Monday, January 30, 2012

Where to start when you want to renovate your home

Where to start when you want to renovate your home
If you are thinking about renovating your home, you need to look into certain things before you go too far forward. Here are some of the things that you should look into;
·         Make a list of every part of the home that you want to change or update.
·         Prioritize the list, from the most important to the least important.
·         Group the different area’s that you want to renovate, for example; if you renovate the Ensuite bathroom you should probably renovate the master bedroom at the same time. This allows you to finish areas of the house allowing you to still live in the house.
·         Decide if your renovation is going to be large enough that you cannot live there while the work is going on. Do you have somewhere to go while the work is going on?  Can you afford to do that?
·         Make a budget of what you can afford to spend on the renovations.
·         Find out from your bank how much they will give you toward the renovation.
·         Look at the possible return on your investment. If you renovate your home so it is the nicest home on the street you’re probably not going to get as big a return from your renovation as if you only did enough to bring it up to the standards that are already existing in your neighbourhood.
·         Figure out what you realistically can accomplish on your own, if anything at all. When I say realistically look at what you can do, I mean like some demolition and painting. Things like plumbing, electrical and reframing should always be left to professionals.
Now that you have done this you have a view into what you are getting yourself into. This gives you a heading in the journey of your renovation. You know which way to go now, but you really don’t have a clue on how to get there.
The next thing you need to do is to find yourself a designer and a contractor to do the work. If you can find a contractor that has an "in house designer" that’s even better.  This always makes it easier for everyone involved in your renovation project, they are all under one roof and one simple phone call from you gets in touch with all of them. This will allow the designer and contractor to work as a team instead of two individuals.
When looking to find a contractor do your research. Check the internet, look at websites. Look in the local magazines, you can tell a lot about how people run their business by the way they run their marketing. Well ordered and stylized marketing usually means that the company is well run and organized. Meet with contractors, talk to them and get them to show you pictures of some of the work that they have done. You don’t want to end up with a contractor that isn’t able to give the finished product that you want. You want a contractor that has been there and done it, this will allow them to steer you away from any problems that they have run into in the past. Ask for references of clients that they have renovated for so that you can ask important questions, like how long did the job take, where they professional, did they come when they said they would? A good contractor should be able to present you with a list of references almost as soon as you ask for it. Renovators get asked for this all the time and if there not trying to hide anything then they usually will have no problem turning over some contact information that pertains to their clients.
When getting a budget or pricing on a renovation it is better to only deal with one contractor. Renovating is not like when you are building a new home, you do not want to go out and get multiple bidders for a renovation project. The reason for this is because in a renovation there is so much left to guess work on the side of the contractor. The contractor makes a lot of assumptions of what they think you will want in flooring and fixtures. If you get multiple bids you really won’t know what you are getting in the budget because each contractors allowance will be different. It is better to find a contractor that you can trust, work with and have an accurate budget. Then the two of you can work on the actual finishing’s to help fine tune your budget. This will give you exactly what you want for what you expect to pay.
Renovating your home is a very stressful experience for most people, especially if you our having to live in the house as the work is proceeding.  This makes it even more important that you pick the right contractor that can give you what you want in the time frame that you desire.
Once you have settled on a contractor, you should work out the final touches of your budget and design. The budget will change as the design does, so you want to have most of your choices made before the project even starts if you want to stay close to your budget.
A good contractor will have you sign a contract. This will protect them and you in the future. If the work has already been defined then you can have the contractor give you a fixed price contract. If the renovations are going to be extensive with a lot of unforeseen changes and extra’s then it might be easier for both of you to go with a management contract. This allows the contractor to do the work that needs to be done without getting you to approve everything they do, this will help speed the project along and free you up to make more important choices.  
Your designer and contractor need to work together to come up with as accurate drawings as possible. This will require planning to fit what you want in the space provided.
