T. Aubrey Construction     
                                                                                      Building dreams in the Ottawa Valley since 1989

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Frequently Asked Questions

Hiring a Contractor
Blueprints and Material Lists
Contracts and Changes
Duration of Work
Contract Pricing vs By the Hour

Q: How do I know the contractor is knowledgeable?
A: The hardest part of hiring anyone is determining if the person is knowledgable or just talking a good game.  Spend some time with the perspective contractor and listen carefully to the answers.  Don't be afraid to read between the lines. 
  • Answers to your questions should be direct and detailed.  Good contractors are never afraid to share details on building requirements, materials, time, or techniques.   "I don't know, but I will find out" is a good indication that the person is willing to admit that there are some things that require further thought or investigation to find the right solution. The contractor should be able to provide you with several solutions, and solid reasons why one solution is best for your specific project.
  • Compare answers to others.  Do your homework and gather as much information as you can about the build or renovation you are planning.  There is a wealth of information on building available on the internet, from Tarion Corporation, from your local building inspector, or from other builders.  The best reference for finding a builder is from former clients.  Check with friend's, collegues, and neighbours who have had similar work done recently.
  • Years in business.  Don't discount new companies, but do be wary.  In hard economic times, everyone with a hammer is a carpenter.  Not all have the experience you need for your build.  Companies that have been around for more than 5 years will have been doing something right and will have clients willing to testify to the success of their projects. 
  • References.  While former clients are a contractors best advertisement, most builders will be cautious when providing them.  Good builders protect the confidentiality of their clients and few clients are willing to have their privacy invaded by strangers.  The best references are there for the asking from family, friends, collegues, and neighbours. 
  • Site visit.  Quotes are never given over the telephone or by email without first having made a site visit.  The contractor should arrive prepared to gather not only verbal requirements but the physical details such as: measurements, electrical/plumbing systems, soil types (for exterior projects that will be set on or in the ground), proximity to other buildings and property lines. 
  • Quotes and follow up.  Estimates should always be provided in writing and should include a detailed description of the work and materials to be provided, a price (project price, HST, and Total of both), payment terms, an expiry date, and a clear statement of what is expected from both the contractor and the client.  This statement usually contains information and limitations regarding the legal aspects of building (insurance, warantees, inspections, etc). 
  • Availability.  Bear in mind that contractors in the Ottawa Valley usually do their own carpentry work, so unless you contact them over the winter, they will usually be in the middle of a project and it may take some time for them to be able to give you an estimate.  It is not unusual for them to be booking months to years in advance, so be patient and persistent.  Small projects can sometimes be fitted between larger builds or may be used to fill gaps when clients change the scheduled work.  The contractor should be up front about scheduling and priority of work. 
  • Hiring sub trades (heating, electrical, plumbing, earthwork, masonry, cabintry etc). Contractors are very willing to provide quotes from trusted tradespeople.  Their reputation depends on the suitability and effectiveness of the sub trades.  While clients can choose to source and hire their own, it is rare that the contractor will take responsibility for work done by tradespeople that are unfamiliar to them.  The contractor will be working directly with the subtrades to ensure coordination of the work schedules and planning requirements. 
  • Conformance to tax and labour laws.  In Ontario, contractors are legally required to collect and submit HST on materials and labour charged to the client.  They are also required to carry WSIB on all workers, though may choose not to cover the owner.  If your contractor has or is planning to hire employees for your project, you should ensure that they do carry WSIB otherwise you are responsible for any injuries and injury related costs on the work site. 
Q: Should I expect blueprints and material lists to be supplied with the estimate?
A: Blueprints large builds like homes, adding storeys, or substantially changing the footprint of a building should always be done by a qualified architect.  If the client pays for the blueprints, they remain the property of the client.  For small builds, contractors will often create and supply their own blueprints as they are required for building permits and planning purposes.  The blueprints for small jobs are always done in scale and need to include:  scale legend, measurements, detailed openings (windows/doors/stairs), and a breakdown picture of framing details such as insulation, footings/foundations, electrical and plumbing schematics.  These are supplied with the estimate, though do remain the property of the contractor. 

Material lists are specific to each builder as techniques and practices may vary.  They are not supplied with the estimate, however, estimates should clearly indicate the type of material used, framing standards (ie 16" On Centre OC), colour, quality, model numbers (appliances/fixtures), and any limitations to price (usually applied to flooring, lighting, or other material) where the client's personal choice may affect the pricing.

