With housing prices falling and mortgage rates on the rise, more and more people in BC are
investing in renovations. It’s a great time to get in on what’s being called the ‘renovation
boom’. Many builders are starting to think about how to start a renovation business.
We turned to a true expert on this subject. Robert Capar is President of the award-winning
maison d’etre design-build company, past President of CHBA BC, and current Chair of the
Renovation Council. We asked him for his insights on running a successful renovation business
for over two decades, the benefit of being a certified builder and renovator, and how to
continue learning as you go.
In this exclusive Q&A with CHBA BC, Robert also shared advice for those just starting out in the
industry – and those ready to take their business to the next level.
From Handyman to Certified Renovator and Business Owner
Q: What was your pathway to becoming a renovator?
A: My pathway to becoming a renovator was not a straight line. I have a university degree in
commerce and my hope was always to run a company but I graduated during a recession in
1981, and I spent a year unemployed. During that time, I found that I could make money being
I had learned a lot of home renovation skills because my uncle was a builder and my other
uncle taught the construction program at the community college. My dad had worked for them
for a while too. I was young, looking for work here in BC, and quickly learned I could make
money helping people get stuff done like paint a bathroom or put up light fixtures.
Q: What was the catalyst to move from small jobs to starting your own business?
A: I ended up buying a big old house and I had to renovate it. My friend and I bought it and
worked on it together. Once people saw that I could renovate this big house, they started
calling me to do bigger jobs for them. After a couple years of being on contract for someone
else and taking on my own side jobs, I decided to try and do it full-time.
Q: That’s when you started your company, maison d’etre, in 1996?
A: Yes, 26 years ago and I’m still here!
Q: What have been some keys to success for you over the last two decades?
A: I’ve always looked at running my own business as having two parts: first, is running the
company and second, is being involved with the home builders’ association and having the
opportunities to be on committees, continue learning and taking on leadership roles, which
allowed me to use other skills I had acquired along the way that I wasn’t necessarily using to
run my renovation business.
The Benefits of Online Construction Courses for CPD
Q: You are a Registered Housing Professional and Registered Renovation Professional and you
instruct the Home Renovation Planning course at Langara College. What have you found to be
the biggest benefits to being certified?
A: It was during my tenure as President of CHBA BC that we got the certification program in
place, which sets you up for how to become a builder in BC. It was the first in Canada and still is
the only one in the country. I’m proud of that.
When I first started out, there weren’t a lot of rules and regulations but over the years there
has been more municipal and provincial oversight of the industry and I quickly realized that I
had a lot to learn to comply and keep my business running.
Q: Why would you recommend renovators do the CHBA BC online construction courses?
A: Getting certified and having access to courses to keep my knowledge and skills up-to-date
has been invaluable for myself and my business. You learn from the instructors, but you also
network with other business owners and learn from other people’s experiences.
Q: Did you find the ability to do e-learning helpful with your work schedule?
A: Definitely. Especially over the last two years, people are communicating more using zoom
and video calls, so doing online construction courses isn’t as strange. It also fits well into any
schedule, so you can listen over your lunch or after kids are in bed and you don't have to
physically be in a classroom as much. I still do think there’s value to in-person learning
sometimes, but e-learning is a great flexible option.
Q: What ties do you see between what you learned and the day-to-day running of your
A: The training you receive from the association isn’t going to teach you how to use a tool, it
will teach you good business practices. How to manage the business side and I really thought
that was so important and it’s why I got so involved.
If we are all smarter business operators, we will all benefit from a stronger, smarter industry –
and I use what I’ve learned about accounting, contracts, cash flow and much, much more over
the years every single day.
Q: For new renovation business owners, or those considering starting a renovation company,
what advice would you give them to find success?
A: So many people start in this business by fixing something and slowly it builds, you get
employees and monthly expenses. That’s a stage when most renovators fail the most, making
the transition from a renovator in a truck to a legitimate business with staff and many projects
on the go.
You need to be really good with actual tools to do this business, but you also have to
understand the ‘tools’ you need to run your business and the resources you have at your
fingertips to keep learning and keep growing. That’s how you run a successful renovation
Builders and renovators who complete certification programs earn unique designations that
strengthen their reputation. Learn more about becoming a Certified Renovation Professional, a
Certified Renovation Company, or continuing your professional development with online