Considering doing some renovation work to your home? A handshake isn’t enough these days to solidify a deal. Getting everything agreed upon with your contractor(s) in writing is as important for working with them as any other business transaction, especially if you’re paying for a portion of the work upfront – and you shouldn’t be paying for all the work upfront in any case.

Homeowners should never feel shy about asking for an air-tight contract, and if the contractor balks at the idea, it’s time to walk – or run – away. The contract is there to protect both parties – not just the homeowner – and any good contractor will know this.


Canadian television renovator and guru Mike Holmes recommends creating a payment plan that uses five payment milestones instead of an estimated time frame. This method begins with a down payment, which Holmes says on his website should not exceed 15% of the total cost. Then, four more payment milestones can be determined. One example is during a large job, 25% of the remaining amount can be paid when one portion of the job is complete (like the electrical) and then another 25% can be paid when another part of the work is done (such as the plumbing). These payment milestones can be different depending on the job itself, and this payment plan should be incorporated into the contract.


The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation has a sample renovation contract on their website that can be used as a guideline for drawing up your own.

The Canadian Home Builders’ Association also has a lengthy overview of all of the things that should be included in any renovation contract.

Finally, make sure that either you or the contractor takes out the proper building permits for the renovation job at hand if necessary (it is the homeowner’s responsibility to ensure that they are obtained). More information on the City of Toronto’s Building Permit Requirements is available in our blog posting here.

First published on Royal LePage Johnston & Daniel’s real estate blog “Muddy York”:

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