Q. Should I expect to make a downpayment?
A. No.  Reputable contractors will not ask for downpayments.  Payment should only be made at agreed upon intervals as work progresses or as is necessary to pre-order certain specialty items like fixtures as some suppliers require this to order non-returnable items not usually held in stock. 

It is common practice for landscapers and cabinet makers to ask for 10% to 50% downpayment.  If this type of work is being done and a downpayment is required, make the cheque payable directly to the landscaper or cabinet maker and ensure that you are provided with a description of the work to be carried out, the total price, and receipt for advance payments.  It is often advisable to contract directly with the landscaper or cabinet maker in this case. 

Q. Should I expect a written estimate or contract?
A: Always.  A written estimate identifies the terms and details of the work to be done, the pricing, terms of payments and applicable holdbacks, limitations, expiry date, responsibilities, subcontractors responsibilities, WSIB and liability insurance policy numbers, HST number, and materials to be used. Once signed the estimate becomes a contract and protects both the contractor and the client against misinterpretations and unrealistic expectations. 

The price of work/materials covered by the contract should only change if the client initiates a change in the work or materials.  Unforeseen circumstances such as unmovable rocks or undergraound water sources in a dig area or structural issues that were not previously visible or evident would also be acceptable reasons to change the pricing since the nature and scope of the work is substantially changed. 

Q: How chould changes to a contract be handled?
A: Changes during large projects or renovations are inevitable.  It is important that you discuss how these changes will be handled with your contractor before signing or authorizing any agreement. 
  • If you are financing your project through a lending institution, you may be required to submit a change order estimate and receive approval prior to instituting the changes. 
  • It is reasonable to expect the contractor to charge only the difference in material and labour required to make the change, however, some builders may require the original contract to be fulfilled before making changes. 
  • The client is responsible for all material and labour charges incurred up to the point where a change is communicated (client instigated changes) or becomes evident (unforeseeable circumstances). 
  • Contractors are required, by consumer law, to ensure that work be done to existing codes and may be liable for damages or injuries caused by leaving a site unsafe or covering up structurally damaged components.  Contract law dictates that it is reasonable for a contractor to be paid for work incurred in fulfilling their contractual and legal obligations. The client is therefore responsible for any material and labour charges required to ensure the stability or integrity of the structure should it not be feasible to continue the work. 
To reduce costs associated with changes:
  • Determine details prior to starting the project.  Common changes include: the location and size of windows and doors, flooring, paint, electrical requirements (use of space), decking.
  • Ensure that your contractor and sub contractors are made aware of any changes you are thinking of as soon as possible.  This allows adjustments to framing to be made without incurring additional costs. 
  • Work with your contractor to address unforeseeable conditions in advance to ensure agreement on when work should stop or when minor repairs can be carried out without work stoppages. Common examples are: structural or mechanical systems are damaged or not up to code, underground obstacles (unmovable rocks, caves, water sources), trees or roots in a work area, upgrades to mechanical or heating systems, work or materials supplied by clients or agents of the clients, damage from subtrades not hired by the contractor. 

Q. How long should a project take?
A: Unfortunately there are no standards as to how long a particular project should take.  The contractor should provide you with a reasonable timeframe and ensure that planning and work is carried out to acheive that goal. 

Many factors can influence the duration of a project.  Exterior projects are mainly susceptible to weather or ground conditions.  Both interior and exterior projects  can  be affected by availibility of materials, sub-trades, required inspections, family schedules,  or facility accommodation considerations. 

The contractor should be forthcoming about other common and unforeseeable circumstances such as underground or structural anomalies like unmovable rocks, underground water sources, missing or damaged framing, outdated or non-code wiring.  If you suspect any situation that may increase the cost, scope, or duration, you should raise it during the site visit. 

Obtaining a contract price on a project can help protect the client against projects that stretch out beyond a reasonable periods they limit the amount that can be charged and encourage strong planning practices. 

Q: What is the difference between contract pricing and by the hour pricing?
A: Contract pricing is the preferrable arrangement as it limits the amount to be charged for a project and allows the client a degree of certainty when planning financing.  It also encourages the contractor to employ good planning practices and ensure that work is carried out in a reasonable period of time as payment is tied to progress.

By the hour pricing should always be accompanied by a written contract that includes monetary and time constraints.  It is used occasionally when it is not possible to determine the extent or scope of a project due to feasibility, owner supplied materials, or dubious building techniques, or other unforseeable factors.  It may also be used to determine additional costs incurred by owner initiated changes to the original contract price. 

