Renovating? Get the details in writing

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Homeowners often ask me whether it is better to renovate their existing home or make the move to build a brand new home. My answer is, it is a personal decision that depends on a lot of factors.

My recommendation is to check out both and when you understand what is required, the costs, effort and time involved, then you can weigh the information and decide which is the best choice for your family.

To garner information on the possibility of renovating, the first step is to contact two or three qualified renovators to discuss your ideas, goals and possible options. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of hiring a Professional RenoMark renovator. The RenoMark designation, ensures that the renovator is a member of a home builders’ association and that they conduct business under a specific code of conduct and adhere to specific requirements. For more information visit

Below are tips on the steps in the renovation process. Next week there will be advice on the process of building a new home.

A renovation can be as simple as a bathroom overhaul or as complex as a major addition or a whole house makeover. Whether large or small, all renovations must be carefully planned so the end result is what you envision and desire.

To start, make your “need to have” and “want to have” lists. If multiple options have been priced or if scaling back the project is necessary, these lists will help you make an informed decision on prioritizing where to best spend your money.

The next step is to decide on a design concept, on which drawings can then be prepared. If you find it difficult to visualize a project from two dimensional plans, ask your renovator about three dimensional which would allow you to view the space from any angle; almost like a virtual walk-through.

At the end of the design phase you will have a set of plans that will allow you to obtain firm pricing for the project. Specifications for products and finishes will have been finalized at this point and will be part of the design documents. Your contractor will prepare a written Contract that will refer to the design plans and specifications and include additional information required such as payment terms, timelines, proof of insurance etc.

I can’t stress enough a caution to avoid the temptation of saving a few dollars by hiring a contractor who wants to work for cash and without a Contract. If you do so, there is a very high risk that work could be substandard or unsafe leaving you with significant financial and liability issues. Without a written contract, you are vulnerable without any recourse.

In some instances decisions on the final interior finishes might not be finalized at the time of Contract signing. Including realistic allowances in the Contract will give you more time to make these important choices and your renovation can get underway sooner.

Inevitably during the renovation process changes are made. At the time of construction many of these changes can be easily made at little or no cost. This is one reason it is important to keep an open dialogue between yourself and your renovator during the construction process.

Understanding the process of renovation will help you now to explore options for building new and ultimately in making the best decision for your future housing needs!

Peder Madsen is the president of the London Home Builders' Association and Vice President of CCR Building and Remodeling in London.     

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