Remodeling My House

Oh, it’ll look so great once it’s done! Opened-up walls! Light, honey-colored bamboo floors! Rustic slate tile! Shiny granite counter tops! Bit by bit, your dream home is coming together.

If only it could happen like it does on TV, where old, messy rooms are transformed into welcoming, sparkling spaces in not more than an hour, all without the dirt, the dust, the delays, and the inconveniences.

Remodeling can be both a passion and a chore. But usually, the end result is worth it. If you do it right, that is.
Your insurance policy is usually not part of the to-do list when it comes to planning a home remodel, and rarely finds its way into the file folder with paint swatches, contractor bids, or hardware store shopping lists. But it pays to start your home improvement project on a solid foundation. Call your team at BSMW and let us “hammer out” a protection plan that can bear some weight - from the ‘Before’ to the ‘After’.

Hiring a contractor? Check his insurance

Finally, you are going for it… the new gourmet kitchen, with a gas range (replacing the electric stove), double oven, and new custom cabinetry. You had envisioned it from the day you bought the house. It’ll be quite a project, though. A couple of months, at least. But you want it done right, and more importantly, as quickly and smoothly as possible. So you decide that hiring a professional is the most reliable and hassle-free way to do it.

Congratulations! A home remodel is an exciting undertaking and a professional contractor can definitely help. But what does this have to do with your insurance?

Quite a lot, actually. When hiring a contractor, it is very important that you check his insurance, and how it extends to employees or potential sub-contractors. If ‘your’ contractor doesn’t have adequate insurance protection in place and one of the workers gets injured on the job (your house!), they might end up suing you and you might be held responsible.

Protect yourself. Only hire a licensed and bonded contractor. And don’t take his word…ask to see the insurance policy so you can make sure that it is in force and that the limits are adequate. (It is absolutely OK to ask for an insurance certificate from your contractor. The contractor and his/her insurance agent should happily provide it. The problem is that not many people are aware of this right to see their contractor’s policy, and therefore don’t ask for it.) You should also confirm your contractor’s licensing status with the Ontario Labor & Industries Department.

There are three major parts of a contractor’s insurance policy:

  • Worker’s Comp: Applies when an employee or sub-contractor gets injured on the job site. Worker’s Comp covers medical/rehabilitation expenses and lost wages for the worker. If the contractor’s limits are not adequate, an injured worker may sue you.On a side note: If you assume the role of being your own General Contractor, you may have to purchase Worker’s Comp Insurance before you hire sub-contractors. Contact the Ontario State Department of Labor and Industries for more information.
  • General Liability: Covers negligence on the contractor’s part which causes injury or property damage to others.
  • Builder’s Risk: Covers damage to your home and materials, including materials that haven’t been installed yet.

Are you your own General Contractor? The risk may be greater than the savings!

Adding the second story to your house will make a huge difference! You can move the kids’ bedrooms upstairs; add a Jack-and-Jill bathroom, and a TV room. That will open the first floor for an extended Master bedroom, and a Master Bath with the long-awaited Jacuzzi and a walk-in closet.

From what you’ve heard, this will increase the value of the house quite a bit, not to mention add comfort for you and your family. To save a little money, you figure, you can act as the General Contractor. You’d never have to touch a hammer; all you’d do is organize and orchestrate, order supplies… and take care of the paperwork, basically. Sounds feasible, right?

Unfortunately, it’s not quite as easy as that. If you function as the General Contractor and hire sub-contractors to work in or on your home, you may be held responsible in case of an accident or an injury to a worker or to a third party (for example, a neighbor kid walks by your house just as one of the guys working on your roof accidentally drops his hammer and it hits the child).

Your homeowner’s policy may provide some liability coverage, but even if so, it may not be enough to cover your assets if you are sued for liability and medical costs.

Worker’s comp is not always required by law but if you are in the situation of hiring sub-contractors to work in or on your home and property, you may want to purchase Worker’s Comp insurance for your own protection.

Since this is a very complicated topic with many variables, you should speak with your agent before hiring anybody.

All in all, you might be better off both financially and risk-wise if you hire a licensed and bonded contractor who has the insurance and the experience. It may save you a lot of hassle and worries during an already stressful time.

D-I-Y (Do-It-Yourself) project? Some are covered, some are not. (But not because you did it yourself!)

You are painting this weekend! It’s a long-postponed project, but finally, you are tackling it.