  • Q: Which is better for roofing: steel or shingles?
  • A: Choosing the right roofing for your home is one of the most important renovation decisions a homeowner can make.  Properly installed, either finish will give your family waterproof protection for many years. 
  1. Either covering must be installed with a full layer of 15lb felt paper.  Just around the eaves doesn't give the protection required by the manufacturers. 
  2. Single layers are best. Doubling layers of shingles or steel over shingles adds weight to the structure and can cause damage particularly after a heavy snowfall.
  3. When choosing steel, select a 30 gauge or better steel with a double ridge at the edges.  The double ridge prevents water from seeping back under the steel.
  4. Here are some cost facts to consider:

Average Cost
$95/sq* Galvanized (silver)
$120/sq* Coloured
$17/sq* 15 year
$60/sq* 25 year
Average Life
15-25 years
Weather Resistant
Less expensive to install
More expensive to install
Installation Necessities
Specialty flashings, ridge vents, colour matched screws Valley flashing, ridge caps/vents, shingle starter
*one square (sq) =10' x 10'  Note: prices may vary seasonally or regionally.
  • Q: I'm designing my new addition, but I don't know what size to make the rooms.  I want two bedrooms and a bath? 
  • A: From a builder's point of view, we like to maximize space and minimize costs.  Bear in mind that flooring, as with building materials, come in standard sizes.  The less we have to cut off, the lower the cost to you and the more money you retain in your home.
  1. Twelve is the magic number.  Flooring such as rug (most common in bedrooms) come in 12' and 14' widths.
  2. Interior walls are usually framed on 16" centres, so keep the room orientation to multiples of 16" for example 16" x 11/12"=14'6".  This gives you a 12' x 14' room with a 6" allowance for studs and drywall.
  3. Put your furniture in the space.  There's no point in building a room to optimize material use if your favourite armoire won't fit.
  4. Build the rooms, then measure the exterior dimensions.  Add 12" on each wall to get an idea of the finished size. (12" allows for exterior walls and finish.)


  • Q: I've always dreamed of mirror like hardwood floors, but I can't seem to find a builder willing to put down a high gloss varnish.  Should I give up the dream?

  • A: Not at all. The secret is not in the varnish, but in the wax.  Semi gloss varnish is recommended for hardwood.  Scratches are less noticeable and the slip resistance is greater.
When a floor is finished, ask the finisher to apply 3-4 coats of good quality paste wax (just like Grandma used).  This provides the floor with a buffer against scratches and gives that mirror like finish you've always dreamed of. 

Encouraging family and guests to help keep it shiny by removing their shoes at the door. Regular sweeping and a weekly damp mopping, never wet mop, to remove dust will keep the floors looking great for about a year.  A yearly coat of wax will keep that mirror bright. 


  • Q: Help! My walls look like bananas and there are nails popping out everywhere.  What went wrong?

  • A: Weather conditions during the building period, combined with kiln dried lumber's ability to pick up 23% of environmental moisture makes banana walls and nail pops one of the most common problem in new homes and additions, or anywhere new walls have been framed.
When a home is built, activities such as drywalling, painting, and cleaning put moisture in the home where it is trapped by the vapour barrier until it finds a way out. Daily living, taking showers, cooking, opening a window add moisture to the air as well.  If your home's vapour barrier is working, it also adds to the problem.

Moisture doesn't just go away, it evaporates, then reforms when the temperature drops. Moisture problems are most evidenced by tell tale water droplets that form on windows or low on walls. 

Banana walls occur when the studs dry too quickly and warp.  Once the studs have warped they should be replaced.  Avoid economy studs, and climatize all wood for 24-48 hours before using. 

Nail pops occur when the wood shrinks and pulls away from the nail.  (If warping is evident, fix this problem first.) They can be repaired by:
  • Removing the popped nail or screw
  • Fixing new screws in place (using different holes 2" along the stud from the original hole).  Screws have better holding power than nails. 
  • Sanding the area around the repair and,
  • Using a good quality drywall compound.

After the repairs:
  1. Avoid a re-occurance by using exhaust fans and a good dehumidfier to slowly reduce the moisture content.  Exhaust fans should be used up to 1/2 hour after any water related activity (cooking, showering, cleaning). De-humidfiers should always be used according to manufacturer's directions.  Overuse can cause the same problem for the opposite reasons. 
  2. Avoid maintaining high temperatures in the home.  Remember wood is made up of cells just like skin.  If temperatures are causing you to dry out, it's doing the same for the wood products in your home.  Temperatures of 78-82 degrees are essential to prevent wood from drying too quickly and cracking or warping.
more drywall questions?            

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