2023 Construction Costs Are Rising: What does that mean for Calgary home renovations?

Construction on a renovated home includes striking wooden slats that go from the wall to the ceiling. Three spherical lights hang in the foreground illuminating the living room behind.

There are no two ways about this. I won’t mince words. It will cost you more to do your renovation this year than it did in previous years. Due to multiple reasons, one of which is inflation, construction costs have risen.

Do rising construction costs mean you shouldn’t do your renovation this year? No. It just means you should be sure to do it right. There’s no sign that construction costs will decrease significantly over the next few years, so if you want to do your renovation and you have the funds, there’s no reason to wait.  

How do you do it right? Make smart renovation decisions and hire the right renovator. What do we mean by “right” renovator? The right renovator will be experienced, licensed, vetted, and care about you.

How do you know who will fit this portrait of an ideal renovator who will treat this major investment in your home with respect? It starts with doing your homework, that’s how. I’ll give you some guidelines to follow in the next few paragraphs.

Where to Start

Start with Your Network

More than half of Krista Hermanson Design’s projects start with a referral from a previous client. There’s nothing more valuable than word of mouth from your trusted friends and family!

Go through your phone contacts, Facebook friends, Instagram followers and LinkedIn connections! Whom do you know who’s had a positive renovation experience? If you know someone who has had a great experience with a renovator, start by contacting them. Ask lots of probing questions:

  1. What did they like about them?
  2. What didn’t they didn’t like about them? Is that a deal breaker for you?
  3. Did they build an accurate budget?
  4. Did they stay on budget? If they didn’t, was there a scope change that accounted for this increase?
  5. Did they remain on the agreed-upon schedule? If they didn’t, was there a good reason, such as an exceptionally large problem discovered in the existing home?
  6. Were they respectful of the family’s time, property, and people?

Google Calgary Interior Design & Construction Companies

If you don’t know anyone who’s completed a renovation near you, it’s possible to find reputable Calgary designers and construction companies by using a search engine. Google is the equivalent of opening the yellow pages. If you don’t know what the yellow pages are — well then, I guess I’m older than I thought! When using a search engine, be sure to look for reviews on both Google and Houzz (a housing-professional website).

Beware of “Best Of” lists. These lists are created by people trying to sell monthly fees to companies like ours to stay on those lists. It’s not to say that you can’t start your search there. However, the order is often dictated by who paid the most to be on the list, and not on whether or not they have happy customers. After you’ve found the companies you’re most interested in working with, follow up with a public review check.


Discovery Call

Many established renovators have a process that includes a discovery call. You’ll speak with a knowledgeable business development administrator to establish a preliminary fit. This meeting is for both you and the company. There’s no pressure. It’s just a get-to-know-you call. During this initial call, they should ask as many questions as possible about you and your project. The more information you can offer them, the better they can help you. You should have a list of questions ready. We’ll go through that below.  

After the initial call, ask yourself:

  1. How’s the chemistry?
  2. Did this person seem to care about me and my project?
  3. Did they answer as many questions as they were able?
  4. If they couldn’t answer them, was there a good reason?

Meeting with the Construction Expert

If you feel confident after the preliminary call, you’ll meet the renovator and dive deeper. They’ll be brought up to date by their staff member and be able to answer or clarify any remaining questions and concerns.

There are a lot of things to consider!

  1. Do you feel valued, respected, and listened to? Remember, this is not a quick project. This is months of working with this company. You should feel comfortable talking to them.
  2. Did they ask about YOUR needs and wants, or were they focused on themselves and what they came to say?
  3. Were they overly directive, or did they ask many questions about your ideas and goals for your renovation?
  4. Do they care as much about your home as you do, or did you feel a bit like they just wanted the contract?
  5. Did they make promises that they could back up with figures?
  6. Follow your gut (but still, verify). You are entrusting this person (and everyone they bring in) with your home and your family. They need to check out and be willing to answer some tough questions professionally.

