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 things to do before you start a renovation that should help you avoid the pitfalls and bring your project to completion on time and within your 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 ends. Let’s dive in.

beautiful bathroom representing things to do before you start a renovation

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 choose a carpenter, you may also need a plumber, electrician, painter, flooring supplier, tile installer, and countertop company. If you choose a general contractor, they hire all those sub-trades, saving you time and loads of stress. Here are some additional tips about hiring the right people for your renovation.

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 and organizing before starting 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 will endure. None of those things are good.

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 a “worst-case scenario.” 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 remember 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 budget we are.

4. Take the time to reimagine your space.

Imagine your space with walls or sections of walls 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 examine your home before you take anything down to ensure your home still has proper structural support.

5. Make all choices in advance.

Choose absolutely everything well in advance. Ensure you have ordered and have all fixtures, finishes, etc., on-site or in transit before starting the renovation. In a post-pandemic world, supply chain issues can cause delays in delivery and hence delays in your renovations.

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 before you start a renovation will ensure that you create a design to ensure absolutely everything has the right home. And you will be ready for the renovation when the time comes.

7. Review the timeline in detail.

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.

8. Expect things to go wrong.

As you can imagine, I’m a pretty darn organized person, so clients hire me to design their spaces and oversee the construction and renovation.  However, I’ve discovered that although it really helps to be super organized, you also have to expect the unexpected. I guarantee something will go wrong.

9. Be persistent.

The most frustrating part of any renovation seems to be the last few weeks while you wait for design details like countertops, delayed fixtures, trim pieces that were missed, and more items the contractor calls the “punch list.”  Items get added to and deleted from the punch list, and it 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 has nothing 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 client’s designer/project manager during the final weeks and ensures that every single item on that punch list is dealt with as quickly as possible.

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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