening, and we make sure to comply with City of Vancouver construction noise bylaws. We may agree to adapt our working hours to you specific schedule, however this will incur additional costs.
We do our utmost to ensure that dust is not distributed throughout the house during the project, by we cannot provide guarantees. Clients should account for extra time/money cleaning during the course of the renovation. If you are sensitive to dust or smells, you should not live in the house during the renovation.
We can sometimes offer to meet you on evenings and weekends for an initial consult if you offer us tea and snacks!
No, in fact we prefer that you aren't onsite during the renovation and do not enter the jobsite without permission, especially while trades are on site as this is a safety hazard. We are very strict about client site visits. Also, we do prefer, that you don't take any extended vacations during key decision making phases of the renovations.
We try to be as courteous to the neighbours as possible, but sometimes it doesn't matter how we act, neighbours hate the disruption associated with a construction project. If a neighbour calls the city to complain about the renovation, you can rest assured that we are always conducting renovations with permits and well within the rules and regulations governing our operations. We deal with nuisance neighbours all the time, and don't let them interfere with the course of the project.
Anytime! Although weather may impact exterior work. In Vancouver we work in all weather conditions to get your project completed in a reasonable timeframe.
Yes! The most notable ones are those associated with energy efficiency and heat pumps. We are more than happy to do a cost-benefit analysis on these initiatives to see if they would be a good fit for your project.
We reserve the right to store materials on the jobsite, on the property and even sometimes in areas not directly being renovated with your permission. If there is not enough space available, we may have to rent a sea container or storage unit off site.
Unfortunately we do not do handy-man work but thee are many contractors out there who do this kind of work. The smallest project we will do is a a bathroom gutted to the studs.
No. We have specialized people for everything, even construction site cleaners! It's best for you to focus your time on choosing fixtures and finishings and staying out of everyone's way.