Ten Things To Do Before You Start a Renovation

Having worked on dozens of renovations with clients over the last 20 years, I can share with you these ten tips that should help you avoid the pitfalls and bring your renovation to completion on time and on budget. The key components of any renovation project are to have a sense of humour, a lot of patience, and to keep on top of changes and forgotten items especially as the project comes to a close. [Here are some additional tips about hiring the right people for your renovation]

Let’s dive in.

Step 1 – Hire the right people well in advance.

If you hire the right team and build a healthy budget, the rest should be all good news. Start with your Interior Decorator/Designer. Then choose a contractor or carpenter depending on the scope of the project.  If you decide to go with a carpenter, you may also need a plumber, electrician, painter, flooring supplier, tile installer, and countertop company. If you choose a general contractor, they will come with all of those subtrades saving you time and loads of stress.

Step 2 – Plan, plan, plan.

One major challenge with any renovation is the disruption in your life for weeks or months depending on the scope of the project. This is where detailed planning prior to starting and being organized can make your next renovation more bearable.  The more time you spend planning, the less time your renovation should take. The less planning you do in advance, the more surprises you come across, the longer it takes, the more it costs and the more stress you are going to incur.  None of those things are good.

Step 3 – Build a detailed budget.

You can alleviate financial stress by setting up a detailed budget spreadsheet. Be sure to include an allowance for “extras”. Also ask your contractor to allow for “worst case scenario”.  I know that everyone preaches the importance of the extras line but I’m not sure most people make it a big enough number. I normally add 10 to 20 percent. The contractor doesn’t usually provide a dollar figure for “extras” so keep in mind that creating a spreadsheet and tracking these items yourself can be a huge benefit.  In addition, please make sure that your contractor details allowances for tile, fixtures, flooring, etc so you know if you are choosing something that will put you over budget.  On most of my projects, I ask them to leave out the lighting and fixtures and I budget for those with the client.  That way, when we pick something more expensive, we know exactly how far over we are.

Step 4 – Take the time to reimagine your space.

Imagine your space with walls or sections of wall gone. Your goal is to design the space for the way you use it. Consider traffic flow and of course, storage needs. Be sure to have an engineer take a look before you take anything down to make sure your home still has proper structural support.

Step 5 – Make all choices in advance.

Choose absolutely everything well in advance. Make sure it is all ordered and have all fixtures, finishes, etc. on-site or in transit before you start the actual renovation.

Step 6 – Declutter and organize your home.

I’m not talking about the months of design work and choosing finishes, I’m talking about the months of sorting and purging. Going through this exercise will ensure that you arrive at a design that ensures absolutely everything has the right home and you will be ready for the renovation when the time comes.

Step 7 – Review the timeline in detail.

Be sure to sit down with your contractor before any hammers start swinging to review the project timeline.  You may be able to plan a nice trip for a week or two in the middle of the renovation to help you maintain your sanity if you plan to live in your house during that time.  The contractor should be able to adjust his start time to work around your schedule.

Step 8 – Expect things to go wrong.

As you can imagine I’m a pretty darn organized person which is why clients hire me to not only design their spaces but to oversee the construction and renovation.  However, I’ve discovered that although it really helps to be super organized for you also have to expect the unexpected. I guarantee something will go wrong.

Step 9 – Be persistent.

The most frustrating part of any renovation seems to be the last few weeks while you are waiting for design details like countertops, delayed fixtures, trim pieces that were missed, and more items that the contractor refers to as the “punch list”.  That list gets added to and deleted from and seems like it will never end. Now I know why they call it that.  You might feel like punching somebody as the weeks drag on.  Most of this doesn’t have anything to do with a lack of planning or organization, it’s mostly a result of things that get changed and mistakes that happen along the way. The sign of a great contractor is one who keeps in touch with both their client and the clients designer/project manager during the final weeks and ensures that every single item on that punch list is dealt with as quickly as possible.

Step 10 – This too will end.

A few weeks after all those people finally leave you alone and your project is complete, all the stress and inconvenience will be forgotten, and you will be enjoying your beautiful new space for years to come.  For almost every single client I work with whether it’s an organizing project, a renovation, or helping them move to a new residence, I have to remind them to hold tightly onto the vision. That’s what gets you through when the going gets tough.

Do you have questions about what you need to do before you start a renovation.? Please leave your comment or question below and I’ll do my best to provide advice.  If you would like to get organized before you start your renovation, [contact me today]


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