Do Your Due Diligence

Not all renovations are created equal. Just because someone has renovated a bathroom before doesn’t mean they’ve done it properly! Have they experienced managing an entire main floor, let alone an entire home renovation? The more complex your renovation, the more sophisticated the team needs to be. Drawings must be completed, permits must be pulled from the city or county, and engineers and/ or other specialists may need to sign off on structural or other changes. A lack of knowledge on the part of your construction company can have disastrous and expensive consequences for your home. Cheaper tends to result in additional costs somewhere down the road. Experienced renovators will not waffle on price. The price is the price because they know what quality trades and materials cost.

Important Considerations & Confirmations

  1. Does the renovator have before and after photos?
  2. Can they demonstrate their expertise in a renovation equivalent to yours? No two renovations are 100% alike, but they should be able to point you to projects with a similar scope.
  3. Are they able to connect you with clients that have completed renovations with them to act as references? Happy clients are willing to speak with others about their renovation and may even invite you over to show off the result!
  4. When you speak with former clients, ask: 
    • Would you have these people back into your home?
    • How did they deliver on what had been promised? Were they okay or outstanding? You don’t have to settle for mediocre – qualified teams take commitments to their clients seriously.
  5. Verify their track record on budget.
  6. How do they build their budgets? Are their construction budgets based on written quotes from sub-trades or made-up rough numbers?
  7. Ask about their track record on timelines. They may do great work, but if they are chronically late and disorganized, that adds to your costs and stress.
  8. And the golden question to ask each renovator:  Do they have repeat clients?  Have their clients repeatedly invited them back and referred them to family and friends?

Licensing and Insurance

Hire professionals who take this work seriously and are in it for the long haul.

Please, please, protect yourself and ask about licensing and insurance. Real businesses that care about doing things right will ALWAYS have appropriate levels of licensing and insurance. And yes, they should be licensed by the city as a business, but the CRITICAL license is issued by the province in the specific category of a general contractor.

What you may not be aware of is that the province issues a proper renovator’s license, which is a special type of license. If they don’t have this, my recommendation would be to stop the conversation right there. You have just eliminated the amateurs.

Beyond licensing, here are some other useful questions:

  1. How long have they been in business?
  2. Have they ever been involved in litigation?
  3. Do they belong to professional trade associations?
  4. Are they established in the community with a great track record?
  5. Do they suggest doing asbestos testing on homes built before 1990?
  6. Do they carry appropriate levels of insurance for a worst-case scenario? Are they able to provide written proof of insurance? How much liability do they carry?
  7. Have they suggested that you inform your insurance company about your renovation and possibly take out additional renovation insurance?
  8. Will all subtrades be properly licensed and insured and carry Worker’s Compensation Board (WCB) coverage?
  9. Do they keep proof of qualifications, licensing (including prepaid contractor licensing through Service Alberta), and insurance on file for all their sub-trades?
  10. Do they warranty their work? For how long? Or will they lose your number once they get paid?

This list can help you identify professionals who take this work seriously and are in it for the long haul.

Permits and Inspections

Include the experts to get it done properly and safely! I’ve seen the aftermath of ignorant decisions made by unqualified general contractors and sub-trades that compromise the structural integrity of homes. Cutting holes in joists or removing structural posts should never be done without an engineer’s approval.

  1. Will they pull applicable permits and have the work inspected by the City of Calgary (or county if applicable)?
  2. Do they have engineers and a team of supporting professionals that they work with regularly?
  3. Do they know building code regulations, and do they follow them?

Final Thoughts on Construction costs

Though a renovation in 2023 may be a bit more than in previous years, investing wisely will bring you the return on investment you’re looking for. At Krista Hermanson Design, we believe a home should be a place you love, a place that restores you. We also believe that the design and construction process can and should be fun! We hope this helped you determine what to look for in a renovator. Invest wisely and best of luck with your renovation!

We’d love to get the conversation started and get your Calgary interior design & construction project going. We’re here to listen. The coffee is always on.

If watching a video is more your speed, take a look at this: