The family that renovates together

The Last Word by Herb Lagois

“No! Don’t do it…maybe?”

This was our daughter’s answer about the idea of renovating for family members.

We were really blessed to be together with our three children and their significant others this past winter. Our daughter Nathalie, and her husband, David, wanted to talk about a basement renovation.

It was a lightbulb moment for me. As a dad but also as a designer and RenoMark™ renovator, what advice could I give them? How could I help?

Nathalie and David are both working professionals, and they’re really busy. The dad in me asked how they would even have time to deal with a basement renovation.

To make it more complicated, they live in Alberta and we live in Ontario. But I knew I could help design, help guide their choices, help them with trade selection and implementation.

Setting aside the challenge of creating as-built drawings, we agreed on a design that solved their needs. (For architects/designers, it’s about understanding what the needs are and the reasons for needing a renovation ‒ in this case a basement.)

I decided to approach this as I would for any client. I’ll share some considerations with you.

Tip: Does your Architect/Designer understand your needs? Are they listening?

Nathalie’s and David’s budget was not realistic. Although it was a difficult conversation (especially from a “Dad” perspective), it was critical to define a workable budget.

Tip: Define an investment amount that makes sense for you and your family’s overall budget.

  • BEFORE going through an entire design process, or worse, finding out part way through the build that the budget is blown, have a RenoMark™ renovator help you to define a budget.

How could we implement Nathalie’s and David’s design? They are really busy. We are more than 3,000 km apart.

Tip: Plan, plan, plan for the success of the construction. Does your renovator have a process that does that?

From my point of view, the problem with a different province was that I am not familiar with building code requirements, suppliers, products, or the timing of things.

Tip: Does your renovator have experience with your type of project?

We did devise a strategy where Nathalie and David would do some homework, and so would I. (I took on a lead role guiding the process).

Tip: too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the broth.

Everything from plumbing fixtures to flooring to lighting ‒ the selections up front ‒ are key to planning. With selections made, we can make sure they fit aesthetically; we can specify to trades what is required (scope of work); we can make sure we can get what is needed WHEN it is needed (did I mention our next family get together is at Nathalie and David’s this Christmas?); and equally important, we know exactly what things cost before work starts.

Tip: Understand what you are getting. Imagine ripping out your beautiful new cabinetry because the new fridge does not fit.

Dealing long distance with trades presented challenges. Luckily Nathalie has a network of patients who have provided referrals. With my experience, we are able to decide who is the best fit. To me, cost is a factor ‒ though not a deciding factor: do they have experience? (In this case, do they have experience with residential basement renovations?) Do they have proof of insurance? Do they know how long the work will take? Will they commit to the timing? What is their process? Can they tell me who takes care of what? Warning: if they tell you they work for cash only, RUN!

Tip: When interviewing renovators, does their process make sense for you and your family? Some people might be fine applying for their own permit. Are you?

I have decided to take an active role in the construction. It’s daunting thinking about working with renovators and tradespeople I have never met; yet, because of my experience, I am confident we planned realistically for the success of their renovation.

Tip: Get everything in writing! Ask questions if you’re not sure! Listen to your instinct!

On Cape Cod a few years ago, we successfully remodelled a kitchen for our son and daughter-in-law, Andrew and Courtney.

Now we are starting to talk about Daniel and Christina’s kitchen remodel.

The family response? Yes! Do it!

Tip: Family ‒ priceless.

Herb Lagois is the owner of Lagois Design-Build-Renovate.