When the dust finally settles, there's going to be at least one little thing you
wish you had thought of before the renovations started. Take advantage of the benefits of hindsight to get the results you really want.
Every morning, I find myself mopping up a little pool of water in the corner of my bathtub. It’s an ongoing reminder to me that a soaker tub isn't compatible with a built-in shower stall. If only I'd known about this bathroom mop-up issue before choosing a tub-and-shower system.
Planning any renovation is an overwhelming task, and everyone -- even a seasoned pro -- is apt to make a mistake now and then. To help minimize your makeover mishaps, we talked to designers and contractors about blunders they’ve seen clients commit or have been guilty of themselves. Here’s their “If I knew then…” list to help make your own renovations as problem-free as possible.
"I wish I hadn’t selected my colours in the store." "Don’t buy anything under the fluorescent lights in a store," says Carol Garrow of Garrow Interiors in Port Elgin, Ont. Lighting can change the way colours appear, and you may get a totally different look than what you were going for. Take paint samples home and ask retailers for fabric swatches. Garrow also suggests borrowing a colour wheel from the library to help you choose a palette.
"If only I’d placed my orders sooner." It can take up to three months to get the stone tiles you ordered for your kitchen floor. Custom cabinets? Expect to wait at least 10 weeks. "While You Were Out doesn’t happen in reality," says Samantha Farjo, a Toronto-based designer. Waiting for items to arrive can turn a three-month renovation into a six month undertaking. To keep delays at a minimum, place orders two to three months before work is set to start.
"I wish we had talked more about our individual tastes." Before you start any renovation, go through magazines and catalogues to find at least five items you and your partner can agree are beautiful. It sparks a great conversation and will ensure you’re both happy with the design direction of the project. “Just saying you both like traditional isn’t enough," says designer Céline Pitre of Céline Interiors in Vancouver. "Traditional can mean very different things to different people."
"If only I'd been more specific about how I wanted my wall-to-wall carpet laid." Before it’s done, discuss where you would like the seams to be. “I’ve made the mistake of assuming installers would think like me,” says Toronto designer Jennifer Worts. But "they [often run] the seam through the centre of the room instead of where it would have been covered by a cabinet." It happens that seams in high-traffic areas will flatten and wear with time. It’s equally important to be specific when laying tiles. "Don’t assume tradespeople will lay tiles lengthwise," says Farjo. Have your tile installer do a mock layout on the floor so you can agree on their direction and where partial tiles will lie. You want to be just as specific about grout. "Ask your contractor to show you the colour of the grout, as well as the distance between the tiles, so you can visualize what one-eighth or one-16th of an inch looks like," she says.
"I wish I’d taken a 'green' approach." Sure you want your home to be environmentally friendly, but ‘green’ living requires early planning. LED lights are more efficient than compact fluorescents and could produce a warmer light, but you must discuss different installation needs with your electrician prior to starting any wiring. “If you want to go ‘green,’ you need to talk about it before construction begins,” says Robin Fraser of Fraser Designs + Associates in Toronto. For example, paint that’s low in, or free of, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) may need to be ordered weeks beforehand. You also want to consider whether certain eco-smart products are right for you. For example, Fraser points out that our short summers
-- with only a few unbearably hot days -- might not warrant the cost of installing a green cooling system for the entire house. It may be better to cool just a single room or floor.
"I wish I'd gotten a signed change order." What you think is a small change could be more costly than expected. "A simple decision like choosing tile A over tile B can make a job go three weeks over schedule because the new style isn't available," says project manager Scott Rogers of SRPM Inc. in Toronto. Speak with your contractor or designer about the
ramifications of all changes, regardless of how minor they seem, and have any effects on cost or time put in writing. "If only my custom furniture had detachable pieces." You’ve noted height and width, taking into account narrow doorways and halls, as well as the height of ceilings and elevators, but mistakes still happen when measuring for custom furniture. "Make sure some portion is removable," says Timothy Mather of TM Design in Toronto. Sofas are the worst to manoeuvre, so ask for detachable legs, back or arms. And custom bookcases should come in separate pieces too. If you move, you’ll be grateful for those detachable parts, as they’ll help lighten the load and increase the likelihood of your furniture fitting through a smaller hallway.
"If only I’d learned the right way to conceal my drywall seams and screw holes." Your first coat of joint compound should be a powdered 90-minute setting compound such as Sheetrock 90 by CGC, which will dry like concrete. "You need something hard to set the wall and prevent cracks
due to shrinkage," says Bryan Baeumler, host of Disaster DIY. Next, use one or two coats of an all-purpose mud, mixed with water for ease of spreading and to prevent air bubbles. Keep the coats thin to minimize sanding in between. "People use way too much mud and have to sand forever," says Baeumler. "I wish I'd thought about wall hangings before we built the wall.” "Decide where you’re going to hang things like towel bars and cabinets before you put up drywall," says Jim Caruk, host of Real Renos. To securely mount the items, you need a backing, like a piece of plywood, to drill screws into. Without a backing, you’ll need to use wall plugs, which still tend to come out over time.
"If only I hadn’t let my contractor choose the baseboard trim." Hire a finishing carpenter to do the baseboard trim; the attention to detail will pay off. If you don’t speak up about what you want, you’ll get a basic quarter-round, which looks too makeshift. Use a shoe mould at the bottom of the baseboard for added width and dramatic impact.