Renovations 101: How to Avoid a Nightmare Experience

Are you thinking that it’s time to do some renovations around the house? From simply putting up shelves to building an entire addition on your home, homeowners face the common problem of knowing where to start and what to do. Can it be a DIY (do-it-yourself) project or should you hire a professional? This is just one of many questions to consider. Today there is an overwhelming amount of renovation information available online, in magazines, on TV, Youtube videos, and home design fairs. Along with all of this, one also needs to face the big box reno stores that seem to sell just about anything you could imagine. How does a person sort through all of the information, products and services available? Here are some crucial stages to follow to help make your renovation experience easier and more successful whether you choose to do it on your own or hire someone else.

Stage One: Programming

Knowing what you want is the first consideration in any design project. Seems simple, but upfront planning of how you need the space to function is critical. Designers call this the programming stage of the project. This is where you take a hard look at what it is you are going to need to make your project work. For example, if you are building storage shelving, you need to consider what will be stored. Installing generic shelving that is not the right size to hold what you need to store will not make for a successful project. By the same token, if you are adding a room onto your house, the requirements for a bedroom versus an office can be very different. An office addition may need extra wiring and cabling to handle today’s technology whereby this extra expense many not be necessary for a simple bedroom addition. Front end planning and identification of all requirements and details will go a long way in eliminating costly changes halfway through the project, or the feeling of not quite getting what you had in mind when the project is done. 

Also consider the age-old adage of form follows function. It is easy to see a magazine photo and think, “That’s what I want.” It may look great, but is this actually going to serve your needs beyond just looking nice? Again, an in-depth analysis of your requirements will begin to spell out how the renovations should be done or how the space should look. Don’t sell yourself short by focusing on a preconceived idea when perhaps you can come up with something even better suited to your needs.  Tailor and adapt ideas to your specific requirements instead of simply copying them. The best design possible will be aesthetically pleasing and will also work to serve your specific needs by incorporating form and function. Your space will fit you, instead of you trying to fit into your space.

Stage Two: Scope of Work

Once you have analyzed your requirements you can develop a “scope of work”. This will include any and all activities that will be needed to make the renovation project happen.  At this point you will also take a look at any demolition that may be required and consider that to be part of your overall plan. You will also begin identifying how much construction will be needed, the types and quantities of materials required, a preliminary idea of costing, and some idea of how long it will take. The clearer you can identify what you need to do and how it needs to be done, the less likely you are to get sidetracked onto something else once you begin.  Introducing new ideas or items into a project that is already underway can prove costly in terms of both time and finances. Staying focused on your path and scope will alleviate the temptation to second guess yourself and change your mind.

Stage Three: Shopping

Now that you have decided what you want, and how you’re going to do it, you can begin to shop for what you need. This may entail shopping for actual materials if it’s a DIY project, or perhaps shopping for a designer or contractor. Whatever the case, the more specific you can be about what you need, the more likely you will find the right product or person for the job. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of your professionals and salespeople. You may think your question is dumb to someone else, but reputable professionals will always be happy to answer you because they understand this is not your typical area of knowledge. They are the ones with the expertise in their fields and the more specific you are about your concerns, the more likely you are to get what you want. As well, never assume your professional is going to automatically know what you want or what questions to ask of you for clarification if you have not provided clear information to begin with. Remember too, that if you do choose professionals to do the job, their cost estimates and schedules will be based on the information you provide.  Once again, the better you outline your specifications and requirements, and the clearer the communication between all the players, the less likely you are to have surprise cost overruns and schedule delays.  

Stage Four: Start the Project

Now that you have shopped for and found your products and services its time to make the plunge and start the project. Just like having a recipe to make a cake, you will have already developed your project “recipe” and will now need to implement it. As the project progresses, one should always be prepared for the occasional glitch or situation to arise that was not foreseen or planned. You will need to be flexible to arrive at solutions, but good solutions will based on your front-end programming and the intent of your final product.  Just as when baking a cake, some butter and cocoa can be substituted for chocolate baking squares to get more or less the same result, so too can a suitable alternative solution be arrived at on your project if you run into a problem.  Don’t panic, just be creative.

For the most part, renovation projects can fun and provide satisfying results whether you choose to do it yourself or hire someone else. The trick is to plan, plan, and plan some more!!! The more thought and preparation you can put into whatever it is your going to do before you actually start doing it, the more likely it is that the result will meet your expectations and needs, while also minimizing potential glitches and problems. No detail is too small to consider. Clear communication between all parties involved and knowing exactly what you want is the key to actually getting it done to your satisfaction. Good luck and enjoy your project!

If you liked this article, take a look at our awesome tips for showing your home when selling!

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