Sunday night, you are exhausted. One coat of primer and two coats of paint, and you still see the old, darker color shimmer through. Push on, add one more coat. Might as well do it right. When you’re done, you hurry to pick everything up. Rollers, brushes, drop cloths? In the trash bag they go. Tie it up and plop it in the garage. Deal with it tomorrow. Or next weekend.

But you forget that crumpled up, paint-stained drop cloths are highly combustible…

If this caused a fire, would you be covered by your homeowner’s insurance?

In this situation, yes, there would be coverage. A fire loss that happens suddenly and accidentally, even if caused (as in this example) by negligence, is covered by your homeowner’s policy.

Here's another scenario...

It’s going down as the summer of the bathroom remodel. You and your spouse decided to do it yourselves… both of you like doing this kind of work. Tearing out the old. Putting in the new. Taking care of the house. So you tackled the new bathroom together, laid the river-rock mural in the new walk-in shower, installed radiant heat under the new slate floor tile, and switched the location of toilet and vanity. You put a lot of thought and effort into this, got all your permits, and cleanly re-routed, installed and sealed the new copper pipes. Up to code!

Now, 3 months after the finishing brush stroke, something’s leaking!

At least, that’s what you suspect. When you come home at night, a puddle has collected between the toilet and the vanity. You mop it up, only to find it there again the next night. And you hate to admit it, but the strip of wall right above has gotten darker. And if you look closely (which you opt not to do), you can see fine hairline cracks.

You think of your homeowner’s insurance. Would your D-I-Y project be covered at all?

Well. Generally, your finished D-I-Y home improvement project would be covered for all the common perils insured on a homeowner’s policy, whether you do the work or a contractor does the work. But the perils covered on a homeowner’s policy have to be sudden and accidental occurrences.

And that’s the problem in this example. The answer here is: There might not be coverage. What happened here is a mistake, a construction defect. There are workmanship exclusions on a homeowner’s policy that apply whether the work was done by a contractor or the property owner. If the damage in this example was caused by faulty workmanship, not by a sudden and accidental occurrence, the loss would not be covered by your homeowner’s policy.

However, had you hired a contractor, you could sue him for repairs and or hold him responsible to fix the damage.

A side note: Water damage that happens over time (like a slow leak that causes dry rot) is generally excluded from coverage on your homeowner’s policy. So, it is critical to address any suspicious leaks immediately. They don’t go away on their own. They only become bigger (and possibly excluded) losses.

Major Remodel? Insure the “After” before it’s too late

That second story you were talking about? Yup. It’s done. Two more bedrooms, a bathroom, and a family room, just like you had planned. About an extra 1,000 square feet. Yeah, it’s such a relief. You can’t even imagine going back to living on one floor with the two boys, the cat, and the dog. None of you remember how you did it. But luckily, you don’t have to!

If you don’t want to remember the “Before”, be sure to not leave your homeowner’s policy stuck in the past! If you plan a major remodel like an addition, a new deck, or a significant upgrade, be sure to call your trusty insurance agents at BSMW to inform us about the scale of the remodel you are planning.

The replacement value of your home may now be significantly greater than it was before, and your homeowner’s policy limits might not be enough to cover your house if you have a total loss. Also, if you have an extended replacement coverage endorsement (very important!) your policy contract requires that you inform your insurance company of any significant change in value. Finally, if you purchased new furniture or electronics, be sure to adjust the personal property limits on your homeowner’s policy.

However, don’t wait until all the work is done. During the construction phase, you may have a significant amount (and dollar value) of supplies stored on your property. If these building materials are stolen or destroyed before your remodel is finished, there may be inadequate coverage.

So, don’t let your excitement be dampened by unforeseen incidences. Give us a call before the ‘After’, and get the peace of mind you deserve.

How certain remodels can save you money on your homeowner’s insurance

Whew! That was a major project… updating all the electrical in your turn-of-the-century craftsman. No fun…but it sure feels good that it’s done now. For all you know, the place could have gone up in flames years ago, due to the outdated wiring. So this gives you some peace of mind.

If you did a major remodel that included updating certain systems such as...

  • Plumbing
  • Heating
  • Electrical
  • Putting on a new roof
  • A security system
  • Or other features that improve the safety of your home...

...give us a call 416-493-0050 and share the news!

You may qualify for a new discount on your homeowner’s policy!