Jan 6, 2006

A home renovation home run

By: Claire Harvey of Option Consommateurs News

A home renovation home run Author: Style At Home

Jan 6, 2006

A home renovation home run

By: Claire Harvey of Option Consommateurs News

Proper planning is the key to a successful renovation project and will save you both time and money.

Know your home

What's the general condition of your home? Has it been renovated previously? How much did you pay for the house, and how much is left on the mortgage? Answering these questions will give you a preliminary idea of what can be done to your home.

Inspect the premises. Walk through every room. Cast a critical eye on all aspects of the house, not just the areas you want to renovate.

Think about what effect the renovation work will have on the basic systems of your house (such as heating, plumbing, electricity) and about what might cause problems, mainly in terms of compatibility.

Finally, if this is a major project, such as renovating the basement, kitchen or bathroom, take measurements of all the areas involved. Knowing how much space you have available will make it easier when it comes to selecting the elements to go into those renovated spaces.

Do your homework

After determining both the strong and weak points of your home, read up on renovations in books and magazines. (Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation has published scores of documents on the subject.)

Question building suppliers and talk to friends or neighbours who have done some home renovating.

It is also possible that your renovation project requires a very specific strategy, in which case you should consult a qualified inspector (contractor, technician, engineer or architect).

Shop to compare the various types of wallcoverings, flooring, doors and windows. Look not just at prices, but at quality and durability as well, so that you can make smart choices. For instance, you might decide to go with high-end durable flooring for the areas of the house that have the heaviest traffic.


Do a scale drawing of the rooms to be renovated, or get a professional to do it. While you're at it, ask the pro for advice on what can and cannot be changed in your house. Getting an expert opinion before the construction chaos starts may help to prevent costly mistakes down the road.

Make a list of the work to be done, in order of importance. For example, get the roof fixed before tackling the floors. At this stage, you should also be thinking long-term. After all, your needs will change over time. Eventually you might want to convert the basement into a granny flat or a rental apartment; having the plumbing installed now for that possibility will save you time and money later.

Estimate the cost of the project and then add on a “cushion.” Ask for project quotes from two or three reputable renovation contractors, architecture firms or building suppliers, explaining to them exactly what you want. Pick the most reasonable of the estimates and add on 10 to 15 per cent for unforeseen costs.

Financing and permits

If you haven't saved enough money to pay for the project, you'll have to borrow. There are a number of ways to finance renovation projects: credit cards, credit lines, personal loans, mortgage extensions.

Now you need to submit the plans for your renovation project to the urban planning department of your municipality to obtain the necessary permits and find out about local building codes.

During the renovation

Factor in the cost of a temporary move
If this is a major renovation or if you or a member of your family has asthma or other health issues, you may want to move out temporarily. Otherwise, at least make sure you can separate the construction zone from the rest of the house by hanging up painters' tarps or polyethylene sheeting. You'll be less exposed to the dust and noise, and you'll have privacy in the rooms where you are living.

Prepare the work site
Remove all furniture and personal items from the work site. Establish rules about the areas and facilities that workers can use (bathrooms, water, telephone, parking).

Monitor progress
It's essential to closely track the progress of the work. If you have a problem with anything, immediately discuss it with the contractor, who will likely have a good explanation. If he does not and does nothing to resolve the problem, send him a registered letter and send a copy to your lawyer.

Also note that it's possible you will want or need to make changes to the project along the way; for example, you might encounter a snag you hadn't thought of during the planning stages. Discuss this issue with the contractor and work with him to find a solution; your contract will have to be amended to include a detailed description of such a change and what it will cost.

After the renovation

Once the renovation is finished, make sure the work has been carried out in accordance with the contract. Then, before signing the completion certificate, make sure any non-compliant work has been fixed. Lastly, wait 45 days before remitting the final payment.

Worried that the renovation work won't be done correctly? Use the services of a qualified specialist. Independent from the contractor, this expert can check the contract before you sign it and can oversee the work itself.

How to find one: Contact the Association of Architectural Technologists of Ontario, Greater Toronto Chapter, 905-616-6617. Accredited members provide a variety of services within their areas of expertise (designers, project managers, inspectors, supervisors).

Claire Harvey is editor-in-chief of Option Consommateurs News Service. Our thanks to Jacques Lefebvre, technical officer with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
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A home renovation home run