Monthly Archives: December 2014

Happy Holidays Everyone!

Christmas

What an incredibly busy year! I can’t believe it’s already Christmas! So many wonderful projects and even better clients to look back on over this last year! This is the perfect time to reflect on all the blessings we have had this past year. It is a time for taking a moment to remember what is really important to you. Being thankful for the special people in our lives, both personally and professionally. After all, the Holidays are all about celebrating the relationships in our lives, family, friends and our spiritual relationships.

Over the years, we have found that people come and go. Some people are just always there. You can count on them just like they can count on you. These are the most special people in our lives, as the strength of these relationships is not affected by life’s trials. They are always there to help you ride out the storm and you are there to provide calm when they need it, as well. These are the most precious relationships and we are so very thankful and blessed to have these amazing people in our lives.

This year we have found a number of new people that have just clicked with our business family and with us personally. We are looking forward to building on these relationships and are so very Thankful for finding such wonderful people this year!

I always try to shut work down over the Holidays to re-charge and spend some quality time with my family. Last night I enjoyed sharing some Christmas baking with my daughters and husband, while being serenaded by my daughter on the piano while I baked. What a wonderful way to spend a Sunday! I’ve been behind in work and stressed out but decided yesterday was family time and could not have made a better choice. Seeing the smiles on my little girl’s face as I gave her a piece of biscotti was much more rewarding than anything I could have accomplished in my office! I always make deadlines for myself and push harder than necessary. There really is nothing left that is a deadline before Christmas right now – everything else can wait – without me feeling any guilt! Sometimes we need to ask “does it have to be done or do I just want it done?”

Sometimes I think business owners, or individuals who are self-employed, expect too much of themselves. Yes, we have to work when the business is coming in, but we also need to take care of ourselves and our loved ones. This was a goal of mine at the beginning of 2014 – balance.  I believe I was successful in some ways – I did manage to maintain more balance in my work/personal life especially over the last half of the year. I made a decision to work a solid week, usually 10 – 12 hours a day – I start early, but to keep evenings and weekends for family. It’s worked wonderfully! Without guilt, and resulted in many smiles. Yes, there is the odd exception when I catch up on paperwork Saturday morning but that is rare and not a rule. 

This year, I’ve learned that family and relationships are my priorities. I am committed to work and my clients and will give them 110% during the work week, but after work is the time I look forward to the most. Nothing beats a smile and hug from little girl while we read stories together, or sitting and hearing about my older daughter’s day at University, or just enjoying sitting by the fire with my husband. This is what matters and this is what we tend to forget to enjoy with all the Holiday bustle. So, my wish for you all for the Holidays is to take the time to enjoy the special people in your lives! Don’t let the stress of the Holidays overtake you and rob you of the precious time and memories that are so special this time of year. Allow yourself to slow down long enough to just enjoy those most important to you! You’ll be so glad you did! Happy Holidays everyone!

Decorating for the Holidays

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Every year it seems there is a new “trendy” color for the holidays. I honestly do not know anyone who decorates with the latest and greatest color, not in my circle of family or friends. Seems most of us have our traditional décor scheme, which has often developed over years. Many of us tend to make small new additions each year as items break or simply become recycled due to age. After all, we always find that one piece that we just “have to have”!! It’ll be the “perfect” addition! I am SO BAD for that!!!! I just LOVE holiday decorating! Thank goodness I have a patient and indulgent husband who also loves the holidays!

What’s the big thing every year? Lights, lights, and more lights! Exterior lights, interior lights, lights wrapped in garlands, lights on the tree and countless décor and ornaments all lit up! The options seem countless and mostly beautiful! My husband enjoys his outdoor Christmas lights so we have “cascading icicle lights” on the house and I must admit, they do look beautiful! Seems the holidays wouldn’t be the holidays without all the lights! I know we certainly use our share of lit décor in our household! Nothing quite says “holidays” like dimming the overhead lights in a room and enjoying the tree and Christmas décor lighting with candles all aglow and lights shimmering and sparkling through the décor! Perfect to sit back and enjoy with a nice glass of wine, eggnog or spiced apple cider! 

One of the most visible trends in retail stores is the “vintage” décor. Everything “old” is the new thing! This is great for people who never de-clutter! LOL!!  I love my rustic theme decorating so I really enjoy the rustic themed décor items. These have been popular for the last number of years now and I must admit I have had quite a bit of Christmas fun “topping” off my holiday décor with new additions each year! Especially since I love to decorate both my home and my cottage for the holidays in a bit of a rustic theme! My fireplace mantles are all decked out and the trees are traditional with a few new touches each year, there is no room in our home left untouched by a small hint of Christmas.

Some of the new colors I’ve seen for holiday’s décor include teal blues and purples. Very “peacock trendy” as those peacock colors have been prominent in much of the décor over the last year or so! This coupled with whites, gold’s, silvers all make for some stunning holiday looks! It’s easy to just add a few touches here and there when your main décor theme is a beautiful neutral! If you usually go gold, silver or white – adding just the right touch of color can certainly add some interest and give your room just the right touch of contemporary decorating! Don’t do something because you think you “should” – you really should love it! Enjoy it! It’s your special space so make the most of it!

When it comes to decorating your home for the holidays – there simply are no rules! If it makes you happy, that’s all that matters! After all who really cares what your second cousin twice removed may think? With all the stress and craziness that the Holidays can sometimes bring, the perfect way to de-stress and relax after a long day “getting ready for the holidays” is to be able to turn the room lights off and just relax with your favourite drink as you enjoy your own special holiday “twinkling light show” in your favourite room! So, make sure it makes you happy and gives you everything you need to de-stress and relax after a long day!

Benefits of a General Contractor vs. Small Independent

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Quite often, my clients ask me would I recommend a General Contractor (or larger Renovation company) vs. a small independent contractor. There are pros and cons to both. The biggest difference is a larger pool of talented employees to pull from to get a job done well and on time. There is also a lot to be said for peace of mind knowing your contractor is fully insured for all contingencies. The biggest con – is that a small independent guy will usually (but not always) cost less.

Even the best handyman or independent contractor has skills he is really good at and skills that he can do but not to the same quality or standard. For example, he may be an excellent painter but maybe not so good at tiling or installing flooring. If you hire him to do the complete job, you may have parts of the job that are much better than others. However, it does effect the overall quality of the job as a whole. Let’s be honest, very few guys are exceptional in a full cross section of skills that are required for a typical renovation. They may be familiar with plumbing or electrical, but are they qualified to do the work? If they are not fully qualified and do not carry the proper insurance for plumbing or electrical work and a fire were to occur because of faulty workmanship, the responsibility would fall back on the home owner for allowing someone who was not qualified to do the work. Another downside is if he works alone, and he gets sick or has an emergency – suddenly your job comes to an abrupt halt until he is again available. This can be very frustrating for the average home owner.

Insurance is a huge factor I warn my clients about. Ultimately it is always the home owner who is responsible. However, if the Contractor has business insurance and liability insurance then your home insurance company would go after the Contractor’s insurance, and as the error was his, he should be held responsible. Now, if you go with a small independent who does not have business/liability insurance then you are out of luck! You will be left responsible and potentially footing a large repair bill. Another insurance factor not many people consider is Worker’s Compensation. You should always ensure your Contractor is covered by Worker’s Compensation – regardless of the size of the company, even if he is a sole proprietor! If anyone were ever to be seriously injured while working in/on your home, your home insurance would again have to cover the situation. There are rare cases where a contractor has fallen and become paralyzed as a result of the fall in your home. If you have a small independent with no insurance again – the responsibility falls on the homeowner. Most General Contractors have business insurance, with anywhere from $2,000,000 – $5,000,000 liability coverage. In addition, they have coverage through The Worker’s Compensation Board. They follow safe work practices. Finally, many of the larger companies also have additional health benefit plans that cover employees for additional disability (and a full range of health plan) coverages. Essentially, the General Contractor makes sure their employees will be taken care of in any scenario! This is how my husband and I operate Kat Reno, we ensure our employees are well insured and looked after and our clients do not have to worry when they deal with us! It is just simply not the Home Owners job!

When it comes to jobs requiring multiple talents, most General Contractors have a highly skilled pool of employees to choose from to get your job done to a high standard of quality workmanship and ensure employees are available to complete the job, even if someone is sick! They may send one guy in to do the painting, because that is his area of expertise and it will give you the best quality of job! A different guy may do the tiling because that is his specialty. A third may do the finishing carpentry as that is his specialty! The beauty is that larger companies have multiple guys skilled in each area of renovations! Does this mean that they can’t all tile or paint, no – it just means that you will get the contractor with the best skills to complete that part of the job for you! This means a much better quality finished job overall! It also means there are more guys available to cover for sick time or other “emergencies”. So your job progresses faster than with a single or smaller contractor.

Last month we had one customer who chose to “save” by going with a small independent contractor. He was skilled in some areas but tiling the bathroom was not his thing. The client had spent money on good tiles and the tile job was simply not acceptable. After a number of weeks of frustrations and delays, the client let him go and called us back in to fix the job. This ended up being more costly than doing it the first time because many of the materials could not be salvaged and needed to be re-ordered. In addition, the cost for the labour for the first contractor now added to the original job made it much more costly. The client really regretted trying to “save” learning it cost him much more in time, money and additional frustration! However, he was thrilled with the job when completed and has already referred us to friends! 

Best advice is to ensure you have referrals and recommendations from friends and family who have used them to do the same work you need done!  If they can build a fence or deck – it doesn’t mean they can build and renovate a bathroom!! Always ask for recommendations from clients and ask if you can go see the contractors work! Many of our clients have had prospective clients come to see the renovations we have completed for them and ensured the experience with us was positive before they hire us. Happy clients are always happy to show off our work and refer us to new clients! So ask for referrals and go see the contractors work! Referrals over the phone are never reliable – you just don’t know who they are, client or friend of the contractor?! Due diligence in who you hire will make or break your renovation experience, so take the time to ensure your experience will be a good one!