A B.C. homeowner has learned the hard way that trying to get renovation work done for a good price requires that certain precautions be taken — or it can end up costing twice as much.

Betty Wang, of Coquitlam, thought she had done her homework. She said she and her husband checked out 10 contractors before getting work on their home done.

They eventually settled on a company that required a 70-per-cent down payment on a job estimated to cost $43,000.

But the Wangs suspected the work wasn’t done properly, and once they got a second opinion, they found the project was going to cost them another $50,000 to make right.

CBC News brought in independent building inspector Glenn Duxbury to look at the Wangs' home.

"There are really good [renovators] and there are some really bad ones and what we are talking about is the latter version," Duxbury said once he got a look at the work that had been done.

'Hack job'

"It's a hack job," the inspector told CBC News and Wang during a walk-through of the botched renovation.

Among the serious problems he identified was a support beam that was improperly installed.

"The ceiling would have fallen and we ultimately could have died," Wang said.

Duxbury also pointed out framing work in the basement that was not done correctly.

"We can see that this doesn't meet the ceiling, or the bottom of the floor joist, so there really isn't any attachment at all."

Other deficiencies he spotted included:

  • The bottom third of some floor joists had been cut for plumbing, compromising their strength.
  • A shower base didn’t line up with the drain.
  • Doorways weren't plumb.
  • Deck posts were too thin and sat on concrete pads, placed on grass.

Botched reno blues

After the walk-though, Wang told CBC News she was devastated to learn how poorly the work was done, and how much it would cost her to fix it.

"It is emotional," Wang said. "I mean it took me 30 years to save all the money I had and — gone in one day, pretty much."

The Burnaby company that did the work would not comment on camera to CBC News, but a contractor who worked for the company returned our call and said it was Wang's fault because she wanted to do it on the cheap.

"We cut a bunch of corners for her, and she goes and  brings a building inspector in, and she says she wants it re-done, she's not happy with the work that we'd done," he said.

Contract a must

According to Peter Simpson, the president of the Greater Vancouver Home Builders' Association, another problem for Wang is that she did not sign a written contract with the builder.

And without a specific contract, it's a case of ‘He said — she said,' said Simpson.

Simpson also noted the company Wang hired is not a member of his association. He expressed some sympathy with Wang, but said she might also bear some responsibility for the situation.

"It takes two to make this conspiracy happen," Simpson said. "We are telling homeowners, 'Do your homework. Do your due diligence.' There are four words you need to remember: 'Get it in writing.'"

Simpson said any contract should include:

  • The scope of work.
  • The exact price.
  • A timetable for completion.
  • A 10-per-cent holdback.

The Home Builders' Association suggests going with a RenoMark renovator, who must abide by a higher code of ethics and conduct.

 

With files from the CBC's Kirk Williams