Our recommended steps for a successful renovation include tips on planning, selecting the right renovator and details that should be in a written contract.
It’s also important to address common misconceptions:
- I can do it myself; I don’t need a professional renovator; anyone can do it. If the work is simple and involves things you have done before successfully, you may well be right. But ask yourself: Do I know the current building code requirements? Can I protect my family against potential law suits because I understand current government safety regulations? Biting off more than you can chew is a major cause of renovation stress, not to mention the extra costs to have work redone.
- I can save a lot of money by acting as my own contractor. If you’re an experienced construction manager, and you have the time, during the day, this may be the case. But remember, the contractor is responsible for managing everyone else involved in the project. Knowing the order of work to be performed and setting the standards for quality are essential, which means you have to a have a working knowledge of all components in the renovation.
- It’s a small project, so it shouldn’t take long. It’s not necessarily the size of the job that dictates its length, but the number of steps and sub-trades involved. A quality job requires a realistic job schedule.
- A professional renovator should be able to give me a good idea of price right away. For a simple project, a renovator may well be able to provide a rough estimate. But for anything more complex, or where structural issues may crop up, or where costs depend on material or finishing choices you have yet to make, a more detailed plan is needed before costs can be estimated accurately.
- I should get at least three bids (and more is better). Getting a large number of bids provides no assurance they are based on the comparable specifications or that the renovation companies are equal in skills. From whom you get bids is more important than how many you collect. Focus on interviewing professional renovators, and look for the experience and qualifications that best match your project, as well as the personal fit between you and the renovator. Then, you can decide who to ask for detailed quotes, one, two or more renovators.
- I am the best person to design my own renovation. True, you know your own house and what you want. But a professional renovator or designer draws on a wealth of experience and knowledge (about building code, structural restrictions and more), and can offer you ideas and suggestions, large and small, that you may never have thought about, adding extra value and living enjoyment to your home.
- Cost overruns are usually the renovator’s fault. Extra costs almost always are due to extra work not included in the original plan, like having to replace old wiring in the walls. Often, homeowners add to the work: “While we’re at it, we may as well …” It’s best to add a 10 to 15 per cent contingency fund to the budget.
- I don’t need a permit. Perhaps, but depending on your project, that may be illegal. Structural changes usually require a permit. A professional always will recommend getting all the necessary permits and inspections. Insurance companies usually require proof of permits as an indication work has passed inspection and is worthy of being insured. Also on resale, potential buyers may want to know about the renovations on your house, including whether you got permits.
A renovation isn’t a good place for on-the-job learning. Using a professional RenoMark renovator is always the top recommendation for bringing your dreams to reality.
Sue Wastell is the president of the London Home Builders' Association and Owner of Wastell Homes in London.