Consider your renovation process

Spring! What a wonderful time of year, especially after the winter we have had! What a wonderful time to start thinking about and planning for a successful renovation, an addition – even a custom home.

One very good way to do this is through the design-build concept.

What is design-build? What are the advantages?

Over the years I have enjoyed the role of designer-only and the role of builder-only. ButI came to realize there was often a dis-connect between the two. Who truly understands the total project? Architects and designers are awesome; yet do they understand all the intricacies of construction? Renovators are awesome;but do they have the ability to design?

What my experience has taught me is that integrating design and construction is the most efficient way to do things, and thus provides the best value. With a design-build concept, everyone – you, architects/designers, sub-consultants, trade partners and constructors are on the same team sharing the same goals.

Many home ownerstypically have references from friends or colleagues. You might search the web, or you might have seen some sort of advertising; yet who do you call?Architect? Designer? Builder? What questions do you ask? How do you know your dreams are affordable? Do you want to go through the entire design process to find your project is not affordable? Wouldn’t it be nice to know from the first phone call? Who can truly answer these questions? Who is truly working on your behalf?

Traditionally the process is to have a design done. The design meets your needs, meets your dreams; then the next step is to get some estimates, often three or four. Yet how can you get comparable, apples-to-apples, estimates?

According to Wikipedia there are thousands of different varieties of apples. The same analogy applies to bidding. It is literally impossible to compare apples to apples.

For instance, if you’re thinking about hardwood floor,will it be stained? How wide will the boards be? Will it be oak? Maple? Bamboo?Multiply this by hundreds of choices to be made.

Design-buildfirms act on your behalf.Theinitial phase is to insure the project is feasible through design.

The second phase is to select all the finishes such as flooring, cabinetry fixtures, interior/exterior finishes. (How can anyone guarantee a completion date if selections are not made in advance?)

When you’re interviewing design-build firms, ask them if they will include a site analysis with all relevant trade partners to ensure the assumptions made during the design phase are accurate. For instance, what if the electrician discovers that the electrical panel needs upgrading? Naturally, it’s important to find out before construction starts.

The third phase is the actual construction: On time. On budget!

It’s important to make sure the firm you select meets your needs. For good reason, there are more and more companies promoting the design-build concept. But take your time to find the right approach that is the right fit for you and your project. Is a company that specializes in kitchens the one to design and build your addition? Don’t rush for the sake of rushing.


Herb Lagois is the owner of Lagois Design−Build−Renovate, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. If you have any topics you’d like Herb to address in this column, please send an email to Herb, or to Ottawa Renovates editor Francie Healy,