Be prepared to be flexible with any drawings that you approve. Once demolition begins and the drywall starts coming off the walls you might find obstacles that restrict certain things that you wanted to do. For Example; Plumbing drains need a certain amount of room and can only placed where they fit. A toilet drain has to be placed in an exact spot so that it fits between your floor joists and is a certain distance off the wall. This can push your toilet over 6 to 8 inches sometimes, which could affect things like your vanity or shower enclosure.
Once you have your drawings you or your contractor need to look into any permits that you will need depending on how expansive the renovation will end up. Sometimes if the renovation is not that large then you can skip the permit and go without it. A simple bathroom renovation a lot of time can go permit less. Any kind of major renovation should have a permit, especially if you are altering any load bearing walls.
In some area’s if you are doing a major renovation the building department can make you upgrade certain parts of the rest of the house before they will pass your inspections. This can blow your budget if you are not prepared for it. Having a meeting between your contractor and the building inspector before you start the project can make sure that the inspector is not going to add any additional work that might not be in your budget.
Before your contractor starts demolition you should have a site meeting and go over the following points;
·         Where you are going to move anything that you are worried will be damaged out of the area that the renovation will be happening. If you need help moving these items this is the time to give direction to the contractor on what they can move for you and where you want it placed.
·         How the house will be protected from dust and debris, this is relevant if you are only renovating certain parts of the house.
·         Schedule of trades. If you are going to live in the house while the renovation is ongoing then you need to know what days trades are going to show up and at what time.
·         Decide on where dumpsters or garbage trailers can be placed, so that it wouldn’t be in the way, but will still be close enough not to add additional cost.
·         If there are certain plants and or trees on the outside of the building that you want protected or covered this is the time to talk about it.
·         Discuss if there is enough room in the house to leave the furniture in it. If there isn’t you may need the contractor to order you an onsite storage unit. This can be dropped in your driveway.
·         When you are renovating it’s a great time to de-clutter. Give the contractor a list of what they can throw away since they have the large garbage bins onsite.
Once your contractor has started demolition all you need to do is make sure that you stay in an area that you can be contacted. With renovations there are always things that your contractor will want to talk to you about. If you are renovating a second home then make a regular meeting time with your contractor like Friday at 4pm every week. This will allow you to ask the contractor questions about the progress of your renovation, this also allows the contractor to ask the endless questions that they will have. Renovations are a custom project, so the whole renovation is customized to the homeowner’s tastes and budget. No matter how many decisions you make before the project starts you will be asked an endless stream of questions as things come up. The more questions your contractor asks you, the more the contractor is able to give you exactly what you want.
Another great reason for regular meetings is to settle your bill. Your contractor will be able to present you with your bill and receive payment on a regular schedule; this will help relieve a lot of stress that can build up between contractor and client.
Even though drawings can be emailed or faxed back and forth it is always a good idea to bring out the drawings and go over them at this weekly meeting making everyone aware of what the expectations are for the project.
Once the contractor has finished the renovations and proceeded with the clean up the home owner should do a walk through with the contractor. This is a great way for the two of them to come to an agreement that the project has been completed in the way that was agreed upon. Any outstanding issues can be recorded and changed or repaired in a timely manner. This is also were you (as a homeowner) make your final payment to your contractor. If you can’t find anything wrong then there isn’t any reason for you to keep any money held back. If you’re worried about warranty you shouldn’t, if you did your research and picked the right contractor then the contractor will honour any work that will need to be warranted in the future. Remember the list of references that the contractor gave you at your request before you hired them? This is one of the main reasons that you can trust in their warranty, they want to be able to add you to that list. A successful company tries to create clients that will tell everyone about the wonderful experience they had when working with them.
One of the main things you should be doing during any renovation is talking to your spouse. Renovations are extremely hard on relationships, especially if you are living in the same house as the renovation. You need to talk to your spouse about the choices and decisions that you will be required to make. You should make sure that you always involve the other person in the decision making. There are even books that you can read to help your relationship survive your renovation.
If you are thinking about renovating and have some questions or you are looking for a quote on an upcoming renovation feel free to email me at or visit our website at

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

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