April 5, 2013 - 4:04pmUpdated: April 8, 2013 - 9:55am
New houses under construction in Regina at Harbour Landing. Adriana Christianson/News Talk Radio
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Regina is one of the fastest growing cities in Canada with hundreds of people looking to buy a new home, others looking for renovations and more and more construction companies popping up.
But not all those companies are capable of -- or care enough about -- getting the job done right. Consumers are then paying the price.
“Cutting Corners,” a three-part series by CJME, looks at how consumers can protect themselves from hiring someone who is unqualified, indifferent, or greedy when anyone can call themselves a contractor.
On Tuesday, in the second part of this series, learn why it can be difficult to determine who will provide quality work and great service.
New didn’t mean problem-free for these homeowners
A Regina woman, who doesn’t want to be identified, found a company she liked that was building homes for a reasonable price. It’s a neat little attached home in Harbour Landing, surrounded by other neat little attached homes on either side.
They bought the house, waited a couple of months for it to be built, and then moved in. But she said as soon as they walked in, they started noticing things were wrong.
“When we came for our house orientation we noticed that a lot of lights were wrong, they got put in wrong, some were missing stuff.”
They had problems with missing shingles, their porch stairs are sinking because there’s no cement underneath, a shower door was missing, and some of their wire shelving was falling down because it wasn’t fixed to studs in the drywall.
She said her microwave fell and broke when the stand came off of the wall, “They didn’t do it right, they didn’t use the right tools to support it. The microwave’s pretty heavy so over time it fell off. It broke my microwave, broke the garbage can; everything just tumbled down.”
The backsplash in their kitchen was crooked, but when someone came to fix it, the woman was told it couldn’t be fixed because it was the wall that was crooked, not the tiles.
One of the bigger problems she came across was in their master bedroom. It was always at least ten degrees cooler than the rest of the house, so they brought someone in to take a look.
“The entrance to our attic just happened to be in our master closet, so he went up there, and he noticed an area that had no insulation. And then he measures the area that had insulation and it’s only at 12 inches.”
The norm for insulation in newer homes is 18 inches.
She said when these things come up, they go back to the builder, and after a bit of arguing eventually someone comes out to try and fix the problem; but she doesn’t think that should have to be done when it’s a new home.
“If it’s a brand new house why is there so many problems? You expect brand new houses should be all new, everything is good to go. But we’ve only been here (a few) months, and they had to keep coming back to fix a lot of stuff up for us. And we’re still finding a lot of stuff right now.”
Oak Park Living is the builder. The company's owner say he values quality and customer satisfaction.
“We’re pretty proud of our customer satisfaction awards, and I would say that kind of speaks for itself,” said Neil Braun, the owner and president of Oak Park Living.
Oak Park Living is doing a booming business in Regina with several developments in Harbour Landing and in the Northwest. It is currently in the process of building a 110-unit condo site that has already sold out.
The website touts them as a Saskatchewan company with a long history here, although they don’t have a Saskatchewan office yet.
Without speaking to the woman’s situation specifically, Braun admits that things can happen on a job site.
“We certainly take any issues seriously, and in that sort of example, as soon as we find that out it would get rectified immediately. And then we’d just go back and make sure we didn’t miss any others.”
Braun said that if they found a hotspot where a lot of things were going wrong they would either remove the problematic tradesmen, or install some type of quality controls.
But it’s not just new homes that are having problems.
People getting full renovations, or even just a bit of work done are also getting frustrated.
Left to do the renovation work they hired out
Pat Ginter hired a small two-man company to build a garage and to do a bit of work inside her home a couple of years ago.
She got the company’s number from a friend, but when it came to the first meeting, only one of them showed up, that was just the beginning.
Shortly after the job started progress slowed right down. The contractor could only work evenings and weekends now because he had gotten another job.
Ginter said there were a few signs along the way that the contractor might have been a little over his head.
“When we were putting the garage up it ended up he didn’t have the helpers to help him… and put the walls up, and once again my spouse was helping to do that.”
But the real trouble started after the structure was completely built. They were going to have the garage doors installed, when they noticed one of the beams was already starting to sag.
It turned out the contractor should have had a beam engineered to the weight of the building.
That’s when they discovered that there was no building permit for their garage.
“We asked him again for the permit, and he said he’d applied for it, and it ends up he had never applied for the permit. And because of that we run into a situation where we had to go through the city to get it all approved… because it ended up it was oversized. And we thought he had takencare of all this.”
Eventually, after jumping through some hoops, everything ended up getting approved. But even that wasn’t the end of it.
When it came to the renovations inside the house it turns out the money they gave to the contractor to pay for the painter never actually got to the painter, so some of that work never got done.
Ginter said that horrible experience has completely changed how they deal with contractors now. She’s having renovations done in her basement right now, and she said she put in a lot of work to make sure she hired a reputable company.