How did you first come into a career in construction?

I began in construction due to necessity. I bought my first property when I was in my twenties with the idea of renting out a portion of it. But, because I was still in university I didn’t have the money to hire a contractor to make all the necessary fixes and upgrades. I had to learn how to do everything myself. I did all the work in that house and ended up renting out the top floor and living in the basement for 8 years. With the money I earned from the rental I purchased more properties and repeated the process. I quickly realized that continuing to do all the building work myself would save me a ton of money over time.  So, I got my license and I’ve never looked back. Fortunately, I discovered I was pretty good at it and got a lot of satisfaction out of it. Almost 20 years later, I’m still doing it.

If you could go back in time, what is one piece of advice you would have given yourselves on those first couple of projects?

Stop worrying so much and just do it. I’m a huge proponent of planning, but when I was younger I suffered a little paralysis through analysis. If I had just trusted my instincts and gotten to work, I could have gotten the renovations done faster and been making money sooner. While planning is a very important part of any renovation (see below), you’ll never have a crystal ball and you’ll never know exactly what’s going to happen. Get your plan together and get to work already!

What steps do you take on every construction project to create a work site which empowers health and safety for all individuals?

Safety is obviously a huge priority when you’re on any kind of renovation or construction site. One of the first things you should do is post a list of worksite safety instructions. I have a board that goes up in every single site I’m working on. That way, there’s no doubt as to what people should and shouldn’t be doing. You’ll also want to make sure that there is plenty of safety gear on site, such as hard hats and steel toe boots, as well as an eye wash station and complete first aid kit. Clear all areas of tripping or falling hazards and make sure people take plenty of breaks, drink plenty of water and feel well rested. It’s not worth risking people’s health and safety to complete a project a bit quicker.

What are some essential steps that every construction professional can take to remain safer when operating heavy duty work site equipment and tools?

Only use what you’re licensed to operate, communicate with your team and know signals and signs (because sometimes you can’t hear over equipment), and check the area before you dig/lift (make sure there’s nothing underground or overhead). So much of it comes down to common sense. Think before you act, take your time and always exercise caution.

What are some best practices in the planning phase of any project to ensure success in later stages?

I always say that if you fail to plan you plan to fail. In fact, I’ve got a whole section on my Reno to Reveal website about planning a renovation. First, you’ve got to create a realistic budget based on what you want to have done and the condition and size of your home. You also need a detailed scope of work outlining the project and all the expected costs. Both you and your contractor need to sign off on it. Be prepared to document any changes of work that come up during the process. And make sure you have a contingency fund for unexpected repairs. Renovation surprises can and will happen so make sure you have a source of funds to deal with them. And lastly, keep the lines of communication with your contractor open. Renovations can be stressful, but if you do the work ahead of time and have an open and honest relationship with your contractor you’ll make the process a lot easier.