Learning how to renovate

By Francie Healy

Renovating can be fun, but it’s also a very big step. There are so many things to know. And they’re things you need to know before you even begin.

Here are some of them:

Budget. Figure that out as carefully and as accurately as you can. Once construction starts, you’re in for the long haul, and you’ll need to be financially ready.

Design. You need great design, and a great designer. It doesn’t matter if your designer is an architect, a technologist, an interior designer, or a design/build company. It must be someone who has expertise, imagination, and lots of experience.

Permits. You need to know what they are and how to get them, or hire a renovator or designer who will do that for you.

Cost overruns. What are they? What do they mean? How are they calculated? What do they really include? Find out, and don’t sign anything until you have that well understood. Once the job is underway your renovator should identify expected cost overruns (cost and rationale) and seek your approval of increased costs before they are incurred.

Hire a pro. Don’t waste your time or your money on hiring an amateur. There are legalities and protections to consider. This is your home. Don’t mess around. Get references. Get everything in writing.

Understand the lingo. What does “hardwood floor” actually mean? Maple? Oak? Pine? Stained? Natural? Glossy? Matte? Length? Finish? etc.

Know what lies beneath. Understand what designated substances mean and your obligations in regard to them. Let your professional renovator guide you through this.

Insurance. Know what insurances your renovator carries, and ask for proof. Also find out their safety policy, sub-trade insurance and WSIB clearance certificates.

By the end of your first renovation, you’ll be surprised how much you know. But it’s all valuable knowledge, and in the end it will save you from needless stress or crisis.

Francie Healy is Ottawa Renovate’s editor. This story was originally posted in the GOHBA Renovators Council RenoMark blog.