Marge Lenko got nearly everything she asked for in a recent home renovation...except the cost of it.

Lenko says, "I figured around $12,000 I owed, well, they didn't do the garage and that was fine and they did a good job, so I should not complain."

But, Lenko says she cried when she got a bill for more than $30,000.

More upsetting, was trying to make sense of dozens of bills she got from the contractor.

Lenko didn't get the estimate and details of the project in writing - things like the cost of paint and how much was needed. Whether she was paying for tools and how many hours of work it would all take and at what cost?

She's not the only one, according to contractor Mike Kerr.

Kerr has 40 years in the construction business and says, since the Federal Government announced its renovation tax credit - his business, All-Canadian Renovations, has been busy cleaning up after others.

"We've done probably three, four projects that were started by someone else and the contractor disappeared and we went in and started the project over," says Kerr.

If you're hiring a contractor, do you know what to ask?

  • Do you carry a G.S.T. number?
  • Workers compensation?
  • Liability insurance?
  • Do you have a business address with a store-front or location I can go to?
  • Do you have former clients I can speak with or visit their renovation?

Other things you should do:

  • Get at least 3 estimates or recommendations from friends and family.
  • According to Construction Canada - a reasonable amount to give a contractor up front is 10 percent of the project cost - and only if you know what it's for.
  • Most importantly... always get everything agreed upon in writing.

Marge Lenko says she knows she's luckier than most. She sold her house and made back the extra money she put into it.

But, she wants others to take her experience as a warning - research is key to a good renovation.

Consumers' Association - Manitoba Branch: 1-204-452-2576