Living Up To Their Name
The following excerpt was taken from the Business World Magazine’s December Edition, which featured Dependable Renovations and shared a little about our story.
Dependable Renovations is a Calgary-based building company that truly lives up to their name. They know that home renovations can be daunting, and the process can be stressful. They’ve heard the horror stories from clients who have gone through it before, and they know those stories are too many and too true. They started their company because they wanted to do things differently. They asked themselves what they would want in a renovator, and they modelled their business on their answer.
“We’ve all heard the stories of renovations gone wrong,” says Lisa Johnson, one half of the company’s dynamic husband and wife team. “They can be a nightmare, with trades not showing up on time, project delays, and cost overruns. We’ve been there and that’s why we chose our name.”
“We are Dependable,” she says. “Clients can rely on us to make their renovation the enjoyable journey it should be.”
Lisa and her husband Barry Johnson both have strong backgrounds in the new home construction and renovation industries. Both worked in new home construction for 12 years before moving on to work with a large up-scale renovator in Calgary. In that role, they earned vast experience with a large variety of renovation projects and built lasting relationships with some of the city’s top trades and suppliers. Armed with that experience, they decided to go out on their own.
Lisa and Barry officially commenced Dependable Renovations eight years ago. They believed there was a need in the market for a renovator that “really cared about the clients.” They didn’t think it should matter how large, small, simple or complicated the project was – they believed every client should receive the same exceptional service and workmanship.
“Everyone deserves a builder that does what they say they are going to do, that is true to their word,” Lisa says. “That’s us.”
Over the years, the company’s contracts have ranged in terms of size and value. When Lisa and Barry started the business, they figured they would be spending most of their time on individual kitchen and bathroom renovations. They quickly earned such a strong reputation, however, that clients started reaching out to them with larger jobs, many valued upwards of $500,000. Today, Dependable Renovations is geared specifically towards those mid-large scale projects. According to Lisa, the company stands out in that niche due to – what else? – their dependability. That includes their dependable service, dependable pricing, and dependable quality.
When it comes to their service, the company starts by recognising that the renovation and new home building process is often fraught with stress. Their goal is to mitigate that as much as possible, and make it as close to a stress-free experience as they can. They achieve that by guiding clients step-by-step from design through to construction, and providing transparency every step of the way. They remain in constant communication with the client throughout, ensuring they always know what’s going on, and they always have the information they need to make decisions.
The company also recognises that some of the most important information a client needs is about pricing. In that regard, they are very open and transparent, and offer clear, up-front costs. They come to those costs based on a preliminary meeting and walkthrough that includes every member of the trade team – not many builders go to those lengths, but Dependable Renovations does.
“We prepare all of our pricing based on an upfront meet- ing with all of our trades,” Lisa explains. “We bring everyone together, we do a full-walk- through, and we get all the details down.”
“We conduct a real meeting, and we prepare pricing based specifically on that project,” she says. “We show our customers that price. They see exactly how much our costs are. And because we have brought the trades into the process, and we’re not just guessing or spit-balling, those prices are guaranteed.”
“We give clients a real price which we hold to, and we show them how we got there,” she continues. “There’s no smoke and mirrors. It’s all transparent. Clients know exactly where the prices are coming from, and what they’re getting for their money.”
Additionally, clients are always kept in the loop through the company’s online project management software, which is updated constantly. Clients have 24/7 access to that platform – all they have to do is log in, and they can see everything that’s happening on their project in real time.
When it comes to quality, meanwhile, the company is dependable because they are equipped with the right experience and knowledge. Not only are Barry and Lisa highly experienced, but so are their team of highly skilled trade partners and professionals. They all hold equally high standards and are all committed to delivering high quality results. “We work closely with our trade partners and develop long-lasting relationships,” Lisa says. “Most of those relationships go back beyond even the years we’ve been in business.”
“The people we work with are the key to everything we do,” she adds. “The quality we provide is thanks to them. There’s no way we could do it alone. It’s the people who work with us that make the quality possible.”
Through their professional conduct, those people also do their part in making sure the client’s experience is positive. “They know what we expect on site, and that’s what they do,” Lisa says. “There’s no swearing, there’s no smoking, there’s no loud music – there’s respect for the client’s home.”
Dependable Renovations’ commitment to quality and service has not gone unnoticed or un- recognized by the industry. Their HomeStars and Houzz profiles, for example, are full of overwhelmingly positive reviews and ratings. Houzz has awarded them ‘Best of Houzz’ for service three years in a row, which means they have been consistently rated at the highest level for client satisfaction on the website.
Those ratings are reflected in the company’s history of repeat business and referrals. Before the company joined those two sites, they generated literally all of their work from past clients. Some clients they have worked with on up to five phases of their house over the years, and many recent clients have pledged to work with them again in the future.
Then there are industry bodies such as BILD (Building Industry & Land Development Association) and the CHBA (Canadian Home Builders’ Association) – they have also taken notice of what Dependable Renovations is doing. Over the last few years, the company has won numerous awards and received national recognition for their work.
In 2018 Dependable Renovations won two Calgary BILD Awards for ‘Best Home Renovation (with Addition),’ and ‘Best Kitchen over $70,000’ for their ‘Warm & Tranquil’ whole home renovation. They were also awarded ‘Best Kitchen’ at the Alberta BILD Awards, and the 2019 CHBA National Awards recognized them for ‘Best Kitchen’ across Canada. “Warm & Tranquil resonates with people,” says Lisa. “It’s the transformation of a dated home into a modern oasis. People can relate that to their own house and see themselves in it”.
The client on that project first approached Lisa and Barry at an open house they were hosting at a full home renovation they had recently completed in their area. “They walked into this project,
liked what they saw, and started talking to us about their own home,” Lisa recalls. “They wanted to do a full-on main floor reconfiguration, and a renovation in their basement and upper floors as well.”
The client’s existing home was built in the 1970’s and has never been renovated. It had dropped floors, sunken living rooms, and a “compartmentalized mainfloor,” including a tiny kitchen,a dining room that was never used, and both a front and back living room.“It was all really separated,” Lisa says. “You couldn’t be in one room and talk to someone in another room, because there were walls all around.”
“They wanted to open it up,” she explains. “They wanted to host large family gatherings, they wanted to entertain, and they wanted a really big func tional kitchen that would bring the entire main floor together.”
To achieve that, Dependable Renovations removed three load-bearing walls and replaced them with large engineered steel ceiling beams – which they then clad in walnut, keeping with the client’s goal to have a “really warm, really peaceful space.” They similarly carried walnut through in the custom cabinetry and barn doors, stained the ceilings to match, and replaced the flooring with natural pecan wood.
The combination of contemporary custom finishes, hidden lighting and an abundance of wood elements resulted in a home that is ultra-modern yet feels peaceful and natural. The name ‘Warm & Tranquil’ describes it perfectly.
“The whole thing really came together,” Lisa says. “The client got everything they wanted, and they were thrilled with the end result. They’ve been awesome.” Dependable Renovations has also been chosen as award finalist for numerous other projects; in 2018/2019 their ‘Fish Creek Retreat’ project was nominated for BILD and CHBA Awards for ‘Best Home with Addition’, ‘Renovators Choice’, ‘Outdoor Living’ and ‘Whole House Renovation – over $1Million.’
The Fish Creek Retreat is the company’s largest project to date. They had worked on the same property roughly a year before, reconfiguring the main floor. The clients called them back for Phase 2, and this time around they did additions both above and below grade and added a year-round pool to the backyard. The most significant element of the job was the 1,600-square- foot addition to the second floor, mostly comprising of bedrooms and bathrooms for the family of 7.
“That addition is roughly the size of a starter home,” Lisa says. “That’s larger than the home I know I started out in. So it was a pretty big deal to add that to a second floor.” Dependable Renovations appreciate all the recognition and industry awards those projects have garnered, but Lisa says the client reaction is what truly drives their company.
“It’s a huge honour, it feels good to win an award,” she says. “But it’s not why we do what we do. That would be our clients. They’re who we work for. If they’re happy at the end of the day, that’s what matters.”
Lisa says the company will always keep that in mind, even as they continue to grow – and she sees the company doubling in size over the next few years.
“Our focus will always be on people,” she says. “We’re on a growth trend, but we never want to get so big that we lose sight of what we believe in. We don’t ever want to have so many people on the ground that we lose track of what’s going on.”
In other words, the company will always be Dependable.