As most people know, without a plan, the simplest of jobs can get very messy, very quickly. The old adage, “fail to plan; plan to fail” has lost none of its wisdom despite the ravages of time, and has never been more true than when it comes to your home renovation.
Planning is by no means easy, and generating detailed plans for complicated projects can be lengthy, and at times confusing.
The following guidelines cover the basics to ensure your renovation project goes as smoothly as possible:
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Prioritize – a new kitchen or basement might be what your heart desires, but take a good look around and search deep in your soul. Are there more pressing renovations your home requires which if not tended to may lead to structural damage? As well as asking professional renovators for advice, hiring an independent home inspector can be a good way to assess what is urgently required in your home, as well as understanding if the renovation you want is actually possible. Make sure you check qualifications, references and proof of errors and omission insurance, and get a written report. You can then discuss the results with your contractor at a later stage.
Know what you want and why you want it – is it as simple as a fresh coat of paint, or is it a more complicated job? Is it resale value you’re interested in (in which case, kitchen and bathroom renovations are the most profitable) or does that not come into the equation? Do you want more living area for your expanding family, a better space to entertain, or a more functional space? Is it luxury you’re after? Make some sketches, rough out some floor plans. A 3D model is a great way to visualize the final product.
Do you need a building permit? – not doing proper research in this area can lead to much anguish later down the line. In Ottawa, and in most cities in general, there are strict requirements. Do your homework and find out exactly what’s needed. Depending on the project, this can include the generation of detailed drawings, scheduling inspections and application submission, and can take several weeks to complete. Your renovation contractor can often help get you through this sometimes tricky stage.
Develop a budget – if money was no object, life would be easy (or at least easier). Think hard about how much you are willing to spend and where that money is coming from. Shop around and look out for sales at your local hardware store. Are there parts of the project that you can do yourself? Give yourself some cushion room as well – you may wish to change things during the renovation that are more expensive and that you hadn’t initially thought of.
Know when you want it done – having guests this summer? Probably not a good time to have the guest bedroom overhauled, unless they like to camp. Prefer to pay at least partly in cash? Start a savings plan and stick with it for a year – plan the renovation for when you have a comfortable amount tucked away.
Choose a contractor – if there are some parts of the job which are too complicated or time consuming for you, a reliable, flexible contractor is a must. The key to choosing a contractor is trust: do you feel that you can work with these people, and have them in your home on a daily basis? Do they have the skills to do the job as you want it and when you want it? They might be able to talk the talk, but can they walk the walk? Check references, have a few meetings, ask lots of questions. Get several quotes to help make your decision, but don’t simply go with the cheapest if you’re not comfortable with the contractor – it’ll end up costing much more in the long run. Once you have decided on who to go with, a written contract is essential so that both parties know what’s expected of each other. It will solidify the relationship between you and your contractor, and give you peace of mind going into the project. Do not start working with a contractor without a contract – you are only asking for trouble.
Develop an understanding – if you’re going with a contractor, do some research online. Talk to people who have had similar work performed on their home; buy a DIY book – you might even find you decide to do the work yourself. A little knowledge is a powerful thing, and it gives you control of the situation.
Be prepared – make space and cover up. Move junk out of the basement for a basement renovation and hire storage if need be; keep pets well out of the way, and better still out of the house completely. You could even try to do the same with the kids and yourself if possible. Living with an on-going renovation can be dirty and very dusty. Ensure your personal possessions are protected if they are still in the house. Also, utilities may have to be shut down at certain stages of the project, so know when this might happen and plan accordingly.
Be flexible – the best laid plans of mice and men (and home-owners who are renovating) often go awry. Somewhere along the line changes to the plan will be required, for a variety of reasons, and the more flexible you are, the easier it will be to handle those changes and make the right decision.
Communicate – open lines of communication with your contractor are the key to a successful renovation. Don’t let things fester – if you’re not happy with something, let the boss know. If you want something done a different way, better to say now than to wait a few days when undoing the work might be much more expensive.
Take your time, follow these basic guidelines, and do your research, and you will avoid many of the common pitfalls that beset homeowners who plough unprepared into their home renovation. Don’t plan to fail.