5 Things You Need to Know Before Starting a Home Reno

The HGTV home reno craze has many of us leaning over to our spouses after an episode has finished and saying “I want to do something like that with our place!”.

That’s all well and good, but how do you get from Point A to Point B – from dream to reality?

Renovating/remodelling your home is an exciting adventure where you get to express yourself both creatively and stylistically. But, home renos can quickly go off the rails (as we’re sure you’ve seen on those HGTV shows right before they cut to commercial!)

That said, there are a whole host of considerations to be made even before the first hammer is swung If you want to make sure your reno project turns out well.

Here are the most important things you need to know:

1.  What You Actually Want

Want a new kitchen? A new master bathroom? Great! But what does that actually mean?

Start by considering whether you’re looking for a cosmetic change (i.e. fresh paint, new countertops, backsplash etc.) or structural (i.e. taking down walls, reconfiguring room layouts, moving plumbing etc.)

Spending time in the space before you start the reno will help you with this decision. Ask yourself this important question: Is it the layout that bugs you, or just how it looks? Spending time in the space before the reno will help you save time going back to the drawing board during a reno.

Next, surf the web (we LOVE Pinterest!), read home decorating magazines, and watch HGTV shows to narrow down what you like and don’t like, and get those design juices flowing. Be sure to include your spouse in these discussions to be sure you’re both on the same page!

Once you’ve decided where you want to go with the reno, head over to your local home improvement store to grab samples of everything you can, including paint, tile, flooring, carpet etc. As an example, it’s not enough to want a “green” room. Which shade of green specifically? Dark forest green or something lighter? Put a few samples up in the space side-by-side for a few days and see which you prefer at different times of day as the lighting changes. You might be surprised!

2.  Your Budget

Okay, so can you actually afford to do your dream reno?

Before you get too attached to your plans, take some time to crunch the numbers on your budget, which should factor in cost of materials, labour, and whether or not this is a DIY project or if you need to hire a contractor.

When setting your budget, make sure to factor in at least 10% for contingency, and even more for an older home – they have a tendency to hold secrets behind the walls! In all likelihood, you WILL go over budget. Unexpected things WILL come up and will probably cost more than you anticipated, so be prepared!

3.  Your Timeline

Just like your budget, in all likelihood, your reno is going to take longer than expected. Issues sourcing materials, weather, delays with contractors and installers, etc. can all set a project back by weeks or even months. It’s best to understand this going into the reno and not blow a fuse when it happens.

Be sure to plan the reno with ample flex time, especially if you have a target date in mind, like a child on the way, or a vacation.

The bottom line is that there will be things that come up during the course of a reno that are beyond your control, so it’s best to be prepared for some frustrations along the way, and be accommodating when minor delays occur.

4.  Who to Hire

If you aren’t going the DIY route (we suggest you don’t, especially when structural changes are involved), then it’s time to find yourself a contractor.

Depending on the size and scope of your reno, you may need even need to bring in a project manager, interior designers, structural engineers etc.

Start by asking family and friends for recommendations, particularly if the contractor has worked on your type of reno before.

Make some calls and begin interviewing multiple contractors. Be sure to vet their credentials, including proof of appropriate licenses, insurance certification, and other forms of identification.

Obtain estimates from each contractor and compare them. Be wary of any that come in well below or well above the others, or any that appear to show expenses for unnecessary or overly complicated work. Doing your homework at this stage will pay off in the end.

Yes, cost is important, but you’re going to be spending a lot of time with your contractor during the course of the reno, so you want to make sure it’s a good fit, both professionally and personally.

5.  What to Include in the Contract

It’s important to get an air-tight contract that explicitly states what the contractors roles and responsibilities are. The contract will protect you against fraud and ensure you’re getting what you paid for.

Specifically, the contract should include:

  • Payment schedule (never pay the full amount upfront!)
  • Timeline
  • Explicit details on installation, including sizing, amount of materials used, square footage calculations etc.

If you decide to pay cash, be sure to receive a detailed, signed receipt from the contractor.

Ensuring everything is in writing will provide you with a level of assurance and deter shady contractors from bidding